Photograph by Jan Stromme—Getty Images
By Tina Hay
February 21, 2017

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What must every entrepreneur know about startup success?” is written by Tina Hay, CEO of Napkin Finance.

The rise of many prominent, self-made business moguls has led to a lot of discussion about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. If you’re considering starting your own business, you need to ensure your focus is clear and your plan is actionable. The following steps should help you maximize your chances of launching a successful startup:

Beginning stage

If you have the entrepreneurial spark, it’s likely you have lots of ideas. Resist the urge to pursue every new avenue. Choose the path that is mostly likely to be successful and focus on building on that idea.

All businesses need capital to get off the ground, which means you’ll have to ask for it. This doesn’t mean you should take investments from anyone. But you will need to get comfortable putting yourself and your idea out there and asking for people to support your startup financially.

Raising money can be a full-time job and the constant rebuffs from investors can take their toll. I have had my share of rejections, but have also been very lucky to attract investors that became our greatest allies. All of this took time and patience. The lesson was to have a focused and strategic process for fundraising and to manage our internal bandwidth and resources to keep us moving forward in the meantime.

Also remember that the most successful startups don’t just add something to the marketplace, they solve a problem. Even if you have an amazing, creative invention that the world has never seen, it’s unlikely to take off if it doesn’t meet the needs of a large enough proportion of consumers.

Getting to market

Starting a company can be overwhelming, and having investors and co-founders will only increase this pressure. The most important tip successful entrepreneurs give is to take action—any action. If you’re feeling stuck, break down the next stage of development into the smallest possible tasks, and then keep moving forward.

One of the biggest challenges in launching Napkin Finance was staying focused. New ideas, partnerships, and features were important for our long-term strategy, but early on they were distractions and delayed the launch of our core product. I avoided getting stuck by having systems in place that helped our team focus on immediate goals. We used product management software to collaborate and keep us committed to a timeline.

Keep in mind that the best market research comes from simply launching your product. You don’t need to go all-in right away, but you definitely don’t need to wait until your product is “perfect.” Release your product, iterate, and see how the market responds; then adjust accordingly.

 

Post-launch

One of the hardest lessons new entrepreneurs learn is that nothing happens as quickly as you think. Be prepared for everything to take longer than you planned, and for the evolution of your product to continue long after launch. Let the progression flow naturally; don’t rush yourself or your product.

You are going to fail, maybe several times. Failing is perfectly fine, as long as you learn to dissect your failure and learn from it. You should also try to fail as cheaply as possible by resisting the urge to go all-in right away. Consider strategically limiting advertising budgets or production runs until you see what works.

No matter how much you love an idea, you’re not the one that decides if it’s worthwhile—the consumer is. If you launch a product and it’s unsuccessful, trust the market. Don’t try to push a product that no one wants by offering a discount price or increasing your advertising budget. Instead, focus on improving the product or developing something new.

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