1. Understand Your Industry.
While this might seem like common sense, it can be easy for new business owners to get caught up in the solution they’re building, and lose sight of what the industry requires.
For instance, if you’re working in a highly regulated industry (such as health, aviation, power or financial services), understanding the regulations of your industry is critical — and perhaps just as important as understanding your customers. You could build the greatest solution with the most innovative technology, but if it doesn’t meet the standards or requirements of the industry, you’ll be heading back to the drawing board.
2. Customers Don’t Care How Technology Actually Works.
Customers care more that the technology you’re building solves their problem. If you’re a tech startup that has developed ground-breaking code or cutting-edge AI software, your customer might get a little excited about it. But if it can help take their business from $10M to $100M, well that’s where the real value is. That’s what you can sell.
3. Aim High.
Many startup founders acknowledge that their goals just weren’t lofty enough when they launched their businesses. As a result, they built an infrastructure for a small company — only to have to take it apart and start over when they saw real growth and success. While you need to be realistic about the parameters of your business and where it could take you, don’t sell yourself short — build at the start for growth. Aim high, and see how far you go!
4. Pivot Thoughtfully.
When things don’t go according to plan, you might need to pivot — change direction and adjust your goals. Recognizing when something isn’t working and tweaking your course accordingly can be key to staying afloat and ultimately succeeding as a business.
Just be sure to carefully consider when and how to pivot. How much of your original work can be saved? Is the problem you’re trying to solve different than what you thought, or is it simply the solution that needs to change to better address it? While pivoting can be a gut decision, look at the numbers, examine the market and weigh the consequences before making your move.
5. Keep Calm and Carry on Selling.
When building a business, there is often a lot of focus placed on new product development — that’s where founders often spend the most time, effort and money. The thing is, if you want to have clients, they need to be able to call previous or existing clients for references and feedback. So even if you’re just making small sales, it’s important to prioritize selling so you maintain a client base.
6. Stay Focused, but Flexible.
Most, if not all, business advisors tell founders, “Make sure you remain laser-focused.” It’s good advice as it’s hard enough to do one thing really well. But a lot of startups out there have managed to end up in a very different place than where they started (think, Amazon). Would this have happened if they remained laser-focused?
The key may be to remain laser-focused while also finding the balance of experimentation and testing. Implementing KPIs early to assess your progress, being able to make decisions quickly, and remaining aware of what’s going on around you can help you stay focused on the right goals, react to changes in your industry, and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
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