Obstacles Every Start-Up Needs to Overcome to be Successful
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A business continuously faces obstacles during its lifecycle. However, the type of obstacles that a company encounters typically changes as it grows. The obstacles that a start-up business faces are different from those faced by an established company. The mindset and the skillset required to overcome obstacles at an early stage start-up are not the same as the skillsets required to overcome obstacles that a larger company typically encounters.
Start-Ups need to overcome numerous obstacles. The most obvious ones that founders know of and work towards overcoming are –
Finding a Scalable Idea
Financing the business
Finding a partner (co-founder) if necessary
However,I have highlighted three obstacles that we underestimated. I am sure these are hurdles that most companies will face while starting out.
1. Lack of Useful Information:
Decisions are made using the most relevant data & information available. More relevant data leads to more accurate decision making. While starting out, many decisions are strategic in nature. These decisions determine the growth path and often, the survival of a company.
Start-up founders, who make most decisions in an early stage company, rarely have access to relevant and uncensored information on the real challenges faced by peers and competing firms in the industry – the ‘on-ground’ reality. Business strategies & processes that the entrepreneur thought of and incorporated in his/her business plan might be harder to execute in reality. Larger companies usually learn from their own experiences, and have budgets to hire experienced human capital, who bring valuable data and knowledge with them. Start-Ups, which are often bootstrapped, need to find innovative ways to gather relevant information. For example, We can tackled this by trying to meet as many people from competing companies as we could. We can try (and continue to try) to figure out what has worked well for the bigger companies and what hasn’t. We can gather information during informal knowledge sharing meetings that we can initiate or during interviews with potential candidates from competing firms.
2. Attracting the Best Talent – Selling Your Story/Vision:
Having the right team in place as soon as possible is imperative. The right People, Processes and Technology will likely determine the success of any business. Processes can be built, and technology can be bought (for a non-tech start-up). However, the biggest challenge for a start-up is the ability to attract the right talent at the right price.
When starting out, the entrepreneur needs to sell his/her business idea better to a potential hire, rather than to a potential customer, i.e. the employee matters as much as the customer early on. Founding teams typically need to spend more time selling their plans during a job interview with a potential hire, instead of the candidate trying to sell themselves.
Hiring good talent gets easier as a company grows. The only way around this is to keep grinding and meeting as many talented candidates as you can.
3. Choosing the Right Company Culture & Establishing that Culture within the Company:
A company’s culture begins to take shape from the day the founding team begins working on the business or when a lone founder hires the first employee. Once a certain type of culture is established within an organization or a group of people, it is very difficult to change it. Start-ups often underestimate the importance of setting the right culture early on.
It’s important for a founding team to decide what kind of culture they should work towards building. The culture that a founder of a tech company needs to build maybe very different from the culture that a founder that is building an operationally intensive services business needs to build. So, the first challenge is to figure out what company culture is best suited to the type/sector of business that the start-up plans to operate in. After that is established, the founding team can work towards building that company culture.
Establishing the right culture is not easy. The first group of employees at a new start-up typically come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Some employees can be moulded into the culture that the company wishes to form. But others, often the more experienced hires from larger companies, come with pre-conceived habits and working styles that might be hard to mould. These habits can be related to work timings, ethics, inter-departmental interactions, communication methods, aggression with clients and many other behaviours.