Getting through your first few years as a startup founder

How to survive and succeed in the world of small businesses.
by
Entrepreneurship
December 13 | 5 min

An often-cited statistic states that nine out of every ten startups fail. This recognizes how often the odds are stacked against those attempting to do something that has never been done before. Understandably, few startups make it through their first few years unscathed. Launching a new business venture is a constant uphill battle that may require more dedication and patience than you ever thought possible — but it is not an impossible task. As long as you prepare for what lies ahead by following these essential steps, your company will keep moving forward:

Planning ahead prevents poor decisions
Making the right decisions with confidence requires a great degree of preparation — debt or lack of capital can easily destroy a company. Be sure to set milestones and other goals to keep your business on the path to success. This will make delegating tasks and tracking employee productivity much easier, especially considering how lethal miscommunication can be.

Furthermore, know the risks you are willing to take and have contingency plans in place in case something goes wrong. Avoid impulsiveness without making yourself prone to hesitation. As tantalizing as it is to review whiteboards and brainstorm, there must be some kinetic edge to productivity, otherwise the potential is wasted. It goes without saying that founders should never be unprepared.

Execute with precision
Make the biggest impact you can on the market and establish a loyal customer base with a highly desired product. Advertising is essential to maintaining the relevancy needed to remain competitive because there can be no market disruption without the right visibility — so get yourself noticed! Moreover, when managing a startup’s image, the goal is to become a major corporation, an irreplaceable service, and a well-known business entity that is taken seriously.

While navigating those first few months after going public, it is essential to maintain the same drive which first propelled you into the business. Even with all the preparation in the world, mistakes are inevitable. Learning to bounce back from these slip-ups is the only way to become the so-called “one success story” among nine other failed startups. Develop the patience and tenacity to stick with your company and you will weather every storm.

Survive & persevere
Tough it out and never lose focus on the day-to-day operations of running your company. It normally takes longer than a year to launch a successful new business, so be sure to keep whatever pace you have set for your startup. Focus especially on customer service and product quality. As the author Peter Drucker says, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers,” so make sure the foundation is constantly growing, as it is only a matter of time before your competition grows fiercer.

Most importantly, always stay on your toes — never get too comfortable, even when business operations are running smoothly. Once you let your guard down, you immediately become more susceptible to risk. Take the best paths for your company and stick with them.

Expand & find a new balance
Startups are not the “little fish” in a big pond for very long if they play their cards right. Whatever direction in which your company grows, you should know when to slow expansion and when to consolidate resources. Avoid collapsing under the weight of your fledgling empire by sinking too much capital in extra office space.

Also, be sure to invest in your business and employees — most importantly, provide health insurance and other benefits. This may seem like a strange thing for startups to think about in the early stages, but quality insurance increases employee retention. Either way, good health can only add to your peace of mind as a founder and ensure that your employees are doing well within your new business. Start expanding your team and grow your startup into other cities so that it can continue to capitalize on its disruption for as long as possible.

With any luck, those first few months will be the hardest part of your career. As the old adage says, “calm seas never made for a skilled sailor.” Learn from the rough patches, practice resilience, and remain faithful in your product and company. If you follow these steps and learn from every mistake, you will remain on the path to success, no matter what happens.

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