Founders of startups are often hailed as messiahs and visionaries. However, they're often anxious about their employees' futures and questioning their choices internally.
Here are seven essential tips, hacks, tricks, and facts you should remember as a startup founder. They may just make things easier for you tomorrow.
1. Lead with Your Head
You should begin by developing a solid plan. You've come up with this great idea for a product, you've decided to provide your services to a wide range of customers, and you plan to create your own company. The best ideas and most helpful experiences won't mean much without a solid plan in place.
There are several purposes for your business plan. Funding may be easier to obtain, or certain partners and employees might be more inclined to join. But more importantly, it will keep you healthy.
A well-written business plan can serve as a blueprint. You decide where you want to go and when you want to get there, and then plan out how you'll get there. When you're stuck, when other opportunities arise, when you're having trouble making decisions, the business plan will guide you.
2. But Don't Neglect Your Heart
You should maintain a cool and calculated demeanor and rely on the logic of your business plan, but don't forget to use your heart as well.
Your startup should be built on values you personally believe in if you want to survive in the modern business world. Clients and customers like to see your purpose. Honesty and integrity are important to them and they prefer to work with companies who share their values.
It's your job as the founder to identify these values and make sure your business adheres to them. It may be difficult to be completely climate-negative, for example, if that is your core value. However, the struggle will make you more attractive to your target market, and it will help you create a team ethos that will bind you together.
While we're talking about the heart, don't ignore your gut reaction to clients, proposals, and offers. Although we can't always explain why we feel what we feel, it's worth paying attention. Do not hire a candidate who looks good on paper but gives you all the wrong vibes.
Listening to your heart can make the difference between success and failure in business. The challenge is learning to balance it with your logical head.
3. Keep Your Feet Firmly on the Ground
Early or unexpected success can adversely affect the long-term success of a startup. Although you've started off on the right foot, it doesn't mean everything will be smooth sailing from here. Celebrate your wins and victories, reward your team for their hard work, and give yourself a pat on the back. Nonetheless, don’t get carried away. You may be letting yourself in for a bit of heartache.
If your initial launch went well, learn from it and continue to improve. If your product is a success, continue to improve it. Don't rest on your laurels, and most importantly, don't grow too quickly. Don't let your ego take over, no matter how good you feel at the time. It will come back to bite you later on.
4. Insure Against the Worst
In order to ensure your business stays afloat, you need to protect yourself against the worst-case scenario. Protect not only your assets but also the livelihoods of your first employees.
Here is where business insurance comes into play. You may see it as just another money-guzzler, but it can completely save your bacon. There are also different types of business insurance to consider, from Errors and Omissions Insurance to Employment Practices Liability Insurance.
Calculate how much this insurance would cost and factor that figure into your budget and initial spend. In the event that anything were to happen, and you were sued or had to pay damages, your insurance would enable you to remain afloat and continue fighting.
5. But Plan for the Best
Insuring against the worst is important, but planning for the best is also important. We've already discussed the importance of steady growth and the dangers of inflated egos fueled by initial success. Let's now discuss the best way to handle success.
When outlining your business plan, include a section we like to call “best-case scenario.” Imagine everything goes as well as you could hope for. Imagine you’re an overnight success. What do you do then?
Having a clear plan in place can help you make the right decisions at the right time. The plan will involve the hiring of new staff, the allocation of unexpected revenues, the need to expand the business premises, and any other hiccups that may arise as a result of doing well.
It's impossible to make good decisions if you become extremely successful "out of nowhere" (even though it's never out of nowhere and is always the outcome of lots of hard work). After all, you would be floating on a serotonin high.
In order to prevent your success from killing your buzz, write down all the steps you would take ideally if something like this happened. You can refer to this when the time comes.
6. Become a People Person
You'll likely need to be the face of your startup as a founder. You can hire someone to handle your PR, and you can also delegate to your partners. Even so, you need to decide who will take on the public-facing roles in the company.
Do not feel intimidated to ask someone else to take on the challenge if you are naturally shy, have difficulty selling your ideas to strangers, or are simply uncomfortable speaking to large crowds. Develop if that is your forte. Whoever you designate to schmooze potential investors, clients, and partners should be intimately familiar with the business. Typically, this would be a senior executive.
7. Surround Yourself with the Best People
Finally, unless you plan on being a one-person show (in which case you are more entrepreneur than founder), do your absolute best to make the right hires. You want to choose the right partners very early on.
In a 50-person team, you can easily mitigate the effects of a wrong hire. Whether you are two, four, or ten, everyone needs to be able not only to pull their own weight and contribute, but also to get along, understand each other, and work toward the same goal.
This is where your planning and gut reactions come into play. Fill roles based on certain criteria, and start with yourself. Ask questions such as:
- What roles can you fill?
- What are your strengths, and what are you no good at whatsoever?
- What can you actually accomplish in a day?
There are several requirements for your first hires, so they won't be easy to find. You need their skills, their values, and their drive. Consider determination and interest as more important than previous experience and knowledge. Having a person who is motivated to succeed will always be more valuable than having someone with years of experience but no drive.