Knowing how to succeed very often involves little more than knowing how not to fail. Here are the top things that are likely to go wrong with your start-up (so you can do everything in your power to avoid falling prey to them.)
- No money
You probably thought this would be the only bullet point on this list, and with good reason – if you ask most people who were involved in a failed start-up what caused things to falter, they will say is was a lack of money. Because, in the end, that’s always what it looks like. But most of the time, a shortage of funds is a symptom, not the disease. One or more of the other things on this list was most likely the real problem.
- Leadership problems
The problem with companies is that they’re run by humans. And humans disagree and have power struggles and differences of opinion on how to solve problems, or which direction to go. It’s a real bummer. But until we have entirely agreeable robots as co-founders (hey, there’s a business idea!), we have to learn how to get along with each other. Sometimes that’s not possible – and it’s a big reason a lot of start-ups fall apart.
- Being too self-obsessed
It’s not like it’s any wonder how start-up founders can get completely wrapped up in what they’re doing to the exclusion of the rest of the market (and outside world in general), but it’s still truly detrimental. Keeping your head in the game really means keeping one eye on the ball and one eye on every other little thing happening in the entire stadium. Easy, right?
- Lack of patience
Any entrepreneur who has been through the process knows: start-ups mean setbacks. It means everything taking longer and costing more than projected. It means long, frustrating days and moments of tremendous doubt in every aspect of your company, your product and yourself. In the end, the difference between companies that die on the vine and those who going on to thrive is a matter of having the patience, faith, and perseverance to weather the trials and wait it out.
- Not hiring smartly
If you (and any co-founders) are totally the brains of the operation, it can be all too easy to think that the other people you hire are merely there to support that and thus don’t need to be the best of the best. They just need to be…adequate. This is – forgive me – a bit arrogant, terribly shortsighted, and one of the biggest reasons why start-ups fail. Your standards for hiring cannot be high enough. The key is the identify exactly what your strengths are – just because you start out “doing it all” in the company doesn’t mean that’s what you should do, or want to do. Think about what your ideal role in the company will be down the road, and figure out what other roles will need to be filled. Then set your sights on finding the absolute top notch people to fill them.
- Prioritizing revenue over the product
It’s not like money isn’t important (ahem, see: number 2 on this list) but when you’re in the start-up stage, you should always be more concerned with developing a product or service that solves a unique problem and appeals to a wide audience, and then nurturing the hell out of your connection with your customers. Care about money. Money is good. But evolving your revenue streams is something that will always be there – nailing your product is something you can really only get one shot at. Needing money doesn’t mean that focusing on money is the best way to get it.
- Not being flexible
The hardest part about spending endless hours on your business plan is knowing that you will almost undoubtedly have to significantly amend it and change your methods, plans, and even product to account for market shifts and other variables that will come up during pre-launch development. Being too married to your original plans, as opposed to being as adaptable as possible, is a sure recipe for irrelevance and failure.