The 7 Startup Principles 

Startups are hard, not impossible, but hard. It's going to be way more complex, challenging and consuming then you ever could have conceived. However, lots and lots of people have done it successfully. It's difficult to know for sure but the high failure rate of startup companies probably has more to do with giving up, then of running out of money or even a lack of demand. Those things are essential, obviously, but it's grit that goes and digs a new well when the old one dries up. It's tenacity that mines new opportunities. 

#1 - Maintain Focus

#2 - Expose It All

 

Maintain Focus on what matters most - why you started this in the first place. Love your team and love the product/service. While over time some of the features and components of what it is you love may change, your love for it can’t. That persistent passion has the amazing effect of helping you and your team suffer through the hits and losses to your mental, physical, and financial well-beings. It also can tell you if your product/service is any good. If you don’t love it, no one else will.

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Expose it all. You know what we mean. Tell the truth about your finances, your culture, your performance and of course your product/service. The willingness to reset a bone may be the most telling indicator of success. Run a weekly debriefing of every aspect of what it is you do. It doesn’t have to take long but be thorough and make sure you have all your leaders there.

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#3 - Reward Whistleblowers

Reward whistleblowers. In this age, with #MeToo and the exposing of bias and privilege, you can’t afford to keep the old-boys club going. Obviously racial or sexual bias is out, duh. But you can’t afford stagenent thought (see point #2). And there’s a real good chance that you, as a founder, are not going to see the problem. Have incentives for those who are willing to step out and say the hard things.

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#4 - Hire Talent

Hire talent. Real talent. Not degrees, not buddies, not “winners”. Hire people who can do amazing things and things you haven’t thought of. This is just one benefit of “diversity.” It’s not about the race, gender, religion, etc. it’s about bringing in a world you don’t know to make a better company and a better product/service. Be diligent in the search and be thorough in the interviews. Our favorite question? “If I gave you a million dollars to start something, what would it be and why?”

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#5 - Say Yes, Say No, Don't Say Maybe

Say “yes,” say “no,” don’t say “maybe.” Say yes to good ideas and to people asking for a chance to succeed. Clearly, you can’t do everything. Say no. You have to delegate and say no when asked to do anything that distracts you from your big picture. But you need to instill this mentality all the way down the chain. Teach even your sales staff to say yes to opportunity and no to costs. It sounds obvious, but so often a company embraces a liability to keep someone happy but then says “no” to an opportunity because it’s too hard.

 

Don’t say “Maybe.” This is so often just a way to duck an awkward denial, don’t duck it. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but if it’s a dumb idea, explain why. If you don’t know if it’s a good or bad idea, ask for more information. If you just can’t do it, say so. Engage, don’t deflect.

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#6 - Confront the Money

Confront the money. This is in the list of “Top Ten Mistakes” but it’s worth tackling here too. One of the hardest things for a business owner to do is to confront the money. Some owners are penny pinchers, they are good at not over-leveraging the company and keep people confident that there will be a job tomorrow, but there’s probably no hope of a raise. Others are good at raising capital (often just a fancy way to say they are good at borrowing money) and so there’s always “growth” and good times, until in all goes down in flames. The great leaders are those who understand that budgets have to be done, money has to be raised, and risks must be assessed and taken. This takes real time and brutal honesty.

 

If you're small: enter receipts, pay bills, forecast costs. Are you covered? What do you need to grow to the next level? What if you lose a big client/order? Have you considered your tax liability?

 

If you’re big: Are you sure the books are right? Are you messing with the liabilities and equity? Are you fudging accounts receivable? Who is holding you accountable?

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#7 - Delegate Like Mad

Hand over as much as you can as quickly as you can to the talent you hired. You're the quarterback; if you run the ball every time you're not going to make it. Other people need to share handling the tackles, just make sure you share the glory.

 

If you find yourself unable to do so because they don’t have and can’t get the skills set necessary, you failed on point number #4. Go back, either shuffle personnel and begin training ASAP or acquire new talent. Just as a side note, you’ll be surprised at just how much an individual can handle. If she is eager to take on responsibility, there’s a real good chance she can handle harder things. Obviously sometimes you have to hire from the outside because they have the credentials you need. Hire well and pull your hands off the steering wheel as soon as you can.

 

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Whatever you do, don't give up. Prove to yourself you're able by persisting until the solution is found. Conquer every obstacle and don't shy away from any threats. Whatever your facing today probably won't be an issue in a week - or at the very least you'll have a plan to victory. Keep at it. 

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