Thanks to an email from Will Hill and Paul Graham’s latest essay I’ve shortened my advice (so you get to do less reading)
1. Make something people want.
As obvious as it sounds this advice is often ignored. Well not exactly ignored, but confused. Inventors especially, are apt to confuse the word “people” with the word “me”. They think if they like something, they can make a business out of it. You need enough people to want it bad enough to pay enough for it. In this context enough means the following. A number of people that you can find, market and sell to so cheaply that they’ll pay more for what you make to cover the cost of making it and also finding them, marketing and selling to them. Start-ups particularly underestimate the cost of finding, marketing and selling to people who want to pay for what they make. If you’re making software or a web application you can tweak and change it cheaply to find out what people really want. Provided you do the next 3 things.
2. Keep your costs low.
I mean really low. Many companies get lazy when they have start-up cash and they end up making stuff that people don’t want, or spending marketing money in ways that don’t get them sales. That’s why so many good companies are started out of a garage or on the side. Sure it takes a bit longer but when your costs are low you have many more chances to learn what people want and how to sell to them. And remember, The goal is not to get investors. The goal is to get customers. Getting investors takes time away from building your business. And if you get the money it could give you confidence to keep charging off in the wrong direction (building something not enough people want badly enough) for a long time. Plus if you keep your costs low and do the next 2 tips, you’ll be more valuable if/when you do get investors.
3. Learn what works.
You can’t assume. Hence the number of tips in my long post about measuring stuff. It’s tedious to measure and you’re never sure if you’re measuring the right stuff. Do it anyway. Force yourself to listen to people who don’t agree with you and challenge your beliefs. Learn what customers (and employees and suppliers) really want and also how your marketing and sales efforts affect their behavior (if at all).
4. Be persistent.
It’s currently in vogue to say be passionate. I disagree. Passion can keep you going, and when it does it’s helpful. But it can also blind you so you don’t learn. But you will need something to keep you going through the emotional roller coaster that is a start-up. Find within your gut, whatever it is that keeps you going and keep on truckin.
[tags] start-up, entrepreneur, small business, ceo [/tags]
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