Playing the startup game: Work hard, play harder and keep learning

To stay competitive in the startup game, entrepreneurs need to remain focused, organized and disciplined. They should have comprehensive strategies, but they also need to strike a balance between work and relaxation and focus on continued learning to stay abreast of the latest trends.

startup team at work
Credit: Thinkstock

The idea of a startup, though enticing and with potential to make stars out of nothingness, is often fraught with uncertainty and countless unimaginable perils. Dreamy-eyed, wannabe entrepreneurs have only got the Mark Zuckerbergs and Elon Musks to look up to and emulate, while there are probably millions of startup ideas that met with tragedy — financial and personal.

Most entrepreneurs, and the growth hackers and digital marketing evangelists they hire, believe that a brilliant idea and a dash of luck are the only essential ingredients in the recipe of success.

But the bitter truth is that more than 80 percent of startups dwindle away into oblivion within the first year and a half. It's not only the idea, but also a meticulously planned strategy, personal discipline and continuing education, that are the keys to staying in the startup game.

Let’s see if we can identify some critical traits that will keep your startup surviving and your products selling.

Work hard

Extreme passion is, without doubt, the driving force behind most startups. It has its unique advantages in determining the outcome of the venture. A startup founded on the sole premise of gaining profits can easily fall short of the finish line because it does not have the strength of conviction and gumption to fulfill its goals.

That said, you need to set achievable goals. The passion to “do something different” should be channeled in an appropriate manner to derive value out of it. The most important thing to do is not to set unrealistic goals. Having ambitions and a vision to succeed are all good, but entrepreneurs need to set goals that will allow them to succeed.

Communicate effectively

Communication is a vital cog in any business machinery. A startup environment must have crystal clear communication with all stakeholders, be they co-founders, employees or funders.

To keep all stakeholders on the same page as far as events, notifications, daily schedule and contacts are concerned, you can use a scheduling and collaboration app like Moiety. Moiety is designed to simplify complicated schedules. It allows a user to create and customize groups, called “crews.” You can create different crews for management and employees so that you can have clear, open lines of communication with all. The app allows you to create customized recurring events, places and actions for each calendar crew. All this scheduling is text-free, which does away with distracting texts, emails, phone calls or rescheduling of common calendar events.

Automate

In an age where technology can hardly keep pace with itself, it might seem a daunting task to keep pace with it. But this is the need of the hour, and an entrepreneur is expected to always be on top of the technology game and do more with less.

Building and marketing your website and app is one of the most important activities of a startup as it needs to achieve many goals. Apart from being the digital face of the venture, it needs to present the startup idea to potential customers as well as potential funders. There are many companies that are helping businesses develop websites with ease. Extreme levels of customization and simplicity are hallmarks of these services.

Spaces, for instance, is a DIY website builder that promises not only to build a page for you, but also to help build your business. Spaces also has business support features that a startup needs but can’t afford to spend time creating, such as nondisclosure agreements (NDA) and privacy policies. Anything that allows you to generate supplementary business functions as well as product features within minutes is a great step forward in business automation.

Besides having a brilliant product or service, you should also have a carefully crafted strategy that includes every aspect of doing business. Unless you have a profitable business model with proven streams of revenue, you might as well put your idea in a box and toss it in the ocean.

Automation, when done well, allows you to...

Play harder

Being an entrepreneur is a tough job. However exhilarating the entire experience of starting your own business might be, it has its challenges and they may take their toll on your mental and physical health.

The very driving force behind a startup may lead entrepreneurs to ignore their health and become victims of a plethora of mental and physical ills. The challenges of raising a business from scratch can overwhelm anyone. It's necessary to strike the perfect balance between work and relaxation.

Taking a break from work can actually increase creativity and productivity. If you are worried that taking time off will break the momentum, you can plan a corporate event at an exotic destination that will serve both purposes at once. Choosing a destination that is not frequented by lot of tourists will help you take the required break and the company of your co-founders or top management will ensure that brainstorming and strategizing continues.

Choosing a lesser known destination offers you peace, quiet and serenity and keeps you away from the buzz of thousands of tourists all jostling to make the most of their vacations. People flock to the Caribbean, for example, or go to Cancun in Mexico, so it is advisable to check out a destination that is near your region but not yet ravaged by commercial tourism. Playa del Carmen, a small town on the Riviera Maya, for example, gives you all the benefits of a Caribbean holiday combined with the exoticism of Cancun.

Keep educating yourself

In his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs lamented his choice of attending a four-year university. Jobs briefly attended Reed College but dropped out and the rest is, well, history. This oft-repeated example and success story finds resonance with so many of today’s youth who, armed with an idea they believe is earth-shattering, wish to achieve startup success by dropping out of college.

Sadly, this does not always work in your favor. Education gives you a unique perspective to look at life and business and prepares you for the challenges that lie ahead. Not only is a basic college degree helpful, but entrepreneurs need to constantly keep themselves updated with newer information that is relevant to their businesses.

In an open educational environment, it has gotten exceedingly easy for entrepreneurs and other professionals to keep on updating themselves through online courses that will keep them relevant and competitive. Online education sites offer flexibility and variety, and they're cost-effective.

Simplilearn, for example, offers courses for a variety of professionals that are designed by industry experts and leaders. Learners can choose from a range of foundation and certificate courses. For CMOs and CIOs, the industry-vetted master’s courses in digital marketing, big data and project management are ideal choices.

An entrepreneur is expected to lead a team, whether it be a team of one or one thousand. A poorly educated and uninformed entrepreneur is very likely to undergo “founder dysfunction,” a syndrome that can lead to self-sabotage of the very business you fought so hard to get up off the ground. True leaders educate themselves and keep themselves up to date.

Parting thoughts

There will be naysayers and critics along the way. Telling apart the true well-wishers from the pretenders is not easy, and it takes self-conviction to brave negativity and unsolicited, empty criticism. Setting targets, working hard to achieve them, all the while keeping sane and keeping your body in great shape to face the rigors of entrepreneurship and staying ahead of the curve by constant learning – these are the real ingredients for the master recipe of success.

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