Diary of a Startup: A Few Lessons Learned For EntrepreneursMay 12th, 2010 | Online & Small Business Resources,Small Business,Small Business Tips,Social Media | 1 Comment »
On a day that I am bewildered by my Cleveland Cavaliers and their absolutely horrendous performance last night, I am a little reflective. After all, us Cleveland fans likely have just watched Lebron James‘ last home game in Cleveland as a Cavalier. When he officially leaves (I truly hope he doesnt but I am a Cleveland fan and we are used to such let downs), maybe I will do a post on how startups and small business can learn from the Cavs/Lebron breakup. Until then, here is another installment in our continued feature at KikScore called Diary of a Startup.
This one is a quick summary of a few lessons learned from our experience and from other folks I have talked to about their startup experiences:
1. Bandwidth Limitations. No I am not talking about your broadband cable access. Instead, bandwidth as in you and your team’s ability to keep iterating and making improvements while also juggling all of the operational and marketing aspects of a startup.These types of bandwidth and resource constraints are especially present in nights and weekend startups. One of the ways we have dealt with the bandwidth issue is continually working to prioritize items/tasks/enhancements/issues as a team. But as you prioritize do not forget about that enhancement that you talked about doing three months ago that may have been de-prioritized along the way! Also as needed, it is key that contractors, freelancers and outsourced resources get used to increase overall bandwidth for the startup. But remember these tips and tools when using offshore resources.
2. Manage Expectations – As with anything in life, it is important to manage everyone’s expectations including yourself. The reason why? Nearly everything you do at a start-up from getting going, getting something developed, partnership discussions, getting funding, optimizing your product and your homepage, takes longer than you think. That does not mean you should sit back, because you still need to push and push hard. However, you just need to prepare yourself, your team, customers etc and appropriately manage timelines and understand that sometimes things beyond your control come in that may delay things. The trick is not to get upset, but figure out how to keep things on track and moving forward.
3. Continually Get Feedback – This is an underestimated one, but has been incredibly valuable to us. Talk to everyone about your product, your business model and especially have customers (and potential customers) give you feedback. This is so helpful in giving you and your team a new perspective and has also, at least with us, given us some great new ideas for channels for KikScore. Here is a an excellent post at the Untemplater Site by Jun Loayza on a feedback plan for startups. Another related note is take the negative feedback in stride. Frankly, some of the negative or constructive feedback is more valuable than the other feedback. And please be careful not to just dismiss someone’s feedback, especially customer feedback because you think you know better or you say, “What does that person know?” That is a sure ticket to failure.
4. Put That Feedback in Perspective – So you first need to get feedback, but then what do you do with it? The trick is not to act on every piece of your feedback that you receive. That will set you off in 1,000 different directions and be counterproductive. Also you do not want to just dismiss feedback. This is where it is important for the team to approach the feedback from three very basic perspectives: a) common sense; b) what will make the customer experience better; and c) what is “doable” and actionable based on resources, priorities and strategy. Here is a recent post on how we acted on customer feedback.
5. Social Media is Not the Marketing Savior – Don’t get me wrong, using social media is a low cost way to build brand awareness for your startup, get leads, make connections to though leaders, get great introductions to partners, manage your startup’s reputation and respond to customer issues. Frankly doing all of this via Twitter, Facebook, a blog and other social media channels is a must these days for most startups. BUT, doing all that does not guarantee success. Frankly, these days doing all of things and having a social media strategy allows you just to play in the game. In order to win and really succeed as a startup (and be a repeat MVP like Lebron James), you need to give your customers a great customer experience, make your product easy to use and help your customers solve a problem that they have. As my friend Shashi B has told me before, no amount of marketing, social media or marketing campaigns will protect your company from a sucky product! Make your product great, make sure your customers are happy and that they evangalize your product and the marketing then comes a lot easier. That actually will make the social media marketing easier as Zappos has demonstrated. In fact, here is a good post on the story of Zappos with an excellent and informative powerpoint deck that is worth a read.
Let us know if you have any lessons learned from your startup or small business.