You may be one month away from taking your idea to market. While launching the first version of the product is a big milestone, it’s a tiny step in potentially years of hustle, struggles, ups and downs. Just like any big long-term commitment in life, building a startup requires planning and preparation.
Someone once said, “the best time to start was yesterday.” I don’t see a point in starting yesterday if you’re going to quit the next day, month or even year. I firmly believe that anyone can eventually build a successful startup, even after decades of failure. The key here is longevity and no one can last to see their five, ten or even twenty-year overnight success without genuinely believing in their ability to eventually build a successful business. This comes with preparation and by understanding your motivations.
Before you get started, take these three steps to better position yourself and your startup for long-term success.
1. Learn The Basics
The journey of building a startup is the best education any entrepreneur will ever get. Every new lesson is a real-world situation with real consequences. No degree, program or Ph.D. will guarantee startup success.
In this preparation phase, you only need to learn the basics and surround yourself with a strong support group. Some of the topics you should explore include validating a startup idea, building a product, hiring and managing a team, pricing your solution and budgeting.
2. Understand Your Why
What motivates you to persist is the ultimate reason for success in entrepreneurship. Why do you want to build a startup and what will push you to keep going?
Your why can change. Many of today’s most successful founders started their ventures only to experience the startup journey and enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of turning an idea into a useful solution. In my opinion, this should be the primary motivation behind every entrepreneur. Impact and compensation will naturally follow.
2. Listen And Observe
Observe other founders, listen to their stories, interview them, watch your competitors, speak with their customers and don’t hesitate to share your ideas and seek feedback. This pre-execution stage can essentially become a validation, market and customer research phase.
If you are exploring a startup idea, one of the things you can do is interview the founders or leaders of competing products to learn about the market, their customers, solution, marketing initiatives, the challenges they faced, their plans and vision. These interviews can end up becoming your business plan.
At the end of the day, an early-stage startup is comprised of a series of untested hypotheses. Although what worked for another company is not a guarantee that it will work for your startup, their journey and lessons learned are certainly the closest benchmark to help you make educated decisions.
Most startups fail because of a lack of market need. By market, we are usually speaking about the customer. Another important step that entrepreneurs can take in this pre-execution phase is to take every opportunity to speak with future customers.
Even if you are not actively seeking feedback and you don’t plan on starting your venture any time soon, if you speak with one person a month, by the end of the year, a dozen conversations will have helped you connect the dots about customer needs and expectations. Your conclusions may motivate you to get started and capture a clear opportunity or focus on another problem with an urgent customer need.
In sum, essentially, building a startup knowledge foundation, understanding your why, observing other founders and interacting with customers is more than a preparation phase. It’s the first step of execution.
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