Start-Up Challenges

Business Start-up ChallengesAny new business venture, whether it’s a neighborhood store or a tech start-up, faces challenges and obstacles – big and small, simple and complex. Some are common to any business while others are peculiar to a given field. No matter the situation, it’s your job as a founder or manager to overcome these challenges. A “manager” who sits idly by while problems, complaints and workloads pile up, watching and wondering if something will happen, is not being a manager. Of course there are challenges – that’s why you’re there! Some entrepreneurs and managers fall on their heads because they are unable to recognize the specific nature of a problem and are clueless as to its solution. Here’s a list of common challenges and ways to overcome them:

Acquiring Capital

Some start-ups require very little capital. But others need some groundwork laid in order to be properly built up. If yours requires X amount, and you don’t get it, you could falter. When looking for backers, it is important to have a sound business plan that investors, bank officers, etc. understand. You may be utterly on fire about your dream and willing to risk it all – but that doesn’t mean a potential investor or lender shares the same attitude. In fact, they may be extremely narrow-minded – their thought patterns guided by numbers with dollar signs next to them and only interested in the “safe” money. You and your plan may be bold and in a totally different headspace, so you may need to shop it around and you’re certainly going to have to sell it. Optimally you get what you really want, but if you don’t get it all, don’t use that as an excuse not to start.

Establishing Your Identity

If you don’t have a good idea as to WHO and WHAT you are from the get-go, you could falter. Granted, experience helps shape who you are, but you should still have a good grasp of it from the beginning. Do you offer a solution to a problem? Is it a common problem that everyone knows they have? Do people need to be enlightened so they realize they even have this problem? Are you aimed at the masses or an exclusive clientele? Do you offer the best price or the best quality product or service? Answering these questions and many more will help you establish your identity and how you represent yourself.

Does Anyone Know You Exist?

At the beginning, no one even knows that you exist on the planet Earth. You might as well be an invisible nothingness. One of your first challenges is simply getting people to know you’re there, and there are many ways to accomplish this. For a brick-and-mortar business, having a prominent sign and attractive storefront is a must, followed by a splashy grand opening and handing out flyers and free offers. For an online business it’s utilizing a wide range of multi-media channels: websites, social media pages, blogs, guest blog posts and articles, Google Maps, Apple Maps, business “locator” sites, review sites, search engine optimization (SEO), and other tested and untested resources.

Zeroing in on Your Customers

Telling “people” you exist is a broad action that must also be narrowed down to your core customer base. In order to reach them, you must know who they are. And the more you know about them the better. That takes some research. You can either do this research yourself or hire someone else to do it. The more you know about your customers, the more you can refine and modify your message and approach. If you’re business-to-business, it may be clear what businesses you wish to cater to, but not so clear WHO in those businesses you need to target. For business-to-consumer, research is required as to WHO they are, their habits and patterns, what languages they speak, where they live, how to reach them, etc.

What Do They Need and Want?

All the above goes into finding out what your potential customers NEED and WANT and how to position your product or service. Market research is critical at this stage.

Here’s a great example: A marketing firm was tasked with researching the potential customers of a particular type of telecom system. They surveyed the organizations that might purchase this item and specifically those who sign the purchase orders. They asked these individuals what they found important or valuable in a phone system. In this particular instance it was for the system to be indestructible. The firm then followed this with a “positioning” survey asking what object or activity represented indestructability. The answer: A TANK! So they positioned their system with the image of a tank and a message of indestructibility. The result: The company went from $0 to $30 million per year in three years!

That’s simple, direct and effective survey and marketing. Of course they still had to sell and deliver the goods, but their success was built upon well-targeted marketing.

Understand the Competition

Do you wish to overtake the competition? Are you aiming for a segment that the competition has missed? Do you offer the same product for less? Do you offer a better product for more? Do you simply stand alone? Any start-up must understand its competition. Even if you “have no competition” you must still complete with all the other ways someone can spend their money – so in the end there’s always competition of some kind.

An example is a start-up ISL (internet service provider) a few years back that had Time-Warner Online as their primary competition. Time-Warner had the Roadrunner as the symbol of their service. Not surprisingly, surveys found SPEED to be the number one customer priority. Those surveyed also felt Daytona 500 or NASCAR best represented the concept of speed, so the start-up ISP used the image of a racing car speeding past the roadrunner. This worked out very well for them.

Understanding your competition as well as your customers is important in all aspects of your business.

Sales & Prosperity

Turning a lead, a visit, an interview, etc. into a SALE is of primary importance no matter how long a business has existed. All the marketing in the world is useless if it doesn’t lead to sales. The most important part of a sale of course is the CLOSE. But there are many steps that precede this. Everything from social media questions and email inquiries to phone calls and live visits – all these can be cultivated into greater sales volume. Building a trained and competent sales staff is a challenge for any business. The turnover rate in sales is high due to the challenging nature of the job. When you get good people, offer incentives for greater sales volume, back them up and make sure they have what they need. They are key to your success and prosperity.

Money Management

Managing your money is a challenge, especially when you don’t have much of it to begin with. Investing in projects that yield significant return is of primary concern. If something is untested and you’re not sure if it will pan out, do it on a small and less costly scale and monitor its results. If that works out, expand it. That way you don’t put all your eggs in a single basket. It’s important that anyone you hire to handle the money is very good at their job. When the money is not tracked, when it’s wasted, when the law is not strictly adhered to, you get messes piled up that you don’t need. Be bold but manage your funds wisely.

Vision & Communication

I talk a lot about the value of the vision and the importance of communication. That is because it will make or break your business. Make sure people understand your vision and where they’re headed. Ensure they comprehend how the communication channels work within the business. One thing that can trip up any start-up is when people don’t relay vital information; there was something that someone really should have told you and it just “slipped their mind” – and now you’re paying the cost. Sometimes people are afraid to tell you things; tell them you really need to know. Conversely, you want people taking care of things and not dumping all the problems on your desk. So there is a balance.

Motivation & “Giving Up”

Why do start-ups fail? What is the primary reason? Someone gave up, that’s what! “Failure” only means someone quit. A lack of motivation is underneath countless failures in business and anything else you care to mention. “Motivation” is a commodity. With it you can prosper. Without it you don’t stand a chance. Hire people that are motivated. Strengthen motivation by aligning vision, communication and action.

Realize that you cannot fail. You can only quit. Don’t give up. Make your dreams a reality!


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How to be a Super Star at Work!

by Per Wickstrom on October 16, 2014

Why You’re There

In order to perform at the maximum on your job, you need to first have an excellent grasp of why you’re there in the first place. If you are only there to clock in and out, collect a paycheck and advance no further, then it would be a good idea to take a broader look. You may wish to advance up the ranks and achieve a managerial position. You may look upon your current employment as preparation for entrepreneurship, or as a learning experience for a Superstar at Workposition in another company you have your sights on. You may have a genuine personal passion for what you do that goes far beyond monetary reward.

A Climate of Instability

An unstable economic climate can make holding and keeping your job a constant struggle for survival. Another factor that affects your job is your superiors’ and co-workers’ knowledge – or lack thereof – of the subject of administration. Then there’s basic common sense, communication skills and an understanding of human behavior – far too many lack these as well. Getting fired for no particular reason, people around you quitting without warning, and a slew of other workplace disasters are all pretty commonplace in our volatile work-a-day world.

Building Your Skills

These factors and many more make survival on the job a formidable task. But regardless, if you’re on the job you should be good at what you do. Whether it’s a stepping stone or what you want to do for the rest of your life, it’s your job at least for now. No matter the circumstance, your prosperity is based in no small measure on your knowledge, your skills and your ability to adapt. Here are some ways to do great at work or in any sphere of activity:

Complete Each Task You Start

When you start an individual job, see that all its steps are done and complete it. The same goes for projects that have many steps. An incomplete job or project isn’t much good to anyone. It is true that you must often drop what you’re doing to attend to pressing business, but at the nearest opportunity, finish what you started. You’ll gain a reputation as someone who works conscientiously, and you’ll feel better about your work and yourself.

Handle & Report

Anyone who’s ever been a boss knows it can get a bit stressful. It is very helpful when people report back when something is done and provide valuable information. This does not mean you must provide continual “progress reports” or demands for decisions. Anyone in a company who makes a habit of completing tasks and handling situations, and then reporting what is done and handled, is an asset to that company. Too many people make a point of dumping a bunch of problems on a superior or an associate. You need not be one of them. Build a reputation as someone who gets things done and reports back.

Get Organized

Want to impress people? Get organized. All too often people’s version of “organized” is to stuff the papers in a drawer and forget about them. Having a place for everything and putting things back after use is a good start. Keeping a tray system for in-progress work, a labeled file system that can be used for easy reference, and having your needed tools at arms’ reach all contribute to organization and efficiency. When you get a piece of paper, do you set it down to be “taken care of later” only to wind up with papers scattered all over your office? Or do you handle the document right then and there, and then file it or send it to the right person? It may seem like a small point, but it is not. Neglect of the little things adds up to big disasters. This goes for your computer files and emails as well.

Plan Your Day

Get Organized

Get Organized

Plan your day as well as your week and even your month. List out what you wish to get done today. Start with the urgent and pressing issues. Make sure to include steps that correspond with what your company is attempting to do as an overall strategy. Put a line next to each action. When you complete an action, mark the line with a checkmark or a “DONE”. I doubt anyone you’re working with does this. Such a daily plan sets you apart, keeps you focused and able to get more accomplished.

Keep Statistics

By “statistic” I mean measurement of your productivity, how many phone calls, interviews, units sold, deliveries made, etc. Metrics and analytics in online marketing is another example. By tracking the numbers, you can remedy those factors that impede expansion and reinforce that which contributes to expansion. Managing by hearsay and rumor is not only useless, but destructive. The facts and the numbers tell the true story.

Write Down What You Do

If you’ve been on job a while and know what you’re doing, the management (if they know what they’re doing) have no intention of letting you go. If you get a better job offer somewhere else, there can be friction. They don’t want to lose you and get upset when you leave. There is a way to fix this and smooth things out besides the usual two-week notice.

Write up everything you do: your daily routine, how you go about things, the technical details, who you see for what, and the peculiarities of your job. That way your successor has a written record of the job. The management can eventually work these things into stable company policy if they wish. You can even apprentice your replacement if time allows. These actions have the added benefit of helping to maintain amicable relations with a former employer, a connection which can pay off later.

Be a Team Member

The company loves the “company man” but the worker does not always concur. The company man – in the negative sense – leaves the worker behind or even throws him unjustly under the bus. There is however nothing whatsoever wrong with being a team player. The malcontent is not a team player. He’s trying to bring the team down. Team members get along with each other. They let one another know what is going on. They, in a word, coordinate. They are almost telepathic in how they know what the other fellow is doing and thinking. They are friends, comrades-in-arms, if you will. Being on a real team is a rewarding experience.

Elevate Efficiency

Efficiency doesn’t just mean saving time and money. Efficiency breaks down into three major points:

  1. Speed
  2. Skill
  3. Physical Layout

The first, speed, is pretty simple. It means quick and accurate customer service, transportation and just plain moving fast from point A to point B. The second, skill, includes how you do things, technical expertise and the ratio of time to motion. The third, physical layout, includes the building itself, equipment used and geographic location. Things like the computer programs you use, and how you use them, fall under all three points. If you can wrap your wits around these things, you can see how to improve your job and your department. You can be a better employee and even start your own company.

Awareness of Spending

Any employee should be aware of how to save money. Just because you are not the GM, doesn’t mean you should be oblivious of waste, saving and spending. Many employees conceive they are just cogs in the wheel of a mighty machine. But I do not subscribe to that philosophy. I believe everyone is important, and the so-called small details can make or break a company. Everyone’s input counts and that includes how to avoid waste and spend more wisely.

Check Your Own Work

Don’t assume someone else will check to see if you did a good job. When you submit something, you should have already checked it over to make sure it is up to snuff. Any company ought to have quality controls, but you should always nonetheless do your own quality control. People will start to get the idea that when you hand it in, it’s DONE and is of high quality. There is another side of the coin: The person who is so obsessed with quality that they never get it done or it’s always late. So there is balance to reach and a judgment factor.

The Buck Stops Here

In a bureaucracy, an employee gets a request, sends it to someone else, and a week later it comes back for him to handle, at which point he sends it to another department! This is lunacy. People should be responsible for specific things. If you get something and it’s someone else’s job, give it to that person. That person should then handle it. If something is your job, you handle it. If there is confusion as to who handles a specific thing, take it up at the next meeting so it can get sorted out. “The buck stops here” means responsibility. A staff that exemplifies responsibility will take a company to the next level.



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10 Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Failure

October 5, 2014

Nothing cripples us quite like our own lack of confidence. When we accumulate a few failures, we start assuming that “failing” is simply what we do, and it goes downhill from there. How do you think you’ll succeed at something when you expect yourself to fail from the very beginning? You can probably think back [...]

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The Best Ways for a Start-Up to Get New Customers

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What is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Business Strategy?

September 11, 2014

What is a Business Plan? The term “business plan” usually refers to a plan for a start-up – one that is presented to a bank or to investors in order to secure capital. The business plan, while it is a practical and doable plan, serves to present a new venture and its market value, growth [...]

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Upgrade Your Performance: Tips for Improving Skills

September 4, 2014

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How to Cope With Life’s Unexpected Twists

August 28, 2014

Twists & Turns “Life” is not a neat and tidy affair in which everything lines up according to plan. It’s more like a concatenation of chaos. Just when we think we’ve figured it out and gotten it under control, something hits us we didn’t see coming. The unplanned twists and unexpected turns are enough to [...]

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10 Top Tips to Help Leaders Maintain Their Edge

August 21, 2014

Leadership is not a destination point. It is a lifelong journey – one that is guided by a constant effort to set a strong and positive example. Some people merely strive for the title and “prestige” that comes with being a leader. That is not really leadership. I’ve got news: Leadership is hard work! A [...]

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The Importance of Companies Giving Back to the Community

August 15, 2014

Giving back to the community which helped your company grow is always a rewarding experience. Not only are you returning the good faith your community put into your dream, you are building an improved community. You are in effect building a better world. Why Give? Why would you take valuable time, spend money or utilize [...]

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Small Changes That Can Have a Big Impact on Your Business

August 14, 2014

Changes What affects your business in more profound ways than you may have imagined? CHANGES! Big. Small. Changes. Changes you didn’t notice or which you thought were entirely insignificant. It takes a specific mindset to LOOK for changes. Many managers and owners are not accustomed to this way of thinking and looking and so all [...]

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