Okay, maybe your friends, family and investors do — but that’s about it. The rest of the world couldn’t care less that you are a startup.
They say they care, they think they care, they like the idea of it and the romance of it all, but they don’t really care. Don’t blame them; I’m sure they are nice people, but at the end of the day, their love of supporting a startup goes no deeper than an immediate reaction.
This might come as a bit of a shock because your business is everything to you. To you. Allow me to run you through a few home truths to help you avoid falling on your face when it comes to managing a successful startup.
Your target market doesn’t owe you anything
You can certainly leverage being a startup in your branding and to tap into natural sympathy and support. You can even cultivate pro-startup audiences and have your brand develop and evolve over time.
But be under no illusion that most people won’t hesitate to drop you if they have any issues or face any barriers.
They will gladly move back to their safe corporate, mass market product if you impact their consumer experience in any way. It’s simply the nature of the beast.
Don’t be a loser
Always be positive around friends, contacts, clients… anyone.
Why? When you talk about your business, even your closest friends are making subconscious decisions about you and your company, and when they have the opportunity to refer you to one of their friends or contacts, they know their reputation and credibility is also at stake.
If all they hear from you is complaints about staff or how tough it is, they are going to form a negative image of you and are less likely to make the referral.
But when you are positive and they feel like you are on the up and up, well, everyone loves a winner.
This is not necessarily a conscious decision. And yes, if you are too positive, you run the risk of not sounding genuine. No one believes any entrepreneur who says it is all smooth sailing.
Try something like this:
Friend: “Hey mate, how’s business?”
You: “Really good. Cashflow is a total pain in my arse but we are getting some really strong traction.”
Boom. You get your gripe out, but the positives outweigh it and you still sound like a winner.
Don’t let your bubble become a crutch
I often come across founders or staff from startups who are extremely tapped into the startup scene, constantly patroning drinks, networking events and conferences. In many ways this is great – you will learn something from your peers in this space and you’ll have a good time. They will be a valuable source of tips, advice and a sympathetic ear, but it does not replace your need to get out into the real world.
Unless your company or brand is aimed at the startup community, no one cares if you are friends with a dozen different CEOs of bootstrapped enterprises. By all means keep your toe in the scene, but the law of diminishing returns exists even for your own time. Instead, think about who your target audience is or what you want to achieve, and go where they go.
Don’t be a wuss
Toughen up. It’s supposed to be hard.
Recently, I was blown away when a startup I was meeting with said they couldn’t meet before 11am because that’s when they arrive at the office. Seeing my shocked expression they followed up with, “Oh don’t worry, we work really late. Like until 8, sometimes 9.”
It was clear they had bought into the romanticised version of their own story – staying up late working over Red Bulls and pizza with the occasional break to play Xbox. Meanwhile they are barely doing a normal day’s work because they don’t turn up until lunch.
I’m all for work life balance, but if you are serious about your startup, you are going to have to haul arse.
There is more to having a startup than proudly proclaiming it.
So basically, ignore the fact you are a startup in your day-to-day work life. Your number one priority is to move your business forward, so focus on that. Don’t let the hype or romanticism blind you. Be awesome every single day and get on with being successful.
If you have any questions just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog was first published in Tech in Asia on 19th April 2016