Archive for the ‘startup advice’ Category

Managing Your Expectations After the Launch

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Most entrepreneurs are human and the products we build reflect that.

This often means that the products we offering the market aren’t fully baked or just don’t match the assumed needs of the market.

This is natural, but the trouble comes in when you have overly hyped expectations for your product’s intitial launch.

A public launch is a huge milestone for any startup. It’s a big event, you invite as much press coverage as you can get, you email all your friends, you email grandma (“Grandma, we’re launching!”), and you push the button.

What your expectations are for what will happen next almost never match reality. You expect: buttloads of users, signups, customers, rivers of money flowing into your bank account, whatever…

But that almost never happens. More than likely, you’re going to see a trickle of that kind of a response at best.

So if you’re going through this after launching your initial product, don’t be disheartened! It’s only the beginning, so pat yourself on the back for reaching this milestone, and get back to work.

Now is when the hustle begins, the “real work.” Now is when you’ve got to persist because after your launch party has died down and you’re yesterday’s news–realizing that can comes with a wave of discouragement.

As long as you’re aware of it, it’s easier to fight through. Emotions are often clues to some greater meaning, but in this case, they can confuse you so question them and ignore them.

If you’re not growing a little bit every week, examine why that is. It’s quite possible that people don’t understand your product, or maybe they have difficult in using it (i.e. getting value from it).

Accept all this as part of the process. Keep persisting and keep iterating. When you create something new, you’re most likely not going to get it 100% right on the first try.

 

Four Tips to Avoid Time-Wasting Meetings

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Wasted Networking Time

Have you ever had a meeting with someone and you left the meeting feeling like your time was completely wasted? I have, and chances are you have (or will) too.

Entrepreneurs and business minded people have a limited amount of time in the day (and in our lives in general) so it’s important that we strive to be as efficient as possible with our work time in order to maximize return and reach our goals.

Verbal communication is the most inefficient form of doing business, but it is also a necessary one. That being said, how can you determine in advance if someone is going to waste your time?

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Get Customers Before You Build the Product

Monday, May 17th, 2010
action shot

One of my current clients for Blue Sky Local

If you’ve tried to build one or more businesses, this technique may be useful to you. It may seem counter intuitive to some but it is absolutely the best way to de-risk any start-up business model, but especially web-based business models.

If I could go back and do each of my business ventures over, this is the one thing I would do differently: I would get customers on board (ready to pay or paying upfront) first.

This is because, in part, if you build the product first and sell it to customer second, you’re likely to make more mistakes since the customer (the end-user) is not engaged in the development, thus it is less likely that what is built will meet all of his or her needs. A customer who is on board and paying from the start has a vested interest in making sure your product meets his or her needs.

For example, say I was interested in launching a Groupon copy-cat website for Long Island, NY. With this business model I would talk with local business owners and get at least a few dozen of them on board. To do this I might have to prepare a little slide show presentation (but building the entire service first is NOT essential!).

Simultaneously I would tell friends, family, and strangers through various online and offline means about the concept and convince them to hand over their email address for great deals. After I’d reached a sufficient number of signups for both businesses and customers, THEN I would build the web product and launch because at that point I would know almost certainly that I would be making money right out of the gate.

What if you cannot get customers on board in advance? Then don’t build the business. It’s that simple.

There may be some skeptics out there who might reply to this by paraphrasing what Steve Jobs said, which is sometimes the customer doesn’t know what he or she wants until you build the damn thing and give it to them to try. This is true to an extent, so there will always be some sort of up front investment but it in most cases it will not require that you exceed the scope of creating some design mockups or a short power point (as in the example above).

Businesses fail because they fail to make sales. They fail to make sales because there’s no market for their product.

Sell first, not second.

3 Tips for Making Better Start-Up Business Decisions

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

ambiguity

It’s great to “believe in yourself,” and all that jazz, but what are some more concrete, actionable tips you can start using today to be a better decision maker for your start-up business?

1) Trust your judgment over that of others. I emphasize this especially if the advice you’re given is unsolicited. Every entrepreneur has a vision for his or her start-up. If you follow someone else’s advice you are less likely to be passionate about the execution of that vision. So trust your own judgement, even if you fail miserably. At least you’ll learn from it and you won’t be second guessing how it played out, thinking: “If only I had stuck to my guns and done what I thought was best.”

2) Learn to NOT be reactionary. I wrote an earlier post about the metaphor of the Spinning Top, which is related to this. The basic principle here is this: you’re going to be deluged with lots of ideas and suggestions from other people, inside and outside of the company. Be cautious and appropriately paced in turning your attention and resources towards implementing any of those new ideas.

3) When in doubt, defer to the numbers. The biggest reason more people don’t start businesses is because they are afraid of the “risk” that comes with the persistent, high levels of ambiguity. This is the context under which you will make decisions everyday as an entrepreneur (e.g. Why should I make this phone call rather than finish this research survey? Which is a higher priority for the company?). When you are uncomfortable with your ability to make a decision, try to evaluate the facts of the situation. Even better, check to see if there is data to counter or support your choice. This can be one of the most effective tactics for minimizing ambiguity and making better business decisions.

To review, you’re on the ground floor everyday so rate your judgement above that of others; deftly pace the reallocation of resources with regard to implmenting new ideas that come up; and finally focus on that which can be measured.

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