Tuesday, September 4, 2007

5 Things a Start-up can do to Improve their Sustainability

  1. Be market driven, not product driven
  2. Maintain focus and execute
  3. Leverage other companies’ resources
  4. Be clever
  5. Watch your cash-flow like a hawk

Be market driven, not product driven
One of the most difficult things to do when developing a new product or service. Seeing the forest through the trees can be a challenge. Start-ups need to step back look at their solutions from their target customer’s perspective and the market as a whole. This is especially true when developing new product and service features. Look at the needs of all the people involved in the buying process and make sure your feature set addresses everyone’s requirements. A cool product with no market is a short-term exercise and not a sustainable endeavor.

Maintain focus and execute
Ideas fly in Start-ups. This is often the most satisfying part of the start-up experience. This enthusiastic exchange of ideas has to be matched with the discipline to maintain focus and see these ideas to completion. Make someone accountable for the execution of an idea or strategy. Reaping the rewards from a well executed strategy is one of the most uplifting milestones a start-up can have, and a big morale booster when times are tough. Unfortunately, many small companies change focus constantly and never take any of their ideas to completion. Key employees in these companies often become disenchanted over time and move on to greener pastures.

Leverage other companies’ resources
Start-ups can extend their customer and market reach by leveraging other companies’ sales and marketing resources (and their customer base). This strategy can greatly fuel the growth of a small company, and can often surpass the results from an internal sales team. Always be on the look out to leverage – make it a part of a daily ritual (and see my post "Leveraging the Big Guys").

Be clever
A nimble start-up can and should be clever. This is especially true for bootstrapped companies where funding and resources are limited. Think of cleverness as a competitive differentiator. How many large companies do you know that are clever? Many of their initiatives that may have started off being clever are often diluted and diminished by their bureaucratic decision making process. Small companies need to take advantage of and embrace this situation.

Watch your cash-flow like a hawk
Every start-up is under budget constraints. Cash-flow is different from a budget and has to be monitored carefully. There are many start-ups that have not watched their cash-flow and have been forced to make decisions prematurely or implement tactics that deviates from or dilutes their business plan. Deal flow means little if you don’t have the cash to service it.

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