How to Build a Successful Startup and Keep It Afloat

How to Build a Successful Startup and Keep It Afloat
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Co-Founder and CEO of Open Influence
4 min read
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The business world is in a constant state of evolution.

From fledgling startups to well-established ventures, companies today need to be ready to pivot as unpredictable markets could demand a shift in a business model. At times, it can seem difficult (even impossible) to weather these extraneous forces -- especially as a new venture. Here, tips on how to start your company in the face of uncertainty and keep it going, come what may.

Related: 5 Traits All Successful Startup Entrepreneurs Have

Act small, dream big

When starting a new venture in an emerging market or with an untested model, it's important to keep costs as close to zero as possible. Those who've bootstrapped their company know this better than anyone.

When we started InstaBrand, we worked out of my dining room for months to keep overhead costs down. We started with only a few hundred dollars, and it was very, very carefully spent. Instead of hiring developers or bringing on a technical co-founder, the entire system and workflow were built in Google Docs -- the "personal" version. (We didn’t want to pay $5 for the "business" version.)  

Keeping costs close to zero gave us something others didn’t have -- time. We could run our bootstrap operation indefinitely, and every dollar we brought in was a dollar used to grow the company.

$5 mistakes

While trying to grow our business model, we made a lot of small mistakes. But those mistakes turned out to be the keys to our success.

Instead of building our ideal custom website for big bucks, we put up a Squarespace site -- and invested just a few hours into doing so. Instead of spending money on marketing, we went to trade shows to network -- often finding ways to attend for free. When testing new concepts that required ad spend, like Google Adwords for example, we would build $5 campaigns instead of $500 campaigns. 

We were able to learn from our mistakes at a lower cost and stay dynamic.

Related: 10 Tools for Smoothing the Startup Process

Being flexible is better than being right

Influencer marketing was brand new and basically untested when we first started the company two years ago. Whatever long-term commitments we made -- a lease, building technology, signing up for a SaaS tool -- we asked if it would still be useful if we pivoted in another direction and how quickly could we recoup the cost if not.  

Always staying flexible allowed us to be dynamic and adapt with emerging market trends.

Build a smart team

At first, we didn’t have the funds or the resources to attract experienced talent. We started by hiring people who could quickly learn a task and solve problems. 

The result for us was a team that took a very fresh approach to some of the ad industry's oldest rituals and problems. We learned as we went, and team members were quickly switching and taking on new roles based on skill and performance. By hiring people who could handle any challenge or task thrown at them, we were able to keep our core team strong as the market changed and shifted.

Be passionate, and start networking

In business, it's important to hang with the right crowd. 

These people can be board members, advisors or friends. Find people who have realized success in their lives and can teach and guide you. Surround yourself with a diverse group so that you have different experiences and skill sets to draw upon. 

You don’t need to wait until you have funding, a cool office space or a rockstar team to start approaching these people. All you need is passion. Be passionate about what you do, believe in yourself and everything else will fall into place. Don't be afraid to reach out and don't be shy. It will cost you only your time -- and it will be time well spent.

Related: 7 Steps for Establishing the Right Business Model

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