As you consider taking your business idea/concept to an operating startup business, the to-do list is seemingly endless!
The list is loooo-ooong when it comes to things to do in the life of a fledgling startup. There are some priorities, however, to ensure that your valuable and limited time is most effectively being spent.
Tackle the following tasks first and you’ll not only crystallize your vision but lay the proper foundation for the work that has to follow.
Be VERY clear in your idea/concept and vision
This may sound ridiculously obvious but revisiting your idea, clarifying it, and defining exactly what you are and what you do is always a productive, not to mention illuminating, exercise.
Part of this step is identifying core values, which will help you clarify what’s important to your startup while also helping other founders or employees understand what is important to your idea and business. It helps to determine a clear direction in all steps that follow.
It’s vital that you are able to explain concisely and succinctly your idea and vision when asked and reviewing it amongst yourselves repeatedly helps refine what will inevitably be part of your pitch.
What? Another short paragraph, identifying clearly ‘What We Are’. What does your startup do? Is it a product, or a service? What is pain point is it attempting to address? What market are you aiming for?
Who: Write down a short paragraph, identifying clearly ‘Who We Are’. For instance, why you? What precipitated the idea and startup journey? Who are you?
The pitch: Bring together the What and the Who to create your pitch – 30 seconds keeps things short and to the point! Getting this down ensures you can sell it at the drop of a hat, concisely and with confidence.
Catchphrase or Tagline: a simple phrase that encompasses the what and the who. This is meant to be only a line – short and sweet. If it’s catchy, and rolls off the tongue, all the better. This is your opportunity to highlight a key benefit of your idea or perhaps a key belief or value that is the foundation of your business.
It’s important to be honest – DO NOT promise what you aren’t sure you can deliver.
Customer Discovery and Validation – Know Your Target Market!
It’s one thing to have a great idea and believe there’s a need in the marketplace your concept will address. It’s another to know that there’s a market for it. Who are you selling this to? You need to know your target market.
You MUST do your research. Explore the marketplace: have you found similar products/services out there? Is there a lot of competition or not so much?
Note particular unique selling propositions, price ranges, and sales strategies. What do they offer?
Identify and narrow down your prospective users. Gather data: gender, age, location, job or career, income, situation, environment, retail habits, etc.
Develop Your Branding
With a solid understanding of the company vision and target market defined, brand development will help prospective audience and clients identify, reach, and want you.
Company branding will help you become more identifiable in the marketplace. Your brand has to relate to your vision and values. and will help you reach the audience you need to make your startup a success.
Brainstorm and create a mood board to direct your design, keeping it focused on the goal as well as the audience.
Consider your tone and visual language.
Less is more! Keep it simple, clean, and carefully considered so it is easily identifiable. Make it unique! And make sure it helps to convey your message.
Setting goals is important in many facets of our lives, but when it comes to building a successful startup it’s particularly important. Rather than flying by the seat of your pants, goals provide the direction and objective for your startup, both short term and long term.
However… it’s all about baby steps! Keep your eye on the prize but your focus on achievements short-term. Look to set small, achievable golas that provide the small wins that keep things moving forward. It’s the “how do you eat an elephant…?” approach.
Take some time to consider a few important questions:
- What is one of your startup’s annual goals?
- What monthly deliverable will contribute towards this yearly goal?
- What weekly deliverable will help you reach your monthly goals?
- What daily completed task(s) will help you reach your weekly goals?
These small bites move the project forward, build momentum, and lead to an elephant consumed!
Here are a few examples of small, incremental goals that move your business towards the biggies:
- Set up the Legal Entity of your business
- Set up your business bank account
- Set some sales targets, even if this means only the first sale!
- Set up your website
- Finish the first prototype of a project
- Getting the first 100 subscribers to the app
- Earn a mention on a blog, or website, or magazine
- Create and expand a professional network
- Hire key members of staff
No matter the goals, keep them realistic and attainable! Goals left unachieved are discouraging and can undermine morale.
Create a Business Plan
The idea, the values, the logo… it’s all important. But it’s a proper, thoughtfully developed business plan that can give you a significant advantage.
Of people who start companies with a completed business plan:
- 36% obtained a loan.
- 36% received investment capital.
- 64% grew their business.
Of the people without a business plan:
- 18% obtained a loan.
- 18% received investment capital.
- 43% grew their business.
A business plan is a written description of your company’s future. It’s the outline of what you want to do and how you’re planning to do it. Typically, business plans outline the first three to five years of your business strategy – how you’re going to make money!
Begin with a Business Model Canvas (BMC). It provides the structure of a business plan without the overhead or the ad-hoc ‘back of the napkin’ sketch!
Popular with entrepreneurs it is a visual chart where you can identify and describe the value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances of your business. It offers:
- Focus: Without the dozens of pages of a traditional business plan, users of a BMC improve their clarity and focus on what’s driving the business.
- Flexibility: It’s a lot easier to tweak the model and try things as it’s all on a single page.
- Transparency: You and your team will have a much easier time understanding your business model and be much more likely to buy into your vision when it’s laid out on a single page.