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How Not To Kill Your Own Web Startup

A buddy on Twitter highlighted me to a great article which provides a realistic view of the pain that all entrepreneurs will face when trying to get a new business started.

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A buddy on Twitter highlighted me to a great article which provides a realistic view of the pain that all entrepreneurs will face when trying to get a new business started.

The author provides a list of key “pains” that all startups will experience unless you have invented something like Twitter (but then they have their own issues like how to actually make profit!). I have listed the pains below and have also provided my own comments for each pain.

The pains are:

You won’t have an audience

This pain is about the fact that you are just 1 little face in the big world of startups and really no one is even remotely interested in you because they are far more interested getting their own business noticed.

This reminds me of when I was a young chap thinking that the entire world was watching me, looking at my fashion with a critical eye, looking at my pimples with distain, watching how I walked down the street (don’t ask but if I thought someone was watching me walk I would start tripping up on myself). In time you reach an age when it dawns on you that everyone is spending up to 99% of their time thinking about themselves – not you!

What I have learned in my time as a startup is that firstly you need to make sure that what you are providing is wanted by someone (hopefully more than just “someone” but a whole tribe of “someones”).

You also need to provide something that is “new” and not competing against established players. For example you would be stupid to enter the Cola market and try to take on Coke and Pepsi – sounds stupid? Of course but many people make the mistake of trying to complete in a market where there are already established leaders. One book I recommend to anyone thinking of starting a business is to read the book titled “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”.

You’re going to run out of cash

I was lucky enough before starting a business to have a chat with a very successful kiwi businessman within the biscuit market.

He told me one bit of advice that made him millions which is “own nothing in your business”.

For him that means he does not own the factories that produce his biscuits – he leases instead. So when no one wants his biscuits anymore he can kill the lease agreement and not worry about an empty factory with staff doing nothing. He leases his business offices, outsources his backend processes and systems etc..

My first rule of thumb here is never waste what little startup money you have on stuff you don’t need. For example do you really need that $1000.00 chair that reminds you of the great Dot Com startups? Do you really need an extra staff member to answer the phone for you? How about that $3000.00 Espresso machine in your kitchen? Yeah it looks real nice but I bet you will wish you never wasted that money in about 6 months time when you have maxed out your credit cards trying to pay the staff.

You’ll get frustrated

For this pain the author highlights the frustration of creating something that initially brings praise and encouragement from people but always seems to result in no one actually putting their $$ where their mouth is.

I have a few of my own “lessons learned” experiences as well for offering something that everyone thinks is cool but no one actually uses or buys. This comes back to some key points that you should reflect on:

1) Only offer something that people want or even better need NOT what you think they need or should want.

2) Use any kind of leverage you have at your disposal to increase awareness about your offering. As an example if you already have a successful web site or blog mention your offering there.

3) Plan to expect a medium to long term uptake for your offering. Study successful businesses and people and see how long it took them to be successful.

4) Allow key high profile people to use your offering for free in return for a mention in their communication – called a “plug” in my part of the world.

5) It will be hard but don’t change your offering due to feedback such as “if it only had this I would use/buy it” if the feedback breaks the key focus for your offering. For example if your offering is a new kind of blog software for journalists out in the field with limited bandwidth available and someone suggests you should add support for streaming live video don’t do it! Not only will you dilute the offering and confuse the very people you are selling too (“I thought this product specialized in low bandwidth situations?”) but I can almost guarantee you the person that offered the feedback in the first place will not buy it anyway.

The emotional rollercoaster will beat you

I have to admit I found this section of the article quite negative.

Of course you will have good days and bad days but the key thing you need to do is to prepare yourself for the rollercoaster by constantly reading about successful businesses and people. It is truly amazing that the common thread to successful business and people is that through the good times and bad times what kept them going was a passion in what they were doing. If you love what you are doing then its not a job and even though you may not currently be making millions at least you are doing what makes you happy.

I love what I do so it never feels like a job or like my business is going no-where. If you love what you do success will come. I have read far too many books about successful people who state this to believe otherwise.

You’ll get excited about something else

Yes… the people who cannot finish what they start. The only thing I have to say here is that hard work and dedication to your passion is what ultimately makes you successful.

Michael Hill in a speech to business people stated that by focusing on one business at a time you have a far better chance of becoming successful than having your fingers in many pies.

But it probably won’t be the competition

In summary the author states that the failure of your business will ultimately be caused by one or many of the pains listed above and NOT by your competition.

I agree with him and also state that focusing on your competition is like driving a car and looking at everyone else on the road instead of the road ahead. Don’t focus on where your competitors on the road because you could miss key directions that will guide you to success. You could also crash!

Think about it – do your competitors really know the best way of doing something or are they leaders because no one yet has done it better?