TOP 10 LESSONS

FOR A STARTUP

by Michael Jordi

These are the ten most valuable lessons I have learned building my startup. They will help you avoid time-consuming and costly mistakes and become a more focused and efficient entrepreneur.

 

1. Burn the bridges

Building a startup is hard.

You will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, you will fail, be rejected and you will start doubting yourself. You will live under enormous pressure and in constant anxiety. You are running out of money, and you may lose friends and even your partner during the process.

It will require an extraordinary amount of willpower and stamina that you can't muster as long as you stay in your comfort zone. If you think you can do this in the evening after work or on the weekends forget it. It won't work.

"YOU NEED TO HAVE THE FIRE BURNING UNDER YOUR BUTT"

You literally need to have the fire burning under your butt that forces you to stand up again and again and push forward. As long as you have an easy way out, you will fall back into a comfortable life and give up.

Find your compelling reasons that make it worthwhile to get up every day and keep fighting for it. Then make a firm commitment. And burn the bridges. 

 

2. Widen your time horizon

How long do you think it will take to develop your product? When will you make your first sale? And when will you become a millionaire?

Whatever you said, multiply it by three. If you think one month, make it three. If you think one year, make it three. 

"REMEMBER THE RULE OF 3 - IT ALWAYS TAKES THREE TIMES AS MUCH"

You will learn that things will always take much longer than you thought. Your plans will fail, your assmptions will prove wrong. You will have to go back to the drawing board, learn, improve and try again until you get it right.
 
Good things take time. Allow time to let your idea mature. Allow time for the trial-and-error process and for the feedback loop to unfold. Let your product grow.

Widen the time horizon, and allow time to work for you.

 

3. Do less

As a founder, you will be overwhelmed with tasks. You will have to learn to focus strictly and set priorities. 

At this moment, however, you are not yet able to distinguish what is really important and what is not. This is a problem. Because it will derail you from what you should be doing and can cause you to lose hundreds of hours of work and possibly jeopardize the survival of your startup. Moreover, you may be overwhelmed with tasks that seem insurmountable, making your stomach turn and you want to give up. 

"TAKE IT STEP BY STEP"

The solution, as you will often find, is to first widen your time horizon. Then go step by step. Start with something, create momentum, have a small success. Then do this over and over again.

This will reduce complexity and anxiety, and most importantly, keep you in the game.

 

4. Be prepared to fail

You will fail many times and that will be hard to psychologically deal with.

You need to understand the fundamental difference between a startup and an established company. In an established company, most things are known and failure is considered bad. In a startup, on the other hand, nothing is known and you are on a journey to figure things out, like an inventor.

"FAILURE IS GOOD"

Failure in a startup is normal. It is a welcome and necessary step to find the right business model and improve your product. 

You need to rewire your brain to startup mode. Failure is good!

5. Balance your life

Startup is mentally and physically draining. The heavy workload and financial uncertainty will put enormous pressure on you and cause high levels of anxiety and stress. 

You need to manage your emotional state carefully. Otherwise, you may burn out. Which could be the end of your startup.

"DON'T GO NUTS"

If you haven't already, choose a lifestyle that supports what you do. Start an exercise program, eat healthy, don't work evenings or weekends, take holidays to refocus and refresh yourself. You want to be in a mentally strong state that allows you to confidently face obstacles and move forward.

You are running a marathon, not a sprint. Don't burn out after the first kilometer. Manage your energy well.

 

 

6. Don't waste your money

Most startups don't make it because they run out of money. 

The problem is that you will not make money for a long time. But if you have to pay rent and salaries every month, your startup will soon be finished.

Avoid renting an office. You and your team can work remotely. You can hold meetings at somebody's home, in a coffee shop, or in nature. Avoid hiring people. Do as much as you can yourself. When you hire people, pay them based on income they create.

"DO IT YOURSELF"

Don't hire expensive web designers, marketing agencies or other specialists. Try doing it yourself first. You will be amazed how many things you can actually do yourself.

Save your money and keep yourself in the game as long as possible.

 

 

7. Focus on results

Since your savings are limited, so is your time. 

Don't waste your time writing a hundred pages business plan. Most of your assumptions will prove wrong. Instead, go out of your building and talk to potential customers. Try to understand their problem and build your product accordingly. Launch early with a simple version of your product. Try selling it to a few customers, listen to their feedback and improve accordingly. 

Don't try to get it perfect. You don't really know yet what works and what is really worth spending hours and hours on. If you dive into something prematurely, you may have to cut hundreds of hours of work afterwards. See what works, then do more of that. Stop doing things that don't bring results. Keep it simple. 

"START WITH THE END IN MIND, THEN WORK YOUR WAY BACKWARDS"

 

 

8. Remain small

Don't scale your business until it really works and you have happy customers.

For now, you're experimenting. You're looking for a business model that works, and you're building a product that people love. Don't develop elaborate sales and marketing plans, don't try to get funding for international expansion. It's too early.

Staying under the radar has the added benefit of keeping your competitors in the dark and yourself out of the media (this keeps your failures private and your attention where it belongs).

 

 

9. Stay the course!

Building a startup is an extreme experience. It will push you to your limits. Success may not come for a very long time, and you will want to give up. 

"DON'T GIVE UP"

Whenever you get to the point where you are frustrated and demotivated and want to give up - take a break, postpone the decision. Take a vacation to refresh and gain perspective. It is very important that now you do not give up. Of the thousands of startups that try, we only hear from very few that succeed. Those are the ones who have refused to give up.

 

Learn to trust yourself. Don't listen to the critics and naysayers. You are creating something unique, no one but you can know the path to success. Do it your way. 

 

Ultimately, you may also need some luck. But it's your job to keep yourself in the game until luck can eventually knock on your door. 
 

 

10. Enjoy the journey

Statistically, nine out of ten startups fail. Even if you do your best - the odds are against you succeeding.

 

But you don't have to. You are already a winner!

From the moment you had the courage to go after your dream, you embarked on a journey of monumental growth. You have faced your fears, endured hardship, and overcome many challenges. You have learned much about yourself, and you have met many interesting people who may prove to become lifelong friends. No matter what, you will come out a much better person in the end. 

By pursuing your passion, you have found a purpose that centers you. Suddenly, it's become easy to see what's really important, and things in your life have begun to align. You love what you do, you're bursting with energy, and you spend all day in an almost Flow-like state. You don't even think about money anymore, it's the creative process itself that gives you satisfaction. You feel happy.

Enjoy the journey while it lasts. 

ALL THE BEST

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DiscIaimer:

I am not running a hugely profitable business yet and still have a long way to go. So you might take my advice with a grain of salt. My views are personal and every startup faces its very own set of circumstances. Books that inspired and helped me tremendously on my way and which I recommend to anyone are: Rework, The Lean Startup, The Startup Owner's Manual and Startupland. Thank you for reading my article. Feel free to reach out: michael@flyingkoalas.com