Startups are all about innovation, but there is an overall formula for success that is not unlike that of any other business. Here are seven essential lessons every entrepreneur can complete within their very first month of starting up:
- Tap your network for help
Discuss your business ideas with family and friends to get input and feedback. It’s important, however, to widen your sphere of influence as quickly as possible. When you present your ideas to your wider network, you can often get more knowledgeable and objective feedback. It also helps you hone your arguments and polish your presentation skills.
Your network may also help connect you with other valuable people who can provide key advice or valuable industry perspectives. Sometimes, the people in your network may even become your investors, which can offer advantages over outside investment.
- Attend networking events
In addition to reaching out to your existing network, you should start attending networking events for the many advantages they offer, including:
- Exposure to other creative minds with the courage and entrepreneurial hustle needed to take action and strive for success Communicating with like-minded motivated and action-oriented people can help you take your game to another level
- Provide opportunity to hear inspiring, educational stories from other trailblazers
- Meet and develop relationships with industry contacts, potential business partners and investors, and future customers
- Find the right mentor
- Exhibit your venture at startup showcases and greatly widen your exposure in the market and increase your chances for success
Related: 7 Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
- Create your business plan
A business plan is a written description of your business; a document that explains what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. To build a solid business, you need to create a strong foundation. Your business plan is the blueprint for that foundation. It shows the foundational keystones on which the success of your business will depend.
Your plan should include:
- Goals for your business; make them measurable and set a timeframe for each goal
- No unanswered questions; identify any unanswered questions in your plan, then scout out the information you need to answer them
- Complete information about your industry; ensure that your plan is rooted in fresh, solid and relevant data
- Writing that is accurate, well-organized and easy-to-read, so that it is persuasive and conveys professionalism and credibility. Remember, a well-written business plan is not just for you; it can help land partners, employees, investors or lenders to finance or provide other support for your business
- Define your vision
Create a statement that describes your vision for your company. Don’t be lofty, flowery or hyperbolic in your vision statement; make it specific and believable. Don’t confuse your goals with your vision, either.
A vision statement takes a much wider and more forward-looking perspective than a business plan. It describes the objective you wish to achieve, while your goals describe how you will get there.
Your vision statement will help you find and maintain the focus of your energy, time, priorities and heart, as you work toward your objective. Likewise, it will help you identify the things that really don’t matter. Use it to strategically constrain your business spending and operational focus. Don’t just write it and forget it! Use your vision statement to keep you and your business on track and pointed in the right direction.
- Acquire legal documents
One of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make is to get so swept away by the excitement of launching a new business, that they forget about the mundane but critically important elements.
For example, a startup is like any other business in that it requires a strong, clearly defined legal structure. By focusing only on your startup’s exciting potential and nuts-and-bolts operations, you risk leaving the future value of your business at risk. You can avoid some unpleasant surprises by making sure standard legal documents are in place.
Here are some of the basic documents your startup may need to have:
- Business Terms and Conditions: This describes what exactly you are providing to your customers and how it will be provided. It’s essential for limiting your liability and otherwise protecting your business against breach-of-contract claims.
- Articles of Incorporation: These are a set of documents that create a legal corporation. The specific documents needed depend on the state in which you want to establish your corporation.
- Partnership Agreement: If, instead of incorporating, you are creating a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) or Limited Liability Company (LLC) for your business, a Partnership Agreement describes all of the terms of the partnership.
- Shareholders Agreement: This document may be a part of corporate or partnership documents, or it may be a separate agreement addressing specific investors in your business.
- Employment or Contractor Agreement: Standard documents protecting your business against employees leaving and unfairly competing against you, and unscrupulous actions by contractors.
- Sales/Services Terms and Conditions: Defines the terms of specific transactions.
- Intellectual Property (IP) Assignment Agreement: A description of who owns the specific trademarks, patents, copyrights and other IP associated with your business.
- Non-Disclosure Agreements: Prevent employees, vendors, contractors, etc., from divulging or improperly using trade secrets and other sensitive information about your business.
Obviously, any of the documents in the list above will need to be tailored to your business, so, you will need to consult with an attorney to help create the legal documents necessary to protect your business and your rights. Also, remember that every state has different legal requirements for businesses.
- Start looking for vendors
Successful businesses depend on vendors to provide quality goods and services at an affordable cost. Often, your ability to provide your own customers with high-quality, affordable products or services will depend on the quality and affordability of your own vendors.
When you find great vendors that you can depend on, make sure you treat them fairly. You won’t succeed if they don’t succeed. You can find names of potential suppliers by scouring trade magazines and newspapers, searching the internet and reading messages posted in online forums or mailing lists.
- Determine the in-house skills you need
Many points of view exist on the subject of whether to build your product in-house or use outsourced teams. The right answer will depend on your specific business. Generally speaking, outside agencies can quickly provide a wide variety of skills, talents, experience and expertise.
So, how should you decide between in-house and outsourced skills? The decisive factors in determining the best staffing approach can be found by:
- Considering your business goals and objectives and the product or service you’re providing. Are there compelling reasons to spend the extra time and money to develop in-house skills?
- Following the practical considerations of your budget. Hiring outside may be more cost-efficient at the beginning. Then, once your business is financially on its feet, you can invest in in-house talent for the quality-control, organizational intelligence, and brand development benefits it offers.