9 Things To Avoid in a Startup

Gary C. Bizzo  |

Image: iStock.com/Gannet77

There have to be so many more things to avoid in your startup, but these came upon me on a warm sunny day in my garden. I think these little tidbits fall under things we all do at one point or another in the development of our startup businesses.

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Lying to yourself or others about your ‘NUMBERS’
  • Focusing on too many things at once
  • Working crazy hours
  • Too many opportunities
  • Building a terrible MVP and calling it a prototype
  • Not crediting your employees with your success
  • Forgetting that it’s a business, not a hobby
  • NDAs are BS
  • Claiming there is no competition

Ok, so let's go by the numbers. If you tell a potential investor that you are generating big sales, the truth will eventually prove you to be a liar if you’re not. Likewise, the number of clients you have, interested investors, partners, number of employees and the money in the bank are all eventually verifiable. Liars always come out poorly. Investors will demand accurate numbers and will tear your books to shreds trying to find substantiation for those numbers. If you actually believe your BS numbers, you may have an even more serious problem.

Founders always start off trying to do everything, and as they get smarter (or is it more money?) they delegate jobs to others. If you think that you can find capital, organize shifts at the plant and hire employees while building your sales curve, you are crazy. Don’t take on too much, or nothing will be accomplished on time or correctly!

I only know a couple of entrepreneurs besides me who have the perfect work/life balance. Of course, you will say that to make it big you have to put in 80 hours a week. Not if you plan, organize and delegate what you need to be done. Have you ever seen the TV show "Suits?" The lawyer series has lawyers in meetings well into the night, followed by the inevitable scotch in the office when they are done before going home to a lonely penthouse. Come to think of it, all the popular TV and movie heroes who overcome insurmountable odds lead a solitary existence, e.g., Batman and every character portrayed by Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis. They put work over "having a life" and always go home alone.

Too many opportunities can be as bad as none. If your business is so good that you can see potential everywhere, that is wonderful, but if you go after all of them simultaneously you are hooped. Focus on the best return on the dollar and start there. As you build your business, you can have subordinates focus on building a plan to approach those opportunities. I know full well the issue. I am building a business that may be revolutionary in the power industry, but unless I focus on one industry first then another will be lost in the morass.

A Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is often spoken of and always taken for granted. Eric Ries, author behind the Lean Startup, defined an MVP as “that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Ries felt that if you created a product for people to evaluate, you would get valuable information from the exercise whether or not the product worked. Imagine a futuristic automobile that exists only as a rendering, albeit, a realistic one. Customers can offer opinions based on the perception it is already in production, but it may be just smoke and mirrors. A prototype on the other hand, is the real thing!

The prototype is a working product that may be crude and needs many iterations and refinements but it is real and functional. You can sell an idea based on a prototype.

I’ve helped pitch products, or rather apps, that were merely artist renderings looking like they were functional on an iPhone but they always needed the investment to bring it to fruition. I think the concept of startups telling investors they have an MVP is a serious flaw unless it is a real thing.

For heaven’s sake, when you get that big interview in Techvibe, Wired, Equities or Rolling Stone, don’t tell the world you did it on your own! The company did it, from the janitor to the VP of sales. You had the vision but others implemented it. Always give credit where credit is due!

OMG, please continually remind yourself that your startup is a business and not a hobby. You can’t create a startup working the odd weekend and, conversely, you can’t think of the bustling company as your pet project that is the love of your life. It’s a business!

I’ve spoken of this many times but those emailed Non–Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are not worth the paper they are not printed on. VCs and everyone else who gets one from you think it’s BS, and that you’re an amateur. Let me put it another way. If you show your company to an investor with millions and he takes your idea and does it himself, do you realistically have the resources to sue him in court? Work with genuine people on whom you have done due diligence, and forget about asking them to sign a piece of paper. Try a handshake!

Claiming there is no competition to your product is seriously flawed. I’ve done this myself, recently, but when cooler heads prevailed, I realized there is competition around every corner. There are direct competitors, people thinking of the same idea as you are and people just waiting to pounce once they see a good idea they can copy. You need to understand it, know all of your competition and remember the teachings of Sun Tzu, the Art of War. The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.

I think that a founder should always consider these little tidbits. I’ve thought about some of my recent decisions while writing this, and realize I need to walk the walk and talk the talk myself. It’s a jungle out there!

Gary is CEO of BizzoManagement Group Inc.and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).

Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News

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