Friday May 1, 2015
If you want to found a startup because you think it will be easy money, get your head out of the sand. Founding a startup can be many things—rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, stressful—but don’t go in expecting things to fall into place easily.
In fact, founding a startup is hard enough that it’s actually a borderline crazy thing to do. I’m not even going to cover the difficulties of getting funding, developing your product, and creating a scalable go-to-market strategy in this post. There are tons of great resources available to help with that.
Instead, I’m going to cover the most difficult aspects of managing a startup: time management, relationship management, and contact management.
At AllProWebTools, we’ve given small business owners all over the United States the tools to streamline business management. Being a member of Innosphere, a high tech incubator in Northern Colorado, we’ve realized that startup founders have a lot of the same struggles with organization, time management, and employees as small business owners.
Here are some common startup struggles that most founders don’t see coming:
1. You Have to Manage Your Own Time
You’ve probably heard of the “startup lifestyle.” It can sound pretty glamorous: flexible hours, remote work, working long into the night. But if you don’t have good strategies and tools for managing your time, the startup lifestyle itself might be the death of your business.
If time management is something you struggle with, don’t ignore the problem. There isn’t a lot of room for error in a startup. Part of “being your own boss” is holding yourself accountable and putting systems in place that allow you to succeed. No one can do it for you.
But the right tool sure can help. Having centralized task management for your whole team helps everyone get on the same page about time management.
For example, the AllProWebTools tasking system allows anyone on the team to send tasks to one or multiple coworkers, or just to themselves. Each task has a priority level, and you can also set a deadline or even a time limit (such as, spend no more than an hour on this).
Here are some benefits of using a tasking system like this:
- Ability to work through tasks in order of priority
- Helps break down big projects into manageable chunks
- Easier to set goals at the start of the day
- Quick communication of new urgent priorities
- Written record of instructions reduces misunderstandings
If you want your company to grow, it has to be able to scale up. That means you have to be able to keep up with it! Focus on creating sustainable productivity systems, which you can scale up and delegate downward as you grow.
2. Founder Relationships are Difficult
Based on the fact that more and more startup co-founders are getting couples counseling, I’d say it’s pretty obvious that founder relationships are pretty tough to negotiate. Whether your co-founders are your friends or newer contacts with complementary talents, pressures are high in a startup, and that’s bound to tax relationships.
Relationship counseling might not be a bad idea for co-founders, but even if you think that’s a little frivolous, it’s a good idea to set guidelines for how to deal with conflict.
3. A Remote Workforce Means Communication Issues
I’m a huge advocate of people working remotely. I do it all the time, and it’s one of the things I love most about working for a startup. But I’m only able to do it because we have awesome systems in place to keep communication high, without having to expend a lot of effort.
Email, Skype, phone calls, and Google docs or Dropbox can help you get started, but the cloud has much more to offer for remote communication. Tasking systems, like the one I described above, can be a great way to communicate priorities across the miles, without having to take the time to pick up the phone.
We also use a tool called the Workflow Timeline, which is a live feed of all the most important updates in our business. It really helps me keep a finger on the pulse when I’m working remotely. If something urgent comes up, I know about it right away.
4. Relationship Management is Your Lifeblood
One thing you’ll realize quickly is that successful startups are well-connected startups. If you want to get introductions to investors, influencers, journalists, or even high-profile customers, you’ll need a strong network. Your relationships are your strongest asset. If they’re well-maintained, they last even if your product fails.
If you’re a startup without a CRM tool, it’s time to rethink that. You simply can’t manage your contacts effectively with just your smart phone, or even with the help of spreadsheets. CRM tools remind you when it’s time to call important contacts back, they keep track of all your important interactions with them, and they make contacts sharable across the team.
5. You Have to Set Your Own Definition of Success
Obviously, the ideal scenario for a tech startup is to become a “unicorn,” worth a billion dollars, with fabulous wealth and fame elevating you to godlike status in the tech world.
But if that’s your only measure of success, I hate to break it to you: you’re likely to be disappointed. And you certainly won’t make the most out of a challenging, rewarding experience that can shape your future whether this particular product succeeds or not.
Setting smaller, more attainable goals for the business and yourself not only makes you more successful, but also much happier. Come up with goals that you can measure: traffic to your website, new users, engagement with your content. Make sure you have good tools to report on your progress!
Being a startup founder is as much a personal and emotional challenge as it is a technical and marketing challenge. Many founders go in unprepared for the stress of being a first time business owner. Getting strong communication, contact, and project management tools in place is a great way to make your first startup experience less stressful and more rewarding.