Common business lore is that up to 80% of new startup businesses fail within 18 months.
For those who did not go to Vanderbilt, that’s 4 out of 5 (just kidding. Go ‘Dores!). I’m happy to report that I’m still going strong after 7+ years as a solopreneur – but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some hard lessons along the way.
So, if you want to be among the 80%, I can give you some solid advice. Follow these nuggets of non-wisdom, and you, too, can be a startup casualty!
1. Launch without a paying client on board. Biggest mistake I made starting up. Great ideas, which proved out over time – but for a bootstrapper living for months off of a home equity line of credit, this was the high-anxiety approach. If your business model is sound, then here’s the first and most important test – somebody is ready to hand over money for the value you’re providing. Now.
2. Fail to differentiate. You’re the new kid on the block. There’s a ton of other providers out there; and, even more challenging, there is an immense amount of background noise (which is actually your biggest competition). If you don’t have a clear offering for a defined niche, you’re noise. Startups that begin at a commodity level rarely rise above it.
3. Assume everyone knows what you’re offering. Trust me – they don’t. Only the most clear and concise message breaks through and remains in memory, and that usually involves face-to-face reinforcement. A thousand blog posts and e-mails cannot match a 5-minute conversation with a single, compelling message. If you sound like a biz-speak robot, you’ll quickly be dismissed.
4. Don’t prepare to evolve. At best, you’ll have your offering about 80% correct as you launch. The market – your customers – will fill in the rest and re-direct you. This isn’t 1950 – we’re in a very dynamic marketplace. Assume that you’ll be adjusting on a continual basis.
So, if you want to fail fast, here’s a quick roadmap.. Of course, most of us in business actually recommend that you do the opposite of the above. Unless you intend to compete in our marketspace. Then, please – take these four ideas and run with them!