Startup culture is fascinating. Now, I’ve never been on the inside. But I’ve known enough people who were and I can say people who gear up a startup are some of the hardest working people I know.
But at the same time, they can be the most unrealistic people I know. Dreams of grandeur haunt us all. I, for instance, fancy myself as a novelist despite the fact I’ve published no novels.
Startup people fancy themselves as the owners of a successful business, which they aren’t. At least not yet.
And while it’s fine to dream, there comes a point where you can have your head too far up in the clouds you don’t realize you’re falling.
I’ve collected some advice about startups and how you can tell you’ve quaffed the wrong kool-aid. Hopefully, this isn’t you.
1. Doing Everything Yourself
There’s a VR game I love to play. It’s called Star Trek Bridge Crew. You literally get to hang out on a Federation Starship and carry out missions with four other crew members.
I’ve learned a lot about teamwork through that game. But I’ve also learned that you can’t run a whole starship by yourself. If you try, you get a torpedo up your ass.
It’s the same deal with any startup. Even if you’re running a “one man show,” there is no such thing as a one man show.
You eventually have to rely on people if you want to rise to the top. And if you haven’t already, get a co-founder.
Your odds of success increase if you have a co-founder. You’ll raise 30% more money, have 3x the user or customer growth, and you’re 19% more likely to scale prematurely.
Captain Kirk would have been nothing without Spock and Bones. Get a co-founder and rely on your team. You’ll soon be admiral of your own corporation.
2. Relying on Meetings
Some people love meetings. I’m not one of those people.
Give me a quiet office by myself, and I’ll blow your socks off. Make me sit in a board room with a whole bunch of other bored people, and you’ll see me doodling.
Meetings can be productive. You can learn a lot about your team in meetings.
But too many meetings and you end up just wasting time. How much time are you wasting? Just an hour? Wrong! You’ve just wasted one hour times however many people are in the room.
The more time your team is out there doing, the closer you will be to a successful business.
Have a meeting to hammer out ideas. Sure. But then get to work.
If you need to bounce an idea off of your crew, do it electronically. Those who rely on meetings are afraid to make decisions for themselves.
While you do need to rely on people for the success of your startup, there are some decisions you don’t need to bounce off your team. Waste their time only for the most important stuff.
3. Throwing Money At It
82 percent of businesses fail because of cash flow problems. But sometimes it’s because they thought money solved everything.
If you’re not seeing the results you want, another round of financing won’t solve your issues. There is another problem lurking in your midst.
Most likely it’s fundamental. Your business model isn’t working. You have to fix it. Make a business startup checklist and find what needs fixing.
It’s just like flying a plane. If you are grounded, you can’t go back into the air unless you fix the problem. Doesn’t matter how much fuel you pour in the tank.
4. Oh, All the Sweet Sweet Swag!
Publicity is tough. It’s also competitive.
Getting your name out there is a wise thing. And there are plenty of ways to do it.
Swag is one way to do it. Pens, business cards, mouse pads, t-shirts, things people can take with them. It’s mobile advertising.
Plus, employees love swag. If they’ve caught the dream, they’re going to bust out that swag everywhere they can.
But can you afford it?
Even freelancers fall into this trap. It’s weird not having a business card or a pen with your name on it to give someone. If not, you have to actually explain who you are. So, you feel you have to START with swag.
But you don’t. It’s a waste of your funding if you haven’t made any returns yet.
Are you turning down actually useful startup tools just so you can afford swag or that nice coffee maker for your employees? Don’t do it!
You need to build the house before you live in it. Save the swag until you make returns. Then you can reward your employees and get your name out there.
5. Holding Onto an Idea for Far Too Long
I once made a wrong turn near the end of a cross country race in high school. I was in first place.
When I made the turn, something told me I was wrong. I looked back, saw the number two runner sprint past the turn and I knew.
I turned around and pounded my legs and beat that guy by only a few strides. But I had to admit I was wrong and correct my mistake before I could win.
It’s the same in any startup business. If you made a wrong turn, don’t be stubborn. You don’t always have to be right.
If you’ve fallen in love with your original idea and it’s not going somewhere, you’ve fallen in love with the wrong girl. Cut your losses. There are plenty of fish in the sea!
You need to go on evidence. So make sure you’ve done your research before implementing an idea.
If I had memorized the course that fateful day, I’d have been a half a kilometer ahead. But I didn’t, and I still salvaged the race. But it was a close one.
Conclusion: Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid
Sometimes we need a little bit of grounding. It’s ok. I’ve been there.
Just make sure you keep your head in the game and don’t pop that champagne cork too soon. There might be tainted kool-aid inside if you do.
Do you have any start-up horror stories? Let me know in the comments below!