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What to avoid in a start up?
I have come across some businesses that have deep pockets (Filled, I mean) and they are ready to do anything to make it. They have beautiful custom designed offices, swanky furniture, marketing agencies, strong staff, a lot of news coverage and 1 (yes ONE) Customer. Needless to say, they either realize what they don’t need in time or they shut down.
So what is it you don’t need? In one word, I would say “Everything”. Yes, anything that you can avoid must be avoided. Let me list it out:
Bling-Bling. It is important to look professional but not at the cost of your limited budget. You don’t always need to start with a top-quality website, brochure, business card or logo. You can always ask your marketing agency, if outsourced, to give you the least plan and if not outsourced, do not design something you cannot afford to print.
Clients do not look at the color or style of your collaterals unless you are one of the companies designing them. What clients look for is testimonials/references from “Real Clients” and what kind of confidence you carry in yourself while approaching them. Can you make them comfortable? Deliver what you want? Let them sleep peacefully at night without trouble? I don’t think your collaterals can do this.
Swanky Office, Furniture & Lighting. If you are a tech startup, then it’s a big NO-NO. Coding needs computer, internet connection and a quite place. If you are starting any other type of business, you just need an address for communication. So why not your home? See if you can maybe accommodate yourself in a studio apartment for a year. Even if you need an office, do not rent/lease out a 1000 sqft office if you actually need a 500 sqft one.
It’s a cloud driven world! Share your documents over Google apps, Skype a lot, use Cloud IDEs, Cloud workplaces! Google them and you will find many free ones. You can still promote a professional image with Virtual offices or Business Centers.
Advertising. Advertising is not equal to Marketing. I am not asking you not to market your brand but do not spend on advertising through expensive media unless you know it will give you results. It is always best to go with proven marketing techniques (like networking, cold calling, referrals) than advertising on billboards, television, newspaper and flight advertising. Many times, after advertising, you are left with no money to serve the number of clients that call you. Instead, get a client a month, make them happy, and ask them for referrals. A satisfied client can get you 5 new ones but an unhappy client will make sure 100 prospects don’t come to you.
People. Do you really need an office boy? You are a startup – make your own coffee, receive/send your own couriers, drop into banks on your own. Do you need the number of staff you want? Many times, you may outsource much of the work on freelancer websites like
elance, freelancer, guru etc. You can communicate over technology like teamviewer, skype etc. It’s a global network (aren’t we talking now?). Better still, you get fresh views and ideas when new people work on your projects (something you really need). Do not get a lot of senior experienced people! The middle level and low level are the ones that actually work. If you must get a good outsourced CFO or COO, they work on result oriented models.
Social Media Accounts. No, you don’t have to be everywhere. Lots of businesses make accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, so on and so forth and forget about updating the ones that they do not understand. Assess what your business needs. A local business may just need Facebook and Pinterest to start off. An online business would need a Facebook & LinkedIn account. That’s it. Do not complicate. Update, Manage & Monitor them regularly. There are a lot of online applications like socialmediahq, wildfireapp, hootsuite etc. These will allow you to update, manage & monitor your pages at one place!
Lastly, always remember you do not want anything unless you need it. Cut costs. Do not eat lunch at high class restaurants unless it is with a client. Do not spend unnecessarily unless you can somehow generate revenue out of it.