Success Tips

Twenty Tips For Startup Success, Part Seventeen: Start Slow

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In my previous post of the series, I talked about questioning the status quo of your industry. In this installment, I’m discussing the virtue of starting slow.

Many entrepreneurs are looking to hit the ground running when they start their business. They’re filled with enthusiasm about their ideas and plans and are looking to make the most of their opportunity while they can, especially if they think they’ve hit upon a new product or a new segment of the market that their competitors haven’t yet. But that excitement and energy are best harnessed to a more cautious and calculated approach to the very early stages of the business, particularly with what seems like administrative issues.  For all the opportunity that exists, there are also dangers and potential mistakes that lie in wait for those that proceed by skipping over fundamentals.

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One of the earliest mistakes you can make in starting your business is trying to build something upon things you don’t own. You might have a great idea for a product that someone else has already dreamt up and created. Or you might have landed upon the perfect name for our business that is already in use by another company that you weren’t aware of at the time. Doing some initial research of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office or the U.S. Copyright Office before you start putting work into a startup can save you time and heartache of having to redo or scrap your work, or the more costly legal headache of potential infringement and legal action.

Once you’ve ensured that your ideas are free and clear of infringement upon others’ intellectual property, you’ll want to make sure that everything you’re putting out for the public is creating the best impression possible for your company. In the current landscape, your website is the face of your company to those who are looking to learn more about what you’re doing. Some small companies or solo entrepreneurs take the approach of getting up a website quickly and worrying about revamping it going forward. But even in those early days, your website can create a negative impression if it is filled with typos and broken links or missing functionality. Your first website doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but it should be professional, showing that you are serious about your business and pay attention to detail.

When you’re working on your product, careful testing is perhaps the most important measure you can employ to avoid any big mistakes. More than just a cursory walkthrough, you want to try and find any potential errors before launch by running through countless iterations to find points of fault before you run the risk of customers catching them. Bringing in outside help for testing is tremendously helpful and serves a dual purpose: it allows for a fresh set of eyes to try to find problems that you might be too close to see, and it can allow you to get positive and negative feedback from people that you trust. That negative feedback is a tremendously important part of the process; you and your team can be too mentally and emotionally invested in what you’ve created to see any flaws or shortcomings. I also recommend finding some actual customers to test your product before launch because involving users early helps with product development.

The first impulse for some entrepreneurs after having put together is to jump straight into meeting with investors to get funding to continue their work. But as with your website or your product, you only get one chance to make a first impression. It would behoove you to make sure that you are prepared for meeting with investors to discuss your product, and that you have an idea about what you’re looking for as far as funding is going. Take the time to make sure that your pitch deck is where you want it to be, and that your presentation is down pat. You should know by heart what your business model is, how you plan to grow your company, and what you’re looking for from investors, rather than trying to figure it out through the process. You may need the money to grow the business, but you and your company are better served by taking the time to develop a plan in full.

Patience may not be the easiest virtue to abide, especially for the often impatient entrepreneur, but it can serve an important purpose in developing your business. Sometimes the slow and steady path is the prudent one, especially if it helps you avoid costly mistakes.

Be sure to read my next post where I expand on having patience, this time when fundraising.

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