Building a startup is easy… said no one ever. It’s tough, in fact, it’s extremely tough. So tough that on a consistent basis the emotions of an entrepreneur are that of a looping roller coaster. Constantly up and down, with no real end. But that only applies to those particular entrepreneurs who are not focused and remain inconsistent in their approach to business.
After reading some of the things you need to remember when building a startup, they may sound elementary and basic. And that’s on purpose. To succeed in business, you need to understand the basics and do that one “thing” consistently and repeatedly until the success you desire is awarded to you. Here are 5 things to remember when building a startup:
Find Your Why
Before we launched our unlimited graphic design service, my cofounder and I had two separate businesses. The business that I ran in particular turned out to be what I call, “a shell.” The digital design business that I ran stood for nothing and was a service based business that was transactional. We delivered a great product/service, but did nothing to those around us. Especially those who lived and deserved opportunities in our great city of Camden.
It wasn’t until we experienced a historic event here in our local area, where we were asked by the press: “What are you doing for the city?” We didn’t have an answer and that bothered us tremendously because if you know anything about Camden, NJ, you’d know that it’s a small city with an incredible talent pool of students and professionals that are not given the same opportunities that we all deserve. We wanted to change that by providing jobs and internships to those here in our city and only hire directly from Camden.
Our why pushes us to become a better company, but more importantly better humans. Given our previous experience in business, it’s difficult to just work for money or acknowledgement, but if you were to work for others, your mind expands, opens, and allows you to become more creative.
Understand Your Customer
Before we launched Penji, we started with zero customers, just like all other startups do. Although we had prior experience in business and had already developed relationships with networking partners and community activists, we used “old school” tactics and strategies to get our message out to the public. We surveyed 150 of our closest friends that were either marketing professionals or startups, using social media messaging and cold emails to fill out a survey. The survey consisted of questions like:
- Name and email (obviously)
- What are you struggling with most in business?
- If you could spend $1 on your business, where would it go?
- If your design source quits, where would you go to find a new designer?
- How many design requests do you typically need in a month?
- How much are you paying for design each month?
- And more…
Based off of the responses from the survey, we had a good understanding of what we needed to do to move the company forward. More important than that, we laid the foundation of our first batch of customers. Close to 30% of these individuals turned into customers and allowed us to build exactly what we had envisioned.
Stop Worrying About Scaling
Have you ever felt to yourself, “All I need is the perfect software and I’m set.” or “I’m working on the perfect script that will make us millionaires.” We’ve all been there. The ideology of doing, rather than waiting has been the single greatest factor to our success.
As a startup, you need to stop worrying about the perfect process, because it doesn’t exist. You need to just do! Go out there and focus on the basics:
- Send cold emails
- Remarket to those who come on your website
- Develop strategies that give people a reason to come to your website
- Create an ad strategy that gets in front of your target demographic
- Treat your customers like royalty, so well that they want to write you a love letter
Be Consistent and Stay Focused
You can apply every single strategy above, but absolutely none of it matters, unless you develop a process that allows you and your team to be consistent. A consist sales process is the single greatest factor that pushes businesses forward. Now, that process doesn’t have to be perfect, as stated above, but you need to make sure you’re doing something, every single day to move the company forward.
For us at Penji, we realigned the entire organization to focus on sales. Regardless of their position, regardless of their daily tasks, they needed to be committed to some facide of sales.
It’s like rowing a boat. Everyone needs to stroke the oars together to move in the right direction and at the correct speed. Consistently making an effort to get a sale and tweaking the process day in and day out has allowed us to get our first 100 customers.
To push your startup forward you need to become a numbers driven organization.
If I were to ask you: “If I gave you a $1, where would you put that dollar?”
If you can’t answer that question, there’s a problem in your process. You need to know exactly what is going on within your business and know what strategies are working and not working. This only works if you are able to track everything. In the beginning we used primitive technology and systems that were not “sexy,” but it worked. We used Google Sheets to the maximum capacity that tracked:
- How long our customers were staying
- Reasons for leaving
- How many months they stayed as customers
- Where medium did they came from
Looking at this data 30,000 feet in the air played a critical part to moving the company forward.