Over the past few years, I’ve coached dozens of novice entrepreneurs. I’ve even been a jury member on a television show about entrepreneurship. Having started a few companies myself, not all equally successful, I can share a thing or two about the perils of business. And it usually gets down to one thing: get real.
I wish someone had told me what I tell startups now: if you are in love with your product, it is hard to focus on the market. Sure, you need to be your own greatest fan if you plan on succeeding, but try doing that while remaining realistic about the numbers.
Looking for some free advice? Try this:
- ·Divide your financial expectations by 3. It’s easy to put impressive numbers on a spreadsheet, but it’s extremely difficult to realize those ambitions in the first years. It takes expertise and market knowledge to forecast properly.
- ·Allocate 20 to 30% to non-expected costs. It’s your first business. What do you really know about your legal costs or how much your accountant is going to charge? Trust me: it will be more than you imagine. Make sure to allocate some money for unexpected costs.
- ·Make a cash plan. Cash is king, especially for a startup. I’m sure you’re very efficient at sending invoices, but efficiency may not be a quality that you share with your customers. Expect payment to go overdue.
- ·When dealing with any board at all: always underestimate and overshoot. Everything above expectations is a success, everything below is considered as a failure.
- ·Do your own research and know your market. Do it thoroughly and make sure no one knows your market better than you do.
- ·Take care of your first sales personally. The founder is not only the best sales person; you can also learn a lot from the feedback of your prospects and customers. Cherish it.
- ·Bite your tongue if you, your product or your service are criticized. I know that is hard, but in defense mode you’re not listening and thus missing out on some free advice.
- ·Always smile, even when things are going wrong. People want to be in business with positive people. Whine and complain as much as you like behind closed doors, but don’t do it in public. Stay humble and positive.
- ·And must important of all: enjoy the ride and learn from everything that comes your way.
You’re in for the roller-coaster ride of your life. Sure, it may upset your stomach every now and then. But using the tips above, I hope you will be able to keep things real. It’s a fantastic trip!
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