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(Editor’s note: Jason L. Baptiste is the CEO and co-founder of PadPressed and co-author of the OnStartups blog. This story originally appeared at that site.)
Running a start-up is anything but a life of wine and roses. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that, but budding ones are often a bit naïve. After running down five ugly truths of the startup world last week, Jason Baptiste is back with another half-dozen truths that can help prepare people for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
There is no silver bullet – There shouldn’t be (and usually never is) a single deal that can make your company. Certain deals or customers can take you to another rung on the ladder, but there are still many more rungs to climb along the way. Don’t look at a deal as the end game to the startup, but rather as a means to a specific milestone that is in the near future. It’s much easier to lose a deal than it is to secure one. By training yourself to diversify your risk and the milestones that advance your company, you control the destiny of your company, not any single partner. The success of a startup is the compilation of luck infused with many little wins along the way.
Customers will frustrate you – Having customers is a great thing, but dealing with them is a whole other ball game. If you’re in the consumer world, expect to face customers who don’t notice the obvious – even with your fancy pants UI/UX in place. You will also get an influx of feedback that is often contradictory. One customer wants it in red, another wants it in blue, and a third wants it combined to become purple. The key to dealing with customers is to respond to everyone, but have a strong rule of authority. If you succumb to customers frustrating you and do everything they say, you quickly end up in a far worse position.
You can’t do it all yourself – Some entrepreneurs have a superhero complex and feel they can do everything themselves (or with just one co-founder). In their minds, it’s possible to scale the company with just two to three people. In reality, that just results in being overworked and unfocused. Know when to let go of your pride and bring in people that may be smarter than you are. It will grow the company – and help improve the focus of your team members.
There is no such thing as an overnight success – Yeah, we’ve all heard the fairy tales, but the truth is most companies don’t get acquired early on – and fewer realize when their idea just won’t work. Be prepared to work on your startup for many, many years. Overnight success, as defined by the press, is often the result of entrepreneurs who have spent many years shaping and building the company. Startups aren’t a 5k, but an all out iron man competition.
Building a team is hard – Finding co-founders is hard enough. Finding a group of individuals smarter than yourself across a broad range of skills takes up way more time than you would ever think. In the early days, you may be excited about your company, but it’s often hard to get a large group of others equally so. They may have their own ideas they want to work on, be comfortable with a cushy salary, or generally just not interested in what you’re doing.
If you’re lucky enough, you will hit a certain period of growth explosion that requires you to hire rapidly and be a great judge of character on the fly. This is a dangerous period for a startup as the company is still small enough that the wrong DNA can make things take a turn for the worse, but you cannot be as granular with hiring these employees as your first 10.
There are forces outside your control – Understand that you cannot control everything in the universe. Markets collapse, the government intervenes, tragedy strikes, and other unforseen circumstances occur. Don’t let this make you quit.
In the words of the late Randy Pausch: “Brick walls are there to show you how bad you want something.” Roadblocks aren’t a deterrent to becoming an entrepreneur, but rather a reality check to make sure you’re prepared. Many companies die because people just give up.