Ask anyone who’s worked at more than one startup and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: Young companies start to go off the rails once they hit 50 employees. I call this the “teenager” startup phase, and I’ve been there several times, both as an employee and an executive.
What does this look like?
Employee one through 10: At a certain point, the original employees stop learning new people’s names. They won’t come right out and say it but they start to resent having to show yet another noob how to do the same simple things. …
If you want to give your new business a decent shot at success, you need to build traction — clear, measurable evidence that people are interested in what your company is offering. And that won’t happen on Day One.
So why do startups make big, splashy announcements the day they launch? Because that’s the way it’s been done for ages. But that strategy can actually do more harm than good.
When no one knows who you are or what you do, you need to buck conventional wisdom and launch quietly, without fanfare. It took me almost 20 years and a…
Let’s talk about how much you should charge customers for something when you’re not totally sure what that thing is yet.
A startup has to get its pricing right or the product will be dead at launch. The problem is, there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules for pricing a brand new product. It’s an individual exercise, and the right answers are specific to your market, your company, and the as-yet-unknown value of the product to your customers.
Throw in the uncertainty surrounding a minimum viable product, and the pricing process usually generates more questions than answers. I…
At startups, the difference between survival and running out of runway always comes down to taking our eyes off revenue.
We don’t want to do this, and we certainly don’t do it on purpose. But when we’re in the middle of the startup run, it’s pretty easy to fall into a trap of wasting time on feel-good tasks that feel like progress but don’t bring in any money.
No entrepreneur is immune to this trap, myself included. It’s part of the drive that makes the successful entrepreneurs successful.
I’ve founded, worked at, and advised a ton of startups, and each…
In entrepreneurism, the idea is nowhere near as important as the execution. Most entrepreneurs understand this, but just believing in the importance of execution doesn’t mean you can successfully execute.
I’m not talking about executing bad ideas. If your idea is terrible, well, no one is going to be able to help you with that. (But don’t sweat it. I have a dozen bad ideas a day.)
No, your idea might be truly amazing, game-changing, something that can solve an age-old problem in a way no one was expecting. …
One of the most popular ways to kill a promising young company is to spend too much time perfecting the product. But we tend to do just that.
Most of us entrepreneurs are builders, we’re tinkerers, we’re scientists. And so we’re very quick to slide down a rabbit hole of adding just one more tweak, one more feature, one more cool little trick to make our rocket ship fly that much higher.
Why? Because we’re all aware that the other really good way to sink a startup is to launch a product that isn’t perfect.
If we’re lucky, we launch…
It’s every founder’s dream, right? You wake up in the morning, go to a dashboard, and bask in the sweet glow of how much product you sold yesterday.
But it’s more likely that a company’s leadership team wakes up in the morning and waits for the customer relationship management (CRM) system to get updated. And waits. And waits. And then, by the end of the day, they realize nothing was closed. Or maybe it was and it will all come cascading in on Friday afternoon.
One of the most difficult functions for any company to put trackable numbers around is…
Teaching Startup — a project to bring real, insightful advice and answers to every entrepreneur at an affordable price point — has grown steadily since its pilot last year. We just delivered the 50th issue of our premium newsletter, and we’re about to release a new version of our web app.
We’ve gotten hundreds of entrepreneurs’ questions, and we’ve responded with dozens of answers, all related to starting, building, and growing various businesses of various types and at various stages.
So after reading through all these questions and answering a lot of them myself, one thing I can say with…
The day I took control of my future was the day I started saying no. I remember it vividly, because it was scary as hell.
I had built a strong consulting practice of my own. It was a good gig, but I had the same problem most solo consultants have: I had one huge client who took up the bulk of my time, and a couple of smaller clients who were way more satisfying to work with. But since all my time was going to the big client, I couldn’t give the smaller clients the focus they needed.
Question: What does peak success look like with the resources you have today?
In other words, if everything went your way — with the talent, the money, and the traction you currently have — would that result in a break-even return to your bottom line? Could that return be double? Triple?
And is that enough?
At some point, every good company reaches resource perfection, when all the company assets — money, equipment, talent, and so on — converge to produce a state of harmony in perpetual execution at a steady burn rate.
Good leaders know that this is the sign…