Building my company has been the most rewarding experience of my life—but it’s also been the most challenging. Trials, tests, hard fought lessons, the startup life is a crucible by fire. But it’s a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything. And one that’s made me strong and grateful.
That being said, I wish I had had a roadmap when I first entered the fray. While there is no definitive guide, there are some basic rules I now know. First, I have some sobering news for you: ideas are cheap. And not every startup is disruptive. What sets apart 99% of successful startups are execution and leadership. Responsibility, focus, tenacity—all are a must to deliver a quality product. Here’s what you have to keep in mind to keep your business alive.
1. Identify What Problem Your Company Solves
The best products make our lives better. Period. If your solution doesn’t radically improve quality of life, you’re likely wasting time and money. So how do you know if you’ve got a winner? First, identify both the problem and the pain experienced by the audience it addresses. One example is Uber. Calling, waiting, paying for a cab, it can be a real pain. Uber created a transportation network saving riders time and money. A solution bringing riders and drivers together with a simple user interface to reserve and pay for rides. The end result: a billion dollar company that’s made people radically change their behavior. Why? Because the new experiences is dramatically better than the legacy option. Emulate that formula.
2. Assembling An A-Team
Your company’s success, and its ability to adapt to change due to market conditions, hinges on your team. Finding and recruiting great talent is about finding people whose desire, skill, and experience matches your entrepreneurial vision. Personally, my company Klutch benefited enormously when Lisa Dusseault became our VP of engineering. We needed someone to build Klutch’s scheduling backend and lead our booming team of engineers. Lisa could do both, but she also had more than 10 years experience working directly with calendaring and messaging technologies. Which meant both Lisa and Klutch shared the vision to make collaboration better. A win for both sides. As team leader, your responsibility is putting together a team that can execute your company’s mission. That means knowing what you need, giving your employees the tools to achieve, setting realistic expectations, and rewarding them when they meet and exceed goals. Give them a reason to care, and they will.
3. Using Data To Make Smarter Decisions
With access to so much data, it’s never been easier to make improvements based on user experience. Think of it like this: Kobe Bryant calls basketball a game of adjustments. He analyzes his opponents over videotape. Our tape is the metrics and graphs that illustrate user behavior. If you feel a change must be made, ask yourself: “What data do I have to support this decision?” After we found that people preferred using our messaging features, we made those services more central to our product. And it worked. Once you’ve decided what adjustments to make, your team needs to be able to move quickly and deliver. The greater the ability to identify important changes in user behavior, and the flexibility to adapt to those changes, the better chance you have to find the right product-to-market fit. It’s that simple.
4. Effectively Communicating With Your Team
This is the glue that holds your ship together—and keeps it sailing. But, with the nature of our globalized world, sometimes your team isn’t all in one place. That can be a challenge. My own team is spread between Santa Monica and San Francisco. I fly between the two cities frequently, but I can’t be in two places at once, so I’ve developed an accountability system where members regularly check-in. I recommend using a platform like Skype or Slack. Keep it low-stakes, but consistent, with your team plugged in via regular ongoing discussions. These collaboration platforms are great but still don’t completely replace the need for face-to-face meetings where you can kick around ideas on a whiteboard. But in a pinch, there’s no better way to telecommute effectively.
5. Managing Success And Learning To Grow
Growing is about investing in what works. But, it’s also about understanding why it’s working. Surround yourself with intelligent and collaborative thinkers. Be honest when you don’t know something—as a startup entrepreneur, there’s a tendency to micromanage. But that doesn’t work long term, especially when you’re scaling. And letting go of the reigns, and allowing the skilled professionals to do their jobs without you breathing down their necks—that my friends is the sign of smart and successful leadership. Knowing how to manage success is just as vital. If and when you get thousands of downloads, become a hit on the App Store, and become recognized in the marketplace, knowing how to manage your ego, expectations, and position the attention for growth is arguably the most important puzzle piece. To stay grounded and focused, communicate with co-founders, fellow entrepreneurs, and advisors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Get a mentor, someone you believe in. Continue talking to your customers. The serial entrepreneur Steve Blank once called a startup the ongoing “search for a reputable and scalable business model.” He couldn’t have been more right.
This article was originally published in Business 2 Community: http://bit.ly/1Gyw2Ht