The first steps towards any goal are the most difficult ones. In fact, the higher your ambitions, the harder these steps are. As a start-up enthusiast, you know it yourself: what scares people the most at the beginning of their journey is uncertainty. You stand in front of the dark void where the frightened imagination could picture a million unfortunate situations where you lose budget, make fatal mistakes, or fail to meet deadlines. That’s why bootstrapping your own business is challenging and requires strong nerves, and the proper preparations.
Fortunately, you don’t have to grope your first start-ups' actions as you can find the support from the people who’ve been there - successful businessmen that manage to achieve their business goals.
Especially for you, we’ve asked 15 CEOs for ultimate advice they would give newly-christened start-up enthusiasts to nail their business in the early stages. We categorized this advice regarding various aspects of start-up business development. Enjoy reading, cast the light on the scary void of uncertainty and step up with confidence.
15 ultimate advice for start-up newbies to avoid failure
Budgeting & Investments
Financial and human resources are the core of any business initiative. Without the right approach to your funds, it will be impossible to make your idea work. Here’s what our CEOs say about that.
One of the most important things in the beginning is to invest rationally and make sure you always have a solid emergency fund prepared. New business owners often want to purchase all kinds of tools, software and equipment so they end up spending way more money than they should. In my experience, this isn’t a wise move until you secure your revenue. I would suggest purchasing only the essentials and putting the rest of the money on the side until the business grows a bit.
Have a security fund
When it comes to the emergency fund, it has to be solid and provide enough money for at least one year in business without any profits. Of course, this depends on the size and nature of the business, but I’m referring to the ideal scenario.
Strive for independence
Securing funding is individual and usually combines two or three strategies. Personal investments are the best option, but they aren’t always possible, so people take bank loans or turn to larger investors for help. In the case of the latter, it’s important for business owners to keep as much autonomy as possible since investors usually have lots of demands. However, it’s better to have a few sources of money than just one because something may go wrong which puts the entire business at risk.
Remember about the emergency funding
Don't wait until you are already in crisis mode to start looking for new capital. Crisis mode for a new startup can either mean you are struggling to find enough funding to stay afloat or you need funds to rapidly expand to take advantage of a market opportunity. We had a stroke of good luck early on that gave us a great market opening, but we needed a bridge loan in order to expand. It was a scramble trying to find new investors while also keeping our day-to-day operations going. Have your emergency capital funding planned out.
If you have a destination point, you need a map to reach it. Planning your start-up journey is extremely important because it’s not a stroll in the park. Without the map, your idea manifestation path can feel like a way to Mordor. At the same time, with the right roadmap and planning skills it can be like a jogging session in the morning.
Make a detailed long-term plan
It's preferable to break down a huge concept into smaller chunks and then implement them one at a time. This will ensure that the launch runs smoothly. If you're not going it alone, this should entail assembling your critical equipment, your investor pitch deck, and your crew. The next step is to identify both the actual actions that will get you from point 1 to point 2 as well as the concepts or mindset that will guide your decision and help you stand out among the hundreds of other proposals that your prospective investors will be examining. Building a successful startup requires establishing an efficient long-term plan.
A start-up plan should be detailed yet flexible
Doing things in a way that makes the most sense to you is an important part of starting a small business, but a little guidance can also help. First and foremost, create a solid plan. This is the most important aspect of starting your own business. Every good business begins with a good plan. Writing a business plan for the first time can be intimidating, but it's really just a matter of writing down what was already in your head. It should incorporate both your short and long-term goals. The short-term part of your business strategy should include specifics about what you intend to do and how you intend to execute it. The long-term plan for rapidly growing your firm can be more flexible, but it should be as precise as possible. Keep in mind that there's no reason why you can't change your mind afterwards. In fact, odds are you'll revise your plans in the future. That is what pivoting is all about, and that is what may make a startup successful.
Marketing & Product testing
Preparing your product to fit a certain market niche is vital for your start-up success. How to do it? Learn from the CEO’s experience.
Try out your idea
The preliminary step to take in bootstrapping a company is testing to see if there is an adequate market for your business offerings. This means you need to do an experiment and try selling your enterprise’s products or services before putting any money and time into actually producing them. Yes, that is exactly what I said — sell your startup’s products or services before they exist. You must do this to determine if there are enough consumers out there who would want to spend money on your business offerings. Trust me, this step can safeguard you from potentially spending a lot of time and money (and experiencing a ton of stress) later on, as you won’t produce products/services and then find out that consumers don’t even want to buy them. There are various ways to go about doing this. If your startup plans to sell services, offer them to your business colleagues, friends, and family members to see if they want to sign up. If your enterprise plans to sell items on an e-commerce website, try pre-selling your products at a discounted price to determine if people would want to purchase them.
Check the demand with presale
Also, if you want to launch a bootstrapped software business, test out your idea by trying to sell a set number of discounted lifetime memberships (even before the software exists) to check if consumers sign up. You must do this so that you don’t go ahead and pay a developer a large sum of money to build software that no one is interested in. You can conduct these experiments in almost every business niche. Also, don’t worry, you won’t be stealing money from would-be customers: if you don’t have enough sign-ups or pre-sales, simply return the funds to those who paid and apologize.
Create an MVP and put it into action
As soon as you have a minimum viable product you can start running micro experiments and testing your market to make sure there is demand.The perfections can be made later when you know what people want and are no longer guessing, otherwise, you can spend ages perfecting a feature that doesn't even make it to the final version.
Pay attention to feedback
You also need to make sure you're testing the market by getting feedback from real customers. Even if you offer a discount initially, the feedback will be much more valuable than friends, family, or anyone testing the product for free. That's because people have totally different expectations for a free product than one they have paid for. When it comes to something like a course, you'll also see a much higher rate of completion from your paid customers (no matter how much they pay) than those getting it for free, who don't need to get their money's worth.
Make sure your product is ready to be presented
Before launching a business it is important to iron out as many kinks as possible. Test your products or service on honest friends and family for constructive feedback. The last thing a startup needs is to launch a faulty product or service. This will start the whole reputation of your business on the wrong foot. Make sure your process is as smooth as possible before taking your business to the public.
Make a thorough market research
All founders, specifically bootstrapped founders, should do their market and product research before you launch development of your product. Founders who perform and complete a comprehensive research plan will understand their customer, their needs, their market, and the ability for their customer to pay for the product they are planning to build. One thing is free and that is opinions. Ask your ideal customer, or who you think your ideal customer is, about your idea, concept, or venture. They will lead you down the path of building a company that can be useful. Perform a thorough research plan by talking to more than 100 potential customers to get their feedback. It will save you money and build your product development backlog.
Mentorship & Networking
Great businesses are never built by a single person but a coherent team. Moreover, they are formed by other entrepreneurs and, of course, clients. Find out how to surround yourself with the right people here, learn from them, and grow.
Don't underestimate the power of the word of moth
If you want to run a successful business, there's one thing that's imperative: you need to build connections before the business can run. If you don't build connections who can invest in your business or become clients for you then you won't be able to build a network of people who can spread the word of mouth about how good your business is. If you don't get good word of mouth then there is no way your business can grow and it will be a failure. So, to bootstrap your business, you have to grow a list of clients who can tell potential clients about how good your business is. You are likely to become successful if you do that.
Find a mentor and learn. Build a great team and create a human-centric company culture
One key piece of advice would be finding a mentor. Find someone who has run a similar business and ask them how they did it. What took someone else several years to learn, you could learn that knowledge in a matter of minutes, saving you valuable time and money. It’s important to learn from your mistakes, but if you can reduce your number of setbacks, your venture will be more likely to succeed.
I also learned that finding the right people is essential; at the end of the day, it’s an amazing company culture which lays the foundation for a successful startup. Finally, I believe that humility is a key trait to have. It’s a strength, never a weakness. Learn from a mentor, with a level-headed outlook, and your business will be sure to succeed.
Dedication & Mindset
The power of your faith and the right mood is paramount. You’ll never break the walls on your idea’s manifestation path without a belief. This is how you build the winner mindset.
Be patient - bootstrapping a business takes time
You probably have heard that starting your own business is hard work. You will need to put in a lot of hours before you start seeing any real returns on your investment. If you can afford to take some time off from your day job, then do it. As long as you are not spending money that you don't have, you should be fine. I would advise against quitting your job until you have been running your business for at least 6 months. This gives you enough time to get a good idea of how things are going. If you quit your job too early, you may find yourself out of money and having to go back to work.
Don't expect everything to happen overnight
When you first start a business, you might think that you will make millions of dollars right away. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. It takes a while to build a brand name and develop a loyal customer base. As a result, there will be times when you feel like giving up. When these moments come, remember that they are temporary setbacks. Just keep plugging along, and eventually, you will reach your goal.
Have faith in your product/service
It is easy to lose confidence when trying to start a business. In my opinion, the hardest thing about being a small business owner is to believe in what you are doing. You are going to hear countless people telling you that you are crazy for thinking that you could actually pull this off. That's ok. They are just jealous. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Believe in yourself and know that people will want something great if you have something great.
Become an expert
Offering a niche service or product is an excellent approach to get your business off the ground. This will set you apart from the competition and help you establish yourself as a go-to resource. While developing expertise takes time, specialized skills are generally in high demand, and your unique offering will rapidly earn you a good reputation.
Although I learned a lot of lessons from my bootstrapping experience, my one key piece of advice to early-stage startups is to be patient. Let's face it, you're not going to have the cash to bring on a lot of employees or invest in some grand marketing strategy, or you wouldn't be bootstrapping in the first place. Also, unless you're incredibly lucky, success is not going to come overnight. Therefore, be patient in everything you do. Grow as you can and give initiatives and strategies enough relevant time to play out to see if they really work. And on a more personal level, do not get frustrated and give up if you experience hard times. If you've researched your market, created a business plan, and worked hard consistently, eventually you should see some level of success.
Scaling mistaked can cause much trouble and even ruin your business. To avoid those, read this advice.
Scale step-by-step when your business stays firm
Premature scaling is one of the common mistakes in entrepreneurship. They think hiring the right person can solve a lot of problems in the business. However, organizations can’t scale without a market-fit product and a clear strategy. Developing a prototype of the product before launching it in the market can solve many problems. Often I see young leaders lose patience and give up before reaching their end goal. A leader has to be very persistent as well as practical in their approach. Eventually, things will turn around in your favor when you are patient with your efforts.
Create the demand and scale. Use the power of charity while scaling
Necessity is the mother of invention, and when bootstrapping your business you have to figure out ways to use your business activity to grow your business.
Put another way, you can’t just spend money on Facebook Ads and Google ads and survive, you have to think outside of the box and innovate.
Last summer we needed to figure out a repeatable way to leverage the activity inside of our platform to get exposure and free PR for our marketplace. And even worse yet we needed a way to get customers for free.
So our team began implementing a little program to get connected with our local community in Nashville Tennessee.
We have a few hundred lawn care professionals that utilize our system and we ask them to submit to us candidates that are in need of a lawn mowing for free because they are in a tough personal situation .So once a month we would go and mow a stranger's home who's grass has gotten 2 to 3 feet tall because they are in a jam.
I guess what we learned is that despite what you might hear about the economy things are still very tough out there for working-class folks and this is the least we can do to help out and have a personal connection with our local community.
Akveo advice & assistance
Take this powerful guidance and let your start-up fly! With that, you will avoid any invisible traps on your way to success and make it without much hustle.
If you’d like to get personalized advice, book a free meeting with our start-up project development expert, Eugene.
Akveo’s prime specialization is software development, so we can move from words right into building your digital start-up product. We help start-ups develop their MVP, get investments, and scale their software products to enterprise-level apps for more than 5 years. Akveo offers inclusive start-up software development services with web/mobile app creation, BA, QA, UI/UX design, branding, and project management. With us, you can dedicate more time to your idea shaping and business development while our savvy and seasoned professionals take care of the tech side of your project.
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