By now, you will all be setting nicely into 2015, and hopefully, you’ve redirected your focus to the year ahead for your enterprise. As an entrepreneur, a new year is always a good time to reflect and realign your road map. For this issue’s article, I have decided to write about the five points to consider when reviewing your progress to date and planning the next move in your startup journey. My company, Brndstr, is now 18 months old, has raised a total of US$1.6m in seed funding, has more than 10 staff members, and over 30 partners across four countries. We have discovered a lot about our company, industry and approach to the market since we took off as a startup, however, now that we’re a “real” com- pany, we have to evaluate our success and strategically plan the next move. A lot of this has to do with when and where you allocate your precious company resources. It goes without saying that each point (while not specifically addressing amounts) is something you need to consider when divvying up your budgeted spends.
I want to discuss how to gauge how well you’re doing, and if your company is ‘succeeding’ not only from a financial perspective. As a startup and especially a tech one, building a company that starts generating revenue from day one is highly unlikely. Many of the big boys such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat raised millions of dollars and had thousands of employees before even generating their first cent of profit. The business focus was more toward onboarding platform users- you often hear people ask incredulously how these business models will monetize! So when looking at your company take into account your goal state: how are you doing against your forecasted numbers? Do you have a viable product that people want to use? If yes, then good job. If your numbers are way off and you are struggling to gain users or clients, then it’s time to reevaluate your core business.
My second point is about working environment. Have you managed to achieve a good work vibe and enthusiasm in your work space? As companies grow (and grow fast), it’s always easy to overlook the actual office decor and design. If you have that hidden to-do list of things such as branding on the walls, new chairs, coffee machines etc. make sure you get it done. An office is an extension of the brand and attitude of the business- don’t have this let you down. This will cost you money, but it can pay for itself by bringing the company morale up, and conveying the right image to business partners and potential clients
3. Human Capital
Are your staff achieving their targets, and are they happy with their positions at the company? Again, when you’re in build mode, it’s easy to panic recruit; however, you still need to make sure each member of staff is happy with what they’re doing and that they are doing their utmost to help the business grow. You can’t afford to carry dead wood at this stage, and as hard as it is, if you have people like that on board, you have to let them go. When planning your onboarding for the next year, make sure you only hire on a need basis. If you build apps, do you have the skills for iOS, Android, Windows? If you sell products, do you have a good sales structure with market-savvy representatives? Only once you’ve assessed your current positions should you then start to bring more people into the fold.
My fourth point is about identity. Have you made sure that your brand has retained its message, look and feel? When starting a company, it’s always exciting to create a logo, name and identity, but as you grow and more people become familiar with your brand you’ll need to make sure it keeps its cool. At Brndstr we make sure that the message and feel for the brand is always sharp and on game. Brand guidelines are not just for large businesses, they are for any and every business. If you don’t have any image control stipulations, create them and ensure that your company is being presented in the best possible light, no matter how small you operation is presently.
Finally, the last point (and perhaps the most important) is relative to your business’ finances. You need money to survive, and when you raised your initial funding you’l have put a finance forecast in place. You should be constantly checking the balance sheet, and making sure that you are on top of your spends. What is your runway looking like? Do you need to raise more funds? If so, have you achieved your initial agreed goals? What is being done to move toward this? When reviewing your business, make certain that you know at what point you have to start the fundraising. You will know from previous rounds that this takes time and requires a lot of effort. All entrepreneurs will have their own approach to running their business, and these are only my views and what I’ve put in place for Brndstr. A new year is always a great way to assess the past plusses and minuses, and to go ahead with planning the future of your enterprise. From everyone at Brndstr, we wish our fellow ‘treps success for the year ahead, and catch you next month!