Launching a startup can send even the most Type A founder into a whirlwind of questions and concerns. Will this idea work? Where to begin? What am I missing?
While your questions may be specific to your startup and industry, here are at least a few answers that may help you along your journey.
1. Should I take funding?
The answer to this will vary situationally, but here’s a tip: don’t be afraid of securing financing, one way or another. Few startup founders have tens of thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account, just waiting to be used to start a business. That means you’ll need to consider your financing options.
You could apply for a small business loan. You could take on investors (however, realize that you’ll give up part of your equity, and an investor may want to have a say in decisions for your startup). You could borrow from friends or family, or even crowdsource your funding. Options are many, so weigh the decision carefully.
2. Do I need a partner?
It can be helpful to have someone to balance the workload with and to bounce ideas off of, but proceed with caution when choosing a startup partner. After all, 70 percent of business partnerships fail. You may be better off choosing someone who works in your industry (whose work ethic you admire) rather than a friend or family member, as your personal relationship with the latter may suffer.
Then again, you might be better off running your startup on your own. You won’t have to get input from a partner about big decisions, and with only one salary to cover, you’ll hit profitability faster.
3. What is my competitive advantage?
There’s a lot of ego in the startup space (which might be why so many fail), so it’s important to put that aside to really assess whether you have a viable idea that will attract customers. So ask yourself, why is your product or solution better than anyone else’s? What makes you stand out? When you can answer these questions, you’re ready to move forward.
4. Why am I doing this?
Launching a startup is no easy task; it will consume your mind, time and soul, so you need a good “why“ for pursuing it. Are you looking to make gobs of money? Create a legacy you can pass on to your children? Create good in the world?
By simply defining why you’re starting this business, you can put your focus on accomplishing that goal, which will make all the hard work worth it.
5. How can I describe my product or service?
Think of this as your elevator pitch: In just a few sentences describe what your startup will offer? You can hone this description over time, but it helps to explain what you do to other people if you can boil it down to its essence.
If your product or service is unlike anything else in the market, find a parallel that people can relate to: maybe it’s the Tinder for the workplace or Uber for dogs.
6. What kind of help will I need?
Startup founders tend to be Type A, which means they think they can do it all on their own, but most crash and burn before long without reinforcements. Be honest with yourself about aspects of the business that you’re weak in, that take you too long to manage, or that you simply don’t want to be responsible for. Then, get a plan for how and when you will hire help. And remember: You don’t have to hire full-time employees; you can get a lot done with freelancers, part-time help and interns.
7. Where will my startup be in 5 years?
You may be so mired in the minutia of getting started that you haven’t thought about the bigger picture. Five years might seem an eternity away, but trust me: thinking about it now will help you actually get where you want to be by then. Even without a formal business plan, you want to have an idea of the direction you want to take the business.
8. Who are my customers?
This is such a key question for any business owner. If you don’t know exactly who your customer is and where she spends time online, you can’t hope to deliver a solution that she wants or market to her on the right channels.
If you don’t yet know who your customers are, do some research. Hire a market research firm to help, or simply spend time on social media listening to your demographic to better understand it. Send surveys to your contacts to find their pain points and ensure that you’re solving the right problem for them.
9. What am I afraid of?
Entrepreneurs are often seen as being fearless, but I see that as false bravado. There are some very real threats to your startup, so it’s better to address what your concerns are upfront so you can protect your business from them. If you fear failure (who doesn’t?), decide what failure looks like. Maybe when you break it down, failure just looks like not being able to afford your rent and moving back in with your parents until your startup takes off. That’s not that bad in the long run, is it?
10. What’s the best possible scenario for my startup?
On the other end of the spectrum, I want you to imagine what the best possible outcome of starting this business could look like. You could be acquired by a major company. You could get a ton of funding that would allow you to do more. You could help millions of people.
Having a positive vision of where your business could go is a great way to manifest it!
Ask and answer the big questions about your startup before you launch so that you’re set up for success.