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(Editor’s note: Serial entrepreneur Scott Olson is president of MindLink Marketing. He contributed this column to VentureBeat.)
Startups aren’t for the weak of heart. There are inevitable ups and downs that every entrepreneur faces. Part of your challenge is not getting carried away during times of success and not getting despondent during your setbacks.
When you find yourself in a startup funk, it’s frequently a period of indecision or uncertainty, where planning and meetings seem to take up a lion’s share of your time. The fear of making the wrong decision can lead to startup paralysis and can kill your company. Here are five ways to snap out of it by prioritizing action.
Go on a sales call – When in doubt, get in front of customers. It not only drives activity at a startup, it opens your eyes. Your best insights and ideas come when you’re talking to someone who can benefit from what you are offering. Sales calls are also great for discovering what features of your product aren’t as important as you thought. Prospects generally tell it like it is and will question features that just aren’t vital to them.
Use your product – The number of people who work in a startup who have virtually no hands-on time with what they sell consistently amazes me. People at every level of a startup should use and intimately understand their product or service. Doing so helps crystallize what works and what doesn’t.
Document your value proposition – Take the time to understand and communicate the value your product offers to the people who use it. Even freemium products require an investment of time and effort. What does the user get out of it? Does he or she save money, eliminate a problem, enhance communication, or create a positive mood? Once you understand this, write it up. Blog about it. Put it in your presentation. Create a typical ROI analysis if at all possible. At the end of the day, focusing on your core value can help you get past planning roadblocks.
Meet with existing customers – These are the people who are most invested in your success and want to partner with you to make your product or service better. This advice is especially important for your development team. Often companies limit exposure to customers to the sales and marketing folks. Get your developers out of the office and let them see how their product is actually getting used.
Ship already! – The most surefire way to kill your company is failing to ship your product. Death by features affects more companies than it should, and I still see startups where a planned three-month development cycle turns into a year. Be disciplined and do everything it takes to stop adding new features. QA your product and get it out the door.
Action drives progress. Accordingly, startups should be a frenzy of action. Planning should be based on the inputs from these actions, not on debating hypotheticals. So, if you find yourself in a startup funk, stop making plans and do something.
Photo via Flickr by malisonian
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