Today’s guest blog comes from Martin C. Zwilling, the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, Inc., a Phoenix based company which offers startups help and consulting services. He publishes a daily blog for entrepreneurs on http://blog.startupprofessionals.com . He is a member of the Arizona Angels group, where he serves on the Selection Committee. He is also on the Board of a half-dozen startups, and has an extensive technology background with IBM and other large and small companies. He may be contacted directly at email@example.com .
Startups: Action Items for Success
By Martin Zwilling
Behind most great entrepreneur success stories is a long list of mistakes! Unfortunately, for every success story you see, there is an even longer list of failure stories with mistakes that you don’t see. But rather than dwell on the failures, I’ve tried to extract a list of action items that will lead to success.
Every startup mentor has his favorite list of basic strategies to avoid pitfalls, and I’m no exception. If my experience and insights can save just one founder from the stress, lost time, and lost money associated with a startup misstep, then I’m a happy man. Consider these half-dozen action items:
- Get adequate funding. If you have started your business on a shoestring budget without planning for future funds to run the business, then you could be facing severe cash flow problems within a short period of time. This could hamper your business financially and you mentally; and you could soon lose the motivation you need to run your business successfully.
- Adapt to the market. Most startups I know have “refined” their target market several times during their rollout. So be alert and be flexible. Focus on a niche. Watch for customers hell-bent on not letting you earn any profits, or wasting too much of your time.
- Temper theory with reality. There is no substitute for experience. No matter how well-educated you are, and how certain you are that you understand all the nuances of a business area, it is a good idea to work in a similar business for a few months to get a feel for the market and observe the way in which that business is run before taking the plunge. The same thing is true for students who dream of being entrepreneurs.
- Marketing is key. Every new product needs to fight the urge to declare “If we build it, they will come!” Even word of mouth advertising and viral marketing cost big bucks these days. With a billion businesses fighting for your customer’s attention, it takes leverage, effort and money to remain in the public eye.
- Manage your time. It takes practice and effort to focus on the most important things first. In business, “most important” means time to market, customer service, low cost, and beating your competitors. It also means knowing when to delegate, and time for effective communication with your subordinates.
- Reign-in expenses. It is very important to control your expenses. Not being able to reign them in will result in all your income being washed away, and will result in serious cash flow problems.
The most important overriding principle is that you should do what you love – passion and attitude will play a large part in defining your success in business. Apply the action items outlined here, define your own rules and goals, and you will be well on the way to creating a successful and profitable business.