People think that launching a startup business is easy.
They all start out with big dreams and a can’t-fail attitudes. But entrepreneurs are the ones who gut it out when things get hard because you’re willing to put in the work to reap the rewards.
Fortunately, there are some best practices you can follow to help your startup business succeed.
We’ve gone ahead and collected 7 of the best lessons from successful entrepreneurs around the world to act as guidelines for you to follow on your journey to startup success.
7 Lessons To Guide Your Startup To Success
1. Research, Research, Research
It might seem like common sense, but far too many “entrepreneurs” skip this step. This is a big mistake.
Do as much research as you can. You should be able to immediately and knowledgeably answer any and all questions an investor, potential client, or acquaintance asks you about your business.
Research the industry itself. Go work for a top company in the field if possible. See what makes them tick. Look for ways to improve upon their weaknesses. Then go talk to potential customers. Find out what benefits matter most to them. Don’t just make assumptions about what features they’re interested in, but verify your assumptions by talking to the people who will be making the buying decisions.
Research until you’re sick of it, and then go research some more.
By doing as much research of your startup business at the beginning, you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road, if for example, you find a company doing exactly what you were aiming to do. And on the other side of the spectrum, you can make your life significantly easier by being an appealing opportunity for investors due to your comprehensive knowledge of not only your product but your entire industry. Build a solid base for your business to stand on before you invest a single dollar into your dream.
2. Walk a Mile in their Shoes
When you’re creating a business from the ground up, you’ll meet a lot of people who matter in some way to your startup. You may talk to potential investors, possible future clients, or highly sought after partners. Each person you meet will have different motivations, questions, and concerns.
It’s critical to treat each person with respect, as they deserve to be treated. Just because someone doesn’t understand your idea right away doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. In fact, you should learn from them what you can do to make the concept easier for them to digest. Be honest and direct with everyone you meet, and they should return the sentiment.
Once you plant a seed, you never know who may come back and turn out to be your missing piece of the puzzle. That’s why it’s important to not burn any bridges, and keep an open mind when you’re talking to anyone at all about your startup business. Have empathy, and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t understand or agree with your idea.
3. Put others First
Be charming. Okay, so “charming” may be a strong word. But it’s important for you to make an effort to be more likeable and engage with those you meet. People like to do business with people they like. So engage with people. Put your phone away and ask questions! Even if you’re an introvert who is uncomfortable around people, there are habits you can build to be more likeable.
Keep in mind that putting others first means to take an interest in what they have to say. Be conscious of others and their time. Ask questions about them. Even if they ask about your company, that doesn’t mean do all the talking for 10 minutes. Remember that others may have a thought or opinion as well, and you may be missing out on valuable feedback by ignoring what they have to say.
So pay attention to others around you, and your business can actually benefit by listening over talking.
4. Do Unto Others
Just like putting others first, looking out for others can benefit your business. If you see an opportunity to help someone, then help. As long as that help doesn’t hurt your business in any way. If you can connect two people through an introduction, that costs nothing. If you can offer some authoritative insight into a project, you should. Or maybe someone just needs a recommendation. People always appreciate those who help them, especially when the helpers don’t ask for anything in return.
By helping others, you’re very much helping yourself. You build trust and relationships, and you can’t put a price on that. The startup world is a small one, and people reach out to others for recommendations and suggestions. If that should ever happen to you, then you can ensure a strong recommendation by looking out for others.
5. Document Everything
Systems and processes sound incredibly boring and not very glamorous. But working procedures can be your best friend. It’s important to document everything you can so that anyone can do any task. Now, coding is an exception. Don’t let anyone who isn’t qualified play with anything that can do damage to your business. But things like reports, opening and closing responsibilities, and training procedures should be doable by any employee at any time.
After all, what happens if one of your key people gets sick or in an accident and misses time? Or if someone wins the lottery? Or even essential personnel getting recruited by a competitor? The point is, people can leave or miss time for any number of reasons. You don’t want to lose more time by having to relearn and retrain people on every little task.
Having a written working procedure protects your business from lost time. But on top of protecting your time, working procedures guarantee consistency in how employees do tasks. If you want to ensure consistency in the user experience from start to finish, have a procedure for every employee to follow from greeting customers to sales approaches to walking customers out the door and thanking them for coming.
Document how you do everything to protect and optimize your business.
6. Culture Matters
A company is only as good as its employees, which is why it’s so important for companies to make sure each hire fits the company’s culture. It’s a word that’s often thrown around and rarely defined, but think of culture as everything a company says and does. And those should always match.
Culture is a shared mission; a way things are done.
A company can’t say it cares about the environment without having a recycling program, for example. And while that’s a small facet, a larger company value could be customer support, which could be exemplified by “we don’t close the ticket until the customer is officially satisfied.”
But culture is more than that. And at no time is culture more important than when you’re starting your company. You and your cofounders should all be on the same page. What are your company’s core values? Your mission statement? Are you looking for a big payday or are you in the business for the long term to help your clients? If you’re all answering differently for all these questions, you and your partners may run into quite a few disagreements and problems down the road.
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, a company famous for its positive culture, was so intent on ensuring that culture stayed strong that he personally interviewed every single new candidate and met one-on-one with every new employee.
Even when pressed for time, you should hire slowly and fire quickly. Regardless of personal skill sets, company culture should always take priority over an individual employee to ensure your business runs smoothly by having everyone on the same page.
7. Service Comes First
Sales are important, but successful businesses are built on good customer service. Any business which can make you feel like more than just a customer is far more likely to succeed. Make sure you’re investing in your customer service and support division. Keep your employees happy so that they keep your customers happy.
Take the time to personally engage with customer support job candidates. Don’t simply hire anyone who walks through the door. Have a training process ready to go for your support team to ensure that they’re all consistent in how they respond to your customers.
If you’re not sure what characteristics to look for in customer service representatives, here are some key customer service skills every employee should possess.
Service is an easy area to overlook, especially because customers don’t need the service and support element when making a purchase. However, they do need it when they’re having a problem or angry. And great service can turn an angry customer into a lifelong member.
Make sure you’re giving your service the attention it deserves.
You’ll notice most of these lessons are about how you interact with and focus on others.
That’s not a coincidence.
A business is nothing without customers, and customers don’t come back without great employees.
As a founder of your own company, your job is to protect your business and do everything you can to help it grow. That starts with how you treat others. So make sure you absorb these lessons and always be aware of how you and your business are interacting with those around you.