In today’s fast-paced, rapidly innovating world, startups come and go in the blink of an eye. It’s estimated that 80 percent of startups fail within their first 18 months. From mismanaged funds to bad branding and hiring missteps, there are countless opportunities for a new business to slip up. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs make these mistakes. Having run two startups of my own, I have made plenty of them myself along the way.
However, the biggest misstep I’ve seen is entrepreneurs not treating their new venture like a mature company. As a company scales, priorities shift, founders can go different directions and the original business mission can be forgotten. These growing pains can be attributed to a lack of business maturity. Regardless of the stage or age of a business, a long-term mindset should be a top priority. If you think like a mature business from the start, it will lead you on a path to success. Here are a couple of maturity hacks I’ve picked up over the years that can fuel your business for a bright and sustainable future.
Related: Don't Make These 10 Startup Mistakes
Know your limitations.
When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set out to build a computer company, they didn’t do it alone. Rather, each of them had a unique skill set that blended together to make Apple’s rise possible. Often people confuse innovation with entrepreneurship, but great innovators are not necessarily great entrepreneurs. Innovators can lack the knowledge or ability to tackle the operational, financial or growth side of a business, which makes it challenging to ground a vision and enter a market. On the other hand, entrepreneurs tend to embody less innovative thinking, but know how to turn an idea into something real.
Being honest and open about personal limitations is critical. No one knows everything, so when picking a business partner or hiring early employees, look at what you lack and hire for those skills. By identifying weaknesses, you can find a partner, like Jobs or Wozniak, who can help pull everything together.
Make something that matters.
When I started Youngcare with three friends, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into from a business perspective. We were, however, sitting on a powerful, digestible idea. We were addressing the problem of providing fulltime care for young people in need that no one else had addressed. Despite what we didn’t know, we knew we were providing a much-needed service. That was key to getting our idea off the ground.
In today’s virtual world, entrepreneurs often get so focused on finding the next big app or game that they forget about addressing real-world problems that people deal with daily. The businesses with longevity are the ones that make themselves valuable in their customers’ lives. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with creating a game or app but look ahead and think about how your product can evolve to be meaningful for years to come.
Ignorance can be bliss.
In the early stages of a company’s life, the optimism is infectious. Everyone has a “can-do” attitude, blissfully unaware of what may loom ahead. If I had been told what I’d go through at the beginning of my journey building everydayhero, I probably would have gone home and reconsidered. Sometimes, not knowing what the future holds is the best business advantage a new company has. If you knew just how much you were risking in your new venture, you probably wouldn’t ever take that leap.
However, taking risks isn’t a bad thing. Risk is inherent in the startup process. After all, you’re doing something no one else has done. Every mature company dealt with its share of risky moments along the way, but they made it through by handling mishaps in stride. Instead of seeing unknown possibilities as daunting, embrace them. Create an environment in your workplace that is positive and encourages big ideas. When an issue comes along, sit down and debrief the team about it, treating it as a learning experience and looking at what could result from it. If you establish that attitude from day one, it’ll keep positive company culture alive for years to come.
Never stop exploring.
In my opinion, you rarely innovate by looking at your own category. You need to look outside of your own paradigm and seek out innovation by understanding how other organizations are solving their problems and creating gravity for their business.
With everydayhero, for example, we are continually inspired by other brands in the quantified self category. We are engaging their customers to find new ways to make data meaningful. Another company we watch is Airbnb, which invests in presenting its content in beautiful ways to make both their brand and the experience of travel welcoming and and exciting.
Look to businesses that are inspiring their markets and see what you can learn. As Austin Kleon says and writes, learn to “steal like an artist” and make ideas and inspiration relevant to your business.
Nothing is ever wasted when absorbing, reading and learning about the world outside of your own market. Remaining curious and devoting time weekly to expand your own perspective can pay off tenfold for your business. You never innovate examining your own category and what your competitors are doing. Push yourself outside of your market comfort zone to inspire fresh thinking and new ideas.
Navigating the choppy waters of a startup is rarely easy, but having the right mindset from the get-go will help you to carry some of the load. Startups have optimism, agility and innovation but by marrying those with the skills mature businesses have mastered, companies can set themselves up for a healthy, long life. By thinking big picture and acting like you’ve already made it, you will make the rough road to success just a little smoother.