March 2, 2010

Startup Killers: Avoid Becoming a Statistic!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 2:13 am
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Posted by Adam Toren, on March 1st, 2010

We’ve all heard the bleak statistics about startup failures.  In fact, according to a recent study by the SBA, a mere 44% of new business startups can expect to still be doing business just four years later.  Even when we eliminate businesses that were closed by choice, due to retirement, the owner moving on to something else, or another planned exit strategy, then ignore non-traditional “business opportunity” type businesses, where commitment levels are notoriously low, the statistic is still daunting.  If you’re not strong of heart, these numbers alone could be enough to make you want to throw in the towel before you even begin.  Don’t give up just yet though.  While there is nothing you can do that will guarantee success, planning for likely obstacles can dramatically decrease your chances of becoming part of the grim stats.

Common Startup Pitfalls, and How You Can Overcome Them

1. Family matters. Starting a business is going to affect your family.  Whether you’re trimming your household budget to cover startup costs, taking time away from home to tend the store, or converting the extra bedroom into an office, your family will likely need to make some adjustments to accommodate your new venture.  Key to success: Get them involved.  Even if your new business isn’t the type where the kids can help in daily operations, just keeping everyone in the loop will go a long way toward mutual cooperation.  From the beginning, let your family know what you’re doing and what sacrifices you’ll be asking of them.  Listen to their concerns, and even their advice.  Remember, they aren’t likely to be as euphoric about your new venture as you are, so they might just add some needed objectivity.  Talk about the changes you’re making, and avoid family matters sinking your business dreams.

2. Isolation. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are independent people.  We love the idea of being “self-made.”  Be careful not to isolate yourself though.  Especially in the beginning stages of business, we can easily tend to get caught up in all that needs to be done and forget the importance of staying connected.  Key to success: Network, network, network.  The old saying is true: what you know isn’t as important as who you know.  Don’t try to go it alone.  In between your other activities, make time to network within your business community.  You’ll find valuable contacts to help you with everything from advice on your logo and website, to the best ways to find suppliers and clients.  Once your business is going strong, don’t give up networking.  You’ll benefit from learning new marketing strategies, staying current on business trends, and building lasting relationships that are invaluable as you grow.  To find local groups that meet regularly, check out

3. Productivity destroyers. It’s a warm, sunny day.  Your friend calls you up to invite you to a 2:00 tee time.  You remember point number 2 above, and think, “Well, I don’t want to isolate myself, and heck, I’m my own boss, so why not!”  Hold on a minute.  There will be a time, if you do what it takes to make your business successful, when you can take it easy and slough off for the afternoon.  While you’re in startup mode is not that time.  Key to success: Make and stick to a schedule.  Especially when you’re first starting out in a new venture, planning and scheduling your time are critical.  Don’t let distractions pull you away from what’s important to you.  Also, you’ll want to be sure to organize your work area, use prioritized to-do lists, and implement a scheduling system to keep track of appointments and contacts.  Even if it’s just Outlook or the calendar in your Blackberry, putting your to-dos and appointments in something other than your head frees your mind to focus on your business and keeping it healthy.

4. Plate overload. A startup entrepreneur has a lot on his/her plate no matter what.  But one thing that will take the wind out of your sails and kill your startup before it ever really gets off the ground is becoming overwhelmed with all you have to do.  Even if you’ve gone through the process of proper planning and you’ve thought your startup through completely, it’s unlikely you thought of everything.  So although it looks on paper like you can handle everything as a one-person shop, it doesn’t take many unexpected fires before you begin to feel like you’re in over your head.  Key to success: Delegate the veggies. Sticking with the “plate” metaphor for a moment, let’s assume the “veggies” are those tasks you’d rather give to someone else.  They’re boring, they’re tedious, and they take you longer than anything else, because they just aren’t what motivates you.  Another way to look at it is, those tasks that are not directly contributing to building your business.  For example, accounting is completely necessary, but if accounting isn’t your business, someone else should be doing it.  If employees aren’t part of your plan, consider a virtual assistant for those tasks that are distracting you from your core responsibilities.  Whatever you do, don’t let an overflowing plate kill your business.

5. Money matters. Just as starting a business is going to affect your family, it’s also going to affect your pocketbook.  Hopefully, it’s a positive effect, but not usually for a while.  If you’re expecting to make a killing right off the bat, just know that is not typical.  That’s not to say it can’t happen, but it would be foolish to count on it.  And nothing will kill your business and your enthusiasm for it faster than the worry and strife that comes with running out of money.  Key to success: Expect the best, and prepare for the worst.  You know the statistic – The number one reason startups fail is lack of capitalization.  The key is to balance your optimism about the success of your business with the reality that there are likely to be ups and downs.  Even in best case scenarios, business is cyclical.  So simply plan for those cycles.  Make sure that you have enough reserve to get you through the lean times, and don’t spend like a drunken sailor during the good times.  Plan ahead, save, and spend wisely, and you’ll get to don that eye patch soon enough!

Tell us your startup story, in the comments below or in the forum.  What are/were your biggest obstacles?   What did you do (are you doing) to get past them and dodge the statisticians?


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