Building a business is like a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone has a starting line. What you do after you leave the starting line determines the rest of your race. There are a lot of things competing for a founder’s attention such as product development, marketing plans, team culture, office space, and hiring. However, there are the key things that you should be focusing on as an early stage founder that will help you to find success in your first few years in business. 

meeting image by Tim Gouw

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

1. Hire the right people.

Hire before you need to. Hiring an amazing team makes you look amazing. When interviewing a potential team member, sell your dream and your company. If you don’t believe in your idea, it will be hard to convince the right people to come work for you. Don’t sell yourself or your company short. Confidence in your startup will be attractive to potential employees.

Because a startup is a fragile thing, hiring is even more important. The right team can make or break a startup. You need a team that will be a driving force behind your project. If you don’t find the right person immediately, don’t panic! Stay patient and keep searching. This process may feel like a waste of time. It’s not. Building a dream team will save you time, money, and anguish later.

Don’t neglect onboarding. Check out AbstractOps’ ultimate employee onboarding checklist.

If you struggle with the hiring process, start by hiring someone to do it for you. Your hiring goal should be to hire people who are more skilled than you for each position. Do not neglect to hire employees with the following specialties!

Financial professionals.

If you’re a bootstrap company, this may be one position you are tempted to skip. Don’t do it! A financial professional is necessary to keep track of your books. It will be hard to attract outside investors if you don’t have a solid record of your finances. Even a part-time bookkeeper can take care of the financials for you, freeing your time for your business.

Legal and Regulatory Ops.

From incorporating your startup to registering your business in different states for employment, getting the paperwork right and being compliant will save you money and legal troubles down the line.” As we say here at AbstractOps, “Be Scrappy, Not Sloppy.”

Engineering Team.

If you are building a software product, you will want to have an engineering team in place. Without an educated and dedicated engineering team, your software company will go from boom to bust. You need someone who can work out the bugs, update systems, and keep up with competition. 

Human Resources.

Everyone works hard at the beginning of a start-up. A human resources specialist will look to the needs of your employees so your focus can remain on the race towards a successful startup! This is a position that can be part-time, or managed through a firm or freelancer. 

linkedin sales navigator

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

2. Have a cash management plan.

Since you already hired the right people, make sure you have the cash on hand to pay them! Will you be fundraising? Bootstrapping? Make sure you have the cash to back your dream! The minute you get cash, have a plan for it.

Zero revenue plan

Don’t assume financial success in the future i.e. hopefully it will come. Making those assumptions can get you into financial trouble. Start with a zero revenue cash plan. This means that your first year, assume you will net zero in revenue. While that does not sound grande, think of year one as an investment year and year two as a growth year. If you make bank in year one, all the better. 

Plan fundraising

Don’t wait too long to fundraise. Find the cash before you are in dire straits. Don’t assume the fundraising opportunities will be better next week, next month, or next year. Nobody enjoys fundraising, but it is vital to your success.

3. Have a brief, compelling goal to guide you

When you feel yourself getting lost or confused, look to your predetermined goal. “How do I get there from here?” should be a question you ask constantly to keep on track. This goal will not only keep you on track, but will inspire the entire company. Believe in your goal and your company will follow.

Make sure your dream also includes attainable steps. Most businesses start with one ‘hero’ product that is experienced by one consumer. Make each consumer’s experience count. Ensure that each customer you acquire, especially in the onset of your startup, is an advocate of you and will get you more customers. Focus on the quality of your customer acquisitions over quantity.

If we go back to the marathon metaphor, the marathon is your overall goal, but your focus should be on each mile as you run it. Don’t lose sight of your focus and what you want to accomplish in each moment, each mile, and each phase. 

4. Don’t burn out!

This startup may be the entire focus of your life right now. That’s alright! Just make sure to take a step back every now and then. Do something for yourself. This will renew your focus and energy. Don’t neglect your friends and family. A healthy, well-rounded leader is a better leader.

office discussion

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

5. Don’t forget marketing

A startup is typically founded by 2-3 people. There’s one person who came up with an amazing idea or design, and typically, another person who can sell it. It is very difficult to do both by yourself. A great team and a solid product is a winning combination!

Design an awesome product

A Product-Market Fit (PMF)  is the first step towards any successful business! Do your research. Produce a product that is needed and wanted. 

Market your product to the right set of customers

No matter how amazing your product may be, if there isn’t a market for that product, it won’t sell. Building and iterating on creating your ultimate product will require several rounds of customer feedback. In the end, you need to ensure your customers love your product, are willing to spend their money on it, and spread the word!

 

This is also where the exceptional sales team you hired in step one comes in handy. Make sure they’re sold on your product and excited to sell! These are the people who will grow your business. It’s better to have one product that you can sell than a lot of products with no demand.

Final Thoughts

Founding a startup is an exciting, risky venture! If you keep your focus, hire the right people, focus on marketing, and keep the cash rolling, you can be on course to a successful startup.

 

About AbstractOps

If you’re an early stage CEO, we handle and automate your HR, finance, and legal ops — so that you don’t have to. We help you Be Scrappy, Not Sloppy. 

We understand that ops can be painful. If you have any questions or need assistance with your ops, drop us a note at hello@abstractops.com. We’ll do our best to help. 

References

Hayes, R. (n.d.). Here’s the advice I give all of our first time founders. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://review.firstround.com/Heres-the-Advice-I-Give-All-of-Our-First-Time-Founders

Kachchani, Y. (2018, March 26). Startup focus musts at each stage. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://medium.com/startup-grind/what-startup-founders-focus-should-be-by-stage-869542d3cfe9

Product Hunt. (2018, March 28). What should you focus on as a new startup founder? Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://blog.producthunt.com/what-should-you-focus-on-as-a-new-startup-founder-eab06161f6b3

Romain, S. (2016, February 7). The Three Most Important Things Every Startup Founder Should Focus On. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.romainsimon.net/focus-startup/

Rustagi, B. (2020, March 12). A few small things every early stage startup founder should keep in mind. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://yourstory.com/mystory/small-things-early-stage-startup-founder-know

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