August 26, 2016
You’ve just joined a new startup. The world is an exciting place and you’re right in the middle of all that innovation and newness. Your friends are envious, and your mom has no idea what you do during the day. How do you know that your startup is heading in the right direction, though? After all, according to Forbes, 90% of all startups fail. Will you be among the 10%?
Real customers use your services. At first, it’s the warm leads, the friends and family, who sign up. Later, you reach out to the companies who need the services you provide. At first, the sales team is anyone who has free time to make a phone call. Later, there’s a concerted effort for everyone to pitch in. Next, there’s a real-live sales person. And eventually, an entire team, all coordinated. After all, you can’t legitimize your business without real customers.
Here’s a great article about landing your first customers on a shoe-string budget. Hint: Follow-up is key.
Confidence can be anything from a fearlessness about asking questions to the ability to tackle changes in direction. At first, being ambitious might feel uncomfortable. But after awhile, confidence has its own momentum. Getting an entire team into the habit of being involved and committed also creates its own momentum.
As Jacqueline Whitmore outlines in her article in Entrepreneur, there are Six Actions You Can Take to Build Your Self Confidence. I particularly like: “Positive energy leads to positive outcomes…”.
When everyone who works at your startup is excited to get to work, that’s a sign that you’ve got a good thing. During the first couple of years, that pre-launch drive translates to overwork and insomnia. Sometimes, sending an email or text at midnight and getting an answer back within minutes, is thrilling. When you’re committed, and prepped for success, the orders come in. Having “skin in the game” is a common pathway to that commitment.
Paul Graham says in his article What Startups Are Really Like (still as true in 2016 as in 2009, when he wrote it):
“What people wished they’d paid more attention to when choosing cofounders was character and commitment, not ability. This was particularly true with startups that failed. The lesson: don’t pick cofounders who will flake.”
Coworkers who are working at more than one startup will often not have the energy to get a startup off the ground.
If you have transparency from the founders and your team, you’ll be able to know what’s happening from top to bottom. Often what’s said out in the hallway or between meetings is the really important. But the critical thing is knowing that you can discover what’s happening quickly if you should need to know something.
You might want to consider a Communication Architecture, as Unreasonable did, which dictates the way your team talks. And the standing meeting ensures that meetings stay short.
It’s important to have a structure for your team’s communications. While more meetings are necessarily positive, regular meetings ensure that everyone’s aligned.
Nearly every day, something good happens that is worthy of celebrating. While there is still a lot of hard work to be done, there are also a lot of high-fives, impromptu bottles of wine and champagne being opened, and smiles. Being supportive of one another, although it might sound corny, goes a long way to making people want to stick with the crazy work hours. There are many ways to celebrate success, from a brag board to a morphing trophy, as recommended by American Express.
Is There a Sixth “C”?
Please leave me a comment and let me know what other signs of success I might have missed! And thank you.
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