When I hired a painter to revamp the exterior of my house, I anxiously anticipated the results. He and his crew got started on a Monday morning, but by Thursday, I had yet to see the beautiful new look I was hoping for. So I asked him about it.
“I’m not a painter,” he said. “I’m a prepper.” Oh. Well, that makes more sense. Apparently, when you’re painting a house, you have to lay the right foundation if you want the work to last.
Starting a company is the same way. Entrepreneurs are innately optimistic quick starters; rushing to launch is a constant risk.
But brands are about trust, not who gets there first. Look at Myspace and Facebook, Commodore and Apple, Nintendo and Xbox. Those who prepare correctly — who slow down to make sure their big idea will actually attract customers — will succeed.
Prepare Like the Pros
There’s no magic formula to help you prepare, but the successful startups I’ve observed over the years follow these steps:
- They base their big idea on research. To determine whether your big idea is viable, you should answer four questions: Who are you? Who do your potential clients think you are? What do your potential clients want you to be? What are your competitors not?
- They build a brand on the research results. The personality of your brand should come from your answers to those four questions.
- They design customer pathways. Create a roadmap of how you’re going to attract clients in the beginning and how you’re going to retain them. If you know where you’re going and how you want to get there, you’re less likely to make a wrong turn.
- They make sure they have the right team to pull it off. Your team can be comprised of partners, employees, and/or vendors. You don’t have to have the team to fulfill your five-year plan on day one, but you do need a team to get you to day two.
- They identify must-haves. For example, eBay needed a website before it could get in front of potential clients. What do you absolutely need in order to attract clients?
- They then identify the next lowest-cost, highest-ROI pathways. It was essential that Facebook had a website. Duh. But it also needed an email campaign to let the first batch of users know the platform was available. It could then spend money on digital ads and SEO.
Use Preparation to Avoid Backtracking
I once watched a friend remodel a house into a setting for retail stores. He wasn’t a professional builder — just an enthusiastic entrepreneur. Sure enough, he began pouring concrete for the foundation before he installed the plumbing. Everything had to be undone.
You can never be sure you’re taking the right step. It’s more about taking your best shot at the right direction and time. Guarantees are for kids. Those who navigate successfully through the early days:
- Stay calm.
- Move steadily forward.
- Modulate passion with rational thought and planning as they lay the foundation (the brand, resources, team, and network).
Plan Ahead for Long-Term Success
I’ve had to learn about the importance of preparation the hard way. I got involved in a venture a few years ago that was at the starting line. We were impatient. We had the team, the research, and the brand. We just didn’t have the map to show us what to do first.
We would try this and that, but only succeeded in frustrating ourselves when those things didn’t work. So we took a step back, relaxed, and started laying out the best pathways for our target clients.
We selected the pathways we could afford to take and started implementing them. As our cash flow improved, we selected the next pathway on the list and moved forward. Because we were “planning the work and working the plan,” the company doubled the size of its average client revenue for four years and continues to enjoy success today.
You, too, can achieve that kind of success. You just have to be willing to put in the work in the beginning. If you plan ahead and prepare for what’s to come, you can develop a solid customer base, avoid backtracking, and experience growth year after year.
Joshua Conran is a senior partner at Deksia, a branding agency that has been successfully developing companies for the past decade. Joshua’s focus is on winning for the client while expanding Deksia into multiple markets by utilizing systems and processes.