While many people are a sucker for love, I’m a sucker for startups. No really, it’s a thing of mine. I cannot help but want to get involved in every startup I hear about. I mean, come on, there is something magical that takes place within the first year of any company. Everyone is fresh and motivated to get their life-changing idea to the masses. Every moment is filled with excitement and a sense of adventure. Every second is fueled with risk and uncertainty.
It’s a thing of beauty. Until, it’s, well, not.
In the last ten years, I have been involved in numerous startups. Some succeeded and some failed. Some you may know and some you will never hear of. However, one thing is certain, all of them came with lessons I did not read in a book or hear in a lecture. Nevertheless, the lessons I have gathered over the years have helped me come up with one conclusion: Startups are a sucker for love, your love.
Now I do not mean that you need to ditch your significant other during your business’ first five years – please, do not hold me liable for the end of your marriage. All I’m saying is that all those things you remember doing (or, hopefully, still do) for the love of your life (or your love right now) should be considered for your business.
Ok, ok, the love metaphor throwing you off? Let me break it down for you as it relates to startups:
Find Your Love
With anything you love, you must find what it is that you exactly love. Most people do not just wake up one day and love something. I mean, maybe they do. For argument sake let’s say people love something for a specific reason. For example, I am an iPhone person (not an Apple person, that is different—she says while writing on a PC). My one reason to love my iPhone is the user experience.
Think about your startup, what is it that you want people to love about your business? In other (business) words, what is your value proposition to clients? Why should someone pick your product over the competitor?
One of the biggest downfalls of startups is that they believe they are unique and awesome and innovative. In reality, they are just not. Many startups are not “new” as far as their product or service is. However, there is some reason you (or your boss) wanted to create a new business entity that you thought clients would love. Whatever it is, hold on to it and do not lose sight of it!
Spend Time with Your Love
If you have ever been in love or know someone that is, you are aware of one thing—love takes time. Enough said, right? Not really.
Many founders of startups make this one big mistake: They forget that their time is a resource. Every good startup requires good people behind them. Sadly, unless your startup is Venture Capital (VC) funded or founded by a team, you may be the only good person behind your startup. That does not mean that you should do everything for your startup.
Let’s pretend that you are a web programmer and you have this great idea for a new Content Management System (CMS). I support it, you should do it. And by “do it,” I mean you should do the programming of it. What you should not do is the finances and legal work. I get that there will be some things that will cross over when you work on a startup but be very careful of the time you spend.
Whatever specific things your business needs, spend time researching the correct people to hire. Sure, cost is a big issue but never compromise for quality. Be mindful that your time is a resource that you can never get back. If someone is not showing you the love, move on.
Show Your Love
Every successful startup started as an idea. From there, it takes a lot of time, tons of good people, and, being prepared to show your love to the world. While some people may buy flowers and others craft beers, whatever it is that you do, I’m sure you show your love.
In the world of startups, I think of “show your love” as one thing: branding—my secret love sauce. Now I have completely thrown you off, haven’t I? Let me explain.
Before anyone even tests out your startup’s services, they will have come into contact with what you are “showing” them. On a very basic level, that is your logo, website, and marketing material. I’m telling you now, if it looks like you created that stuff in Paint in five minutes then you probably did.
As a potential client, I immediately question the validity and quality of your startup and its services when the branding looks, well, half-a**ed. Considering you have no case studies, testimonials, and press then the only thing I can go off of is those points of contact with your brand. Sure, your product might be the best thing ever but I’m going to question if you didn’t get a basic business thing figured out like a logo or website.
Ok, I’ll admit that seems a bit harsh but it’s the truth. Great branding can take a business from startup to enterprise with just its looks (trust me, I sell colocation services). Before you go to “market” with your business, make sure that you take the time necessary to create a look and feel for your business. Lastly, don’t be surprised that if you changed your brand within the first year—it happens. Just make sure you are showing it some love.
So now that you understand all that is involved in loving your startup, one last piece of advice: Find, spend with, and show your love to the people that are supporting this crazy startup adventure. At the end of it all, weather you make it big or fail hard, those are the people that will continue to be there no matter what.
Hey—you call always play them some Frank Ocean, Akon, Danity Kane, Jason Miller, Rick James or anyone else that has decided they are a sucker for love.
My name is Samantha Walters and I am what you would consider a “millennial executive” over at Colocation America. Every Monday (get it, get it, Samantha on Mondays – the S.O.M column) I will write a little something on whatever is on my mind from business practices to current events and everything else in between.