Creating a startup has never been easier. And once you get going — depending on your drive, vision and personal motivation — you will likely experience rapid growth and productivity at the start of your journey. Everything’s new and there’s seemingly endless potential to grow.
However, once the honeymoon period fades and reality sets in — and it will at some point — you will be faced with doubts, fear, and insecurity. This point in time is a crucial fork in the road; one path will move you forward and the other will lead you astray.
When that time comes, it’s important to deal with the following common issues experienced by most startup founders.
1. Waiting for Everything to Be Perfect
Sometimes it’s hard to get things moving because you want things to be flawless.
However, perfection never happens. Perfection is a pipe dream.
To succeed in business means focusing on the things that matter. Moving forward and growing means not letting inconsequential details derail you from launching your product or distracting you from your vision.
After all, a startup business is like a living organism, it will evolve over time. As long as you have the core features in a sufficient state, you will be fine.
It’s best to take your product to the market swiftly and improve it over time, rather than agonizing over non-essential features and ending up missing the mark. As LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman once said, "If you’re not embarrassed by your first launch, you’ve launched too late."
You have to start some time, and that time isn’t when everything is perfect.
Even Apple — now one of the most successful companies in the world — started with a humble and imperfect product: The Apple I computer.
The Apple I lacked even the most basic features of a computer, like an input device and monitor, which, even at the time, were already expected features of consumer-oriented computers.
However, the Apple I was an innovative product at the time because it was easier to operate compared to other options. Also it could display the computer’s output using only an ordinary television.
It didn’t matter that the Apple I lacked features that consumers expected, or that not every aspect of the product was flawless. What did matter, however, is that the computer had a couple of game-changing features that a segment of computer enthusiasts appreciated.
Successful entrepreneur and developer Dave Winer says this about building software: "Software is a process, it’s never finished, it’s always evolving. That’s its nature. We know our software sucks. But it’s shipping! Next time we’ll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that’s perfect is one you’re dreaming about."
- Progress Not Perfection (medium.com)
- Taming Perfectionism (www.defmacro.org)
- I Want to Punch Perfection in The Face (medium.com)
- Just Ship It (www.neiland.net)
2. Trying to Live Up to Your Competitors
It can be all too easy to compare yourself to your competitors. This process can be intimidating and discouraging, too.
Keeping up with industry news and knowing about your competition is an essential task for all business founders. But when it becomes an obsession, it can be unhealthy for your company.
Don’t waste time thinking about your competitors’ every move. Only you can be the maker of your business’s success. Analyzing the competition can be a long, dark maze in which you can easily lose yourself in.
Paul Graham — a successful entrepreneur, startup advisor and investor behind companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe and Reddit — pointed out in a blog post that startups rarely fail because of its competitors.
A crowded market, according to Graham, is a signal that there’s an unfulfilled need in that market. The presence of competitors should be viewed as a healthy sign of market viability, rather than a threat.
Do your competitor analysis and keep abreast with what’s going on in your industry, but don’t let it discourage you from building your vision.
- Stop stressing about startup competitors (startupnorth.ca)
- Competing in a Startup World: Lessons From a CFO (insideindianabusiness.com)
3. Doing Everything Yourself
Don’t feel compelled to wear all the hats of HR, marketing, IT, finance, web development, and sales. Your energies are best channeled into a few specific and strategically crucial tasks, so make sure you get help from other people. Delegation is an important skill all entrepreneurs must master.
Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, looked back at his career as an entrepreneur and what he wished he had done differently. O’Reilly notes that one of his biggest failures was trying to do everything himself: "I believe it was Harold Geneen who once said, ‘The skill of management is to achieve your objectives through the efforts of others.’ Yet, like so many entrepreneurs, my first instinct was not to hire the team to go after a new product or market, but to do it myself, or with the team I already had."
Empower the relevant people in your business and give them the best tools you can afford to let them do their job.
4. Taking Yourself Too Seriously
With the number of business-critical decisions you will have to take, it’s easy to become a little too serious.
Serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is probably the ultimate embodiment of a good-humored startup founder. Behind his cheeky smile, however, lays a very solid business rationale: a sense of humor and positivity tends to create a culture of openness where employees are more likely to be creative. "Granted, smiling can’t solve every problem, but it can make almost any situation a little better," Branson says.
Maintaining positive morale is crucial in the close confines of a startup.
5. Fear of Failure
There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that mistakes will happen. You will always wish you had done certain things differently.
The art of getting things right is also about getting things wrong. Nobody has ever had a perfect idea that didn’t need any work or changes — accepting this notion demonstrates a self-awareness and maturity that will be integral to the success of any young business.
Many successful entrepreneurs, from Rand Fishkin of Moz to Hiten Shah from KISSmetrics, have encountered hurdles along the way but have got up and kept going.
The key to their success was the ability to learn what had gone wrong, why it had gone wrong, and how they could stop it from happening again.
- Why You Should Ignore Startup Failure Stats (venturebeat.com)
- How My Start-Up Failed (alumni.stanford.edu)
And What if You Do Fail?
Try to make failure as low-cost as possible and learn from it as much as you can.
And have a plan Z. Having a backup plan if things go really wrong (which ensures you will have a roof on your head even if it means going back to Mom and Dad’s) will help you face difficult times with more objectivity and come out of it, if nothing else, at least a little wiser.