This sponsored post is produced in association with Desk.com.
Startups have been a breath of fresh air for the global market, but it leaves most entrepreneurs breathing heavy when they actually give entrepreneurship a shot. The lessons you learn as a business owner are unlike any Silicon Valley cliché or piece of advice offered by armchair consultants.
The key difference between successful and failed entrepreneurs is that successful founders learn their lessons proactively, while the latter realizes them only in hindsight.
However, there are few critical mistakes that can make or break your entrepreneurial dream that you need to watch out for. Here are five critical lessons that every aspiring entrepreneur can benefit from to work towards a healthy business model from the get-go:
1. Don’t drift away from your expertise
Many startups get paralyzed in a bipolar standoff between business priorities. Some are too focused on churning out an engineering marvel while others are obsessed with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns.
The truth is, experience is the ultimate trump card you can count on to deliver a successful product or service that serves market demand. If your founding team hasn’t learned how to swim in the deep waters of your domain expertise, it’s likely you’ll never win the product/market fit race. Apple would have been a distant dream were it not for the combined talents of Steve Jobs as a marketing genus and the technical wizardry of Steve Wozniak.
Even if you’ve run a related startup into the ground in the past, your experience can still be a bankable asset. As an industry veteran, you are not just an asset in terms of your technical or industry prowess, but also for the networking firepower you hold in the industry. Once you start scaling up your startup, you can easily initiate “side door” conversations with industry colleagues and alumni contacts to put things into action faster.
2. Don’t let execution take a backseat
Ideas come a dime a dozen in the startup world. The magic is in execution. Unfortunately, this is where most startups bite the dust and why the feared 90% failure rate of startups still terrorizes aspiring entrepreneurs today.
Great ideas can light a fire in the hearts of budding entrepreneurs, but don’t pour gasoline on them without establishing a sustainable business model first. Start by mapping out the short-term and long-term goals for your startup and making sure everyone is on board with the agenda. To execute your vision and create a fully functional product or service, dedication and ownership are the primary needs from your team members.
For example, take the unfortunate demise of a startup known as Color. It was an innovative photo-sharing app that would merge the photo-streams of users together, based on location, or personal connections. They had $41 million worth of investment capital and a ton of marketing hype surrounding them. However, they failed spectacularly when it came to executing a user-friendly app. As soon as the app launched, users became frustrated and quickly jumped off the bandwagon and the company scrambled to redesign itself instead of fixing its issues.
3. Don’t take location lightly
Being mindful of your surroundings is one of the most popular pieces of advice we’ve heard in superhero movies. In the real world, you can superpower your startup if you lay its foundations in the right location. Although it isn’t a ‘make or break’ factor for success, solving the success puzzle is a lot easier when the rest of the pieces are in easily in reach. So, if you’re in a market flooded with your target customers, investors, talent, and innovators, you can tap into this ecosystem and build your business faster.
For instance, launching a software as a service (SaaS) startup in techie and VC hotspots like San Diego and San Francisco will surely raise your prospects of gaining access to capital and other resources. In fact, Forbes placed these two cities in its list of the top 10 places to launch a new business. Some of the others that made the list include Denver, Seattle, Boston, and New York City.
4. Don’t rush the hiring process
Aside from nailing the product/market fit strategy, one of the most difficult challenges to overcome while building a new business is hiring the team that will steer it forward. With minimal resources on hand, the onus of organizational discipline is on each and every member of your business team. You need to ensure that every team member can naturally switch between the role of a leader and follower to nurture the business.
If you’re looking for long-term power players to elevate your business, then the “hire for attitude, train for skill” strategy will definitely work well. Work through local connections, social networking, job ads, and third-party recruiters to identify them. Once you’ve done that, brief them on not just their job profiles, but on your company vision to make them feel a part of something big. If you still feel their passion and profession exist in separate worlds, then it’s not likely they’re going to bring much progression to the table.
5. Don’t take the customer for granted
One of the fundamental mistakes entrepreneurs make while launching their startup is forgetting that a business is a relationship with the customer. You can pump in all the resources you want to build a top-notch product for your market, but it’s still a job half done.
When it comes to customer service, you need to be at your selfless best from day one in order to eliminate product problems and build strong relationships with customers. In an age of instant expression through social media mountains can be made out of molehills in a heartbeat. So, you really don’t want to gamble with your reputation by taking a backseat when it comes to dealing with your customers.
Companies like Desk.com help startups provide the kind of exemplary service that completes the overall customer experience — and even helps overcome product problems in early days when you’re still working out bug fixes. If your customers get a glimpse of your dedication to improving their experience, they are a lot more likely to be patient and stand by you.
Entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with mistakes, but it’s always better to learn from the mistakes of others and be ready to adapt whenever you make your own. You’ll be surprised when you realize most of your glaring errors were staring right at you when you look back and reflect on your journey.
If you want your startup to reach those meteoric levels of success you always dreamed of, you need to learn to use both your triumphs and your failures as fuel to propel you forward.
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