The wealth of information that exists on the World Wide Web concerning the dos and don’ts for budding entrepreneurs thinking of starting their own company is enough to keep them reading for the rest of their lives. And as we all know, running your own company is an extremely time consuming, at times unrelenting process that gives you little time for rest.
Billionaire entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson may have time to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon, fly a plane into space or kitesurf across the Channel, but make no mistake; for a long time in the early days even he worked 16 hour days to get to where he is today. Chances are 99.9% of start-up founders will never get to do anything approaching those kinds of things.
Richard Branson, Owner of Virgin Galactic.
So perhaps it’s time that start-ups looked to pieces of advice that perhaps they didn’t already know or hadn’t considered when sitting down to think up that magical business idea.
1.) They’re counterintuitive
Entrepreneurs are usually told to trust their instincts, to ensure the leads you’re going after are qualified, to go with the things that just feel right. However, it’s also been argued that start-ups are by their very nature counterintuitive; that if you do trust your instincts then you’ll make a lot of mistakes, mistakes which could be costly to a small business.
One area however in which you should trust your instincts is people. When starting out, whilst it pays to have a heart, don’t be afraid to be ruthless as well. If your gut tells you that whilst someone appears wonderful they’re in actual fact going to end up harming the business, listen to it. And it’s a good idea to have a handle on where your people are, what they’re up to and how they’re performing and this is where human resources software comes into play. Ditching the spreadsheets and centralising everything onto an online platform is a good place to start, as centralised employee information allows you to take your mind off of the small things and worry about the big things when it comes to people.
Jonathan Richards, breatheHR CEO comments “HR software makes it really easy to streamline those time-sapping HR tasks such as absence management therefore freeing up valuable time to develop and manage your key assets – your people.”
2.) Know the players, not the game
Whilst it pays to do your research on other start-ups, what’s worked and what hasn’t, it’s not a good idea to focus too much on trying to emulate other companies. It can quickly become tempting to follow the rules, to go through the motions of raising money, getting a big office, hiring lots of people, launching new products, before you’ve actually developed a viable business offering. It’s likely that, as a young entrepreneur, you’ve been conditioned into playing by the rules throughout your whole life up until this point; studying textbooks for exams, attending after-school activities, being on time for classes.
When it comes to starting your own company you’ve got to break with convention and do your own thing that’ll make you stand out from the other thousands of start-ups out there. The most important thing is to know your audience and provide what it is they need. After all, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t know anything about running a company when he founded Facebook from his room at University; he just knew what his fellow students wanted.
3.) They’re All-Consuming
So whilst Richard Branson may get to do all of those wonderful things listed above now that he’s got thousands of people taking care of his businesses for him, it wasn’t always that way. Larry Page of Google is still only 41 and even if he goes on holiday for a week, he’ll have a week of work to deal with when he gets back. As CEO, he is the only one that can deal with it. What’s more he has to deal with it without complaint, because as CEO he cannot show weakness to employees, or the general public. Billionaires come in for criticism quickly if they are seen to bemoan their lifestyle. And don’t think for one second that it gets any easier as time goes on. If anything, it gets harder.
4.) Don’t try to think up an idea
In short, if you make a conscious effort to sit down and actually think of a start-up idea, the ideas you come up with won’t only be bad, they’ll start to sound plausible as well. What this means is that you’ll end up wasting a lot of time on them before realising that they’re bad.
As hard as it is, you’ve got to think unconsciously. Take Facebook, Google or Apple. None of these companies were actively planned out; they were merely side projects for their founders at the time. Conscious minds would most likely reject the ideas that Zuckerberg, Page and Jobs came up with.
5.) Finally, learn everything
Young employees are always told to be like a sponge, to absorb all the information, advice and knowledge that they can and then pick and choose the parts they feel can be applied to the jobs at hand. In no field is this truer than that of the start-up. The words just learn are two of the most useful you’ll read or hear. Learn from mistakes, learn from experiences, learn from successes, and learn from others.