Good startup businesses, particularly technology based startup entrepreneurs and their fledgling companies have some (perhaps many) successful attributes that we can learn from and apply to other aspects of our lives.
There are so many ideas we should ‘steal’ from startups, this post will probably evolve from one seed of an idea into an entire series of posts. Maybe, just maybe it will eventually become a book.
Our current favourite book of concise startup lessons is called Rework and you really should read it.
Every thought inRework is distilled to one chapter, typically only two or three pages. All startups and most people are time poor, so rather than a chapter, we will do just two or three paragraphs (or less!) on each point.
One good example of a startup attribute we can use in the rest of our lives is the roadmap. A roadmap can answer some of the big questions in any new prospect’s mind about the future of your business. Similarly a roadmap can help answer questions in our own minds (and those around us) about our personal future. Where is the business going? Where am I going? What product features do we need or want to be successful? What skills or education or experience do I personal need or want? How do we take feedback on those proposals? How do we make the time and find the money to build or buy and integrate those features or develop those skills?
Communicating the roadmap is important too. If we have lots of competitors our roadmap can differentiate by showing our faster progress delivering product features or it can show a bolder more appealing vision to prospective customers who may want to grow with the product. Our personal roadmap might be the combination of education, experience and skills we have on our resume (and references) topped up with our future plans for further studies or planned career or personal growth experiences.
Roadmaps are great tools for realizing goals. If your current goal is to travel the world, what small steps have you put forth on your journey to get there? Something as simple as looking at plane ticket prices can be a real catalyst to realizing a dream. Decisions are the “bricks” to your roadmap. Agonising over a single brick in the path slows momentum and can have a real impact on progress. Keep moving. If need be, that pesky brick can be replaced later.
In a startup business, most decisions can be undone easily. Not all decisions fall into that category but many do, probably more than we realise. Agonising over the best decision in a commoditised space (e.g. ‘what email service shall we use?’) is possibly not going to make the difference between success and failure. Even if you have to change your decision later, the effort required is probably fair small in most cases. The key thing is to make the decision and move on to the important stuff that will differentiate your business or differentiate you personally from the next person.
You can’t have it all. Don’t splash out too much. Can you afford to waste money or time you don’t have? Giving yourself some real or contrived constraints can often be a good thing. If you can only have one feature this month what is it? If you can only afford to spend $n this month, what will you spend it on? If you only have one new skill to learn or one new prospect (or investor) to pitch to this month who will it be?
You can’t be all things to all people. Very much like restraint, focus is about choosing, limiting what you will do to help force a decision and avoid wasting time and money. Decide. Who is your customer? What you will do for them? How will you make money or achieve your non-financial goals? In personal terms this is about deciding what you will be and who will be around you, what hats will you wear? e.g. Will you be a parent, an employee with a specific skill set, a spouse, a volunteer etc… The key here is to be self aware, focus on what you naturally enjoy and are good at and you will be more realistic and happier as a result.
In the retro 1950s science fiction movies cavemen hunted in packs to bring down a tasty (?) dinosaur or maybe a woolly mammoth. Similarly, large families (and communities) help each other and increase their chance of succeeding through shared knowledge, connections, skills, experience and resilience. Startup entrepreneurs have a statistically greater chance of success if they have a co-founder with a complementary skill set.
OK, that is enough for you to get the idea, more soon in part two.