The glory of start-up success
America idolizes its entrepreneurs. The idea of setting off on one’s own, risking it all, and coming through with an impactful innovation – and even more, a financial windfall – is glorified in our culture. It’s sexy. It’s smart. It’s America.
Every entrepreneur knows that there is another side to starting a business, though. It can be a lonely place. Frankly, it is difficult to get people to believe in your ideas or to even listen to you. Whether it is trying to secure investment, finish product design, or acquire customers, the road can be tough and isolated. Every startup veteran has faced moments of doubt. The winners find a way to fight through the doubt and come out on the other side better for it.
Five steps to saving your start-up
Before you start dusting off your resume and sending it to every company that even remotely seems like they might want to hire you, here are five ways to refocus and re-energize yourself… and in doing so maybe save your start up.
1. Talk to your mentor. We all have someone who has impacted our personal and professional growth for the better. Whether it’s a current influence or one from the past, it’s time to reconnect with your mentor. A teacher, an old boss, a parent or a successful colleague – it doesn’t matter. Share your burden with them, and they will help you refocus on the positives.
2. Talk to, market to, and make a special offers to all of your past and current clients. Your customers are your lifeblood. Find out from them what they like about your company best and what they would like to see changed. Thank them for their time and feedback with a special offer or opportunity. You get the data you need in order to adapt, you reward your customers, and you secure additional revenue and/or business in a very cost-effective way.
3. Rewrite your Mission Statement to match the current state of the company and the market. Your mission statement should capture your vision for the company. Make sure your statement accurately illustrates your place in the market, and make sure that your hard work (yours and your team’s) is pointing the company in the correct direction to follow the mission.
4. Re-read your business plan. Update it. Most entrepreneurs never pull their business plans out of the file cabinet after the company is up and running (and financing has been secured). Well to be honest, these days many entrepreneurs don’t even have a real business plan. Not good. Now is the time to revisit your strategic and tactical plans – or finally write them if you don’t have them from the past. What market nuances do you now know that were missed in the plan (or when you had the original start up idea if you didn’t have a plan)? What has worked? What hasn’t? Did you have insights or full-blown strategies that have been lost in the shuffle and not followed? Your business plan may reintroduce you to some of the concepts that you originally had, and updating the plan will help you craft new strategies to address the experience and changes you have gone through since founding.
5. Re-visit your financial projections. Update them for any discrepancy above/below forecast. Your financial projections are a living document. Dig deep back into your model to understand all the micro benchmarks that you need to hit in order to achieve long term success. If your performance differs from your projections, make sure you roll this new data across the entire model (my general rule is to make these updates for any data points that have more than a five percent variance versus forecast). This exercise is vital for business planning. It is also a great way to re-introduce yourself to the little details which can make a big difference for your company, and further to re-energize you by showing you what can be achieved long term when you have these little “wins” along the way.
Going out on your own can feel just that way – like you are totally on your own. Rediscovering the passion and energy you had when you founded your business is the key to fighting through these lonely periods and times of doubt. Your employees, partners, and customers will feed off of you. Feed them well!