Being a startup founder is an exciting experience. The constant adrenaline of working under crunch periods, exploring and getting the product out to market in a timely manner, the continual back-and-forth in conferences and discussions at late-night hours; all for the express purpose of getting that successful first launch and laying the foundation for future successes. While it is every startup founder’s dream that their vision is realized in full, more often than not failure happens to a substantial number of them, some due to reasons that can be readily rectified and overcome if identified beforehand.
Startup founders are naturally go-getters and daring by nature; these qualities are what led them to take the bold risk of establishing a new company from the ground up in the first place, knowing full well that the majority of new businesses and companies fail. While boldness and confidence are great qualities for any startup or business founder to possess, taken to the extreme these same qualities become detrimental and may bring harm. Put another way, the founder may start to believe that they themselves know better than anyone else what solutions to bring to the table, or that they know better than their customers what the market needs or wants. Coupled with their drive and passion, this may lead to situations where the founders stubbornly persist in pushing their product or idea to the market even though the customers and the market are clearly saying no, with the predictable outcome that the startup fails.
Instead, what the founders can do is to do the necessary homework, carry out market research and adapt and improve to suit the needs of the market. Potential customers can always reveal something valuable about the product or idea that the founder otherwise would not have known about. Talk to as many customers, both potential and real, to gauge market sentiment and needs. Is the product serving an identifiable need of the target market? Are there ways to improve on the product compared to what’s already out on the market? What differentiates and sets the product apart from its competitors? Nowadays with the Internet and the rise of technological developments, inexpensive, precise, rapid market research, user testing and customer research can be carried out. These are good, healthy practises for a founder to adopt for their startup early on.
Oftentimes a founder will, upon encountering a challenging problem or situation, try to hire someone else to solve it. This by itself is not wrong. However, consider that, as the person who is primarily responsible for establishing the startup with a clear vision and goal in mind of what to accomplish and how to do that, most founders usually have an innate understanding and gut feeling about their product or business that’s difficult for others to grasp. So when it comes to doing and handling things, it helps if the founders adopt a do-it-yourself attitude. Indeed, if the founder is resourceful, flexible, willing to learn and possess strong soft skills, they can go far as the Internet is a veritable treasure trove of resources where many self-taught skills can be picked up.
Having said that, at times it is wiser and more productive for the founder to hire more capable hands to handle the task or responsibility. This should be the choice to make if the founder has already exhausted the avenues of learning and resources available to them. This also overcomes the problem of over-confidence and brashness that was mentioned earlier, as over here the founder acknowledges that someone else with more expertise and experience is needed, rather than stubbornly wasting time and precious resources trying to come up with a solution on their own.
Lastly, a founder knows that the right startup team is crucial for a startup’s survivability and success. It goes without saying that choosing the wrong co-founders can do much harm to a startup, resulting in massive failure and disappointment for all involved. However, to help a founder better choose the right co-founder to fit their startup, it is undeniably important that both can conduct honest, constant, open communication with each other. The method of communication is also significant as it makes the process smoother and more flowing, whether it be through messenger apps, email, teleconferencing or others. The founder and co-founders should make certain early on which mode of communication to use, and how often.
Secondly, the founder and co-founders should trust each other when making hard decisions and commit to executing them. Throughout a startups’ life cycle making several tough calls and choices is a given. The trust here is not blind trust but trust earned and built through facing hardships and difficulties together, strengthening the bonds between each member. After a decision has been made the founder and co-founders should feel comfortable executing the decision without fear or worry, and with firmness and grace.
Knowing how to identify these mistakes and learning how to overcome them is a valuable trait for any startup founder to possess. By minimizing potential mistakes, the startup’s path to success becomes easier to traverse.