There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re starting up in business – and if you’re not careful, depending on when issues strike, these delays have the potential to derail you for a long time.
Fortunately, new businesses often run into the same problems again and again – but unless you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, you might not realize the issue you’re facing is one that’s a common sticking-point for startups.
Here, we’ll walk you through 6 of the most common startup delays – and, give you a few tips on how to remedy them – or avoid them altogether.
Avoid Striving For Perfection
By far and away the most common startup delay occurs in your head.
When you start out in business it’s common to want your product or service to be the very best it can be – but it’s this attitude that often sees companies missing targets and adding huge amounts of unnecessary work.
Instead of asking ‘what do we want this product/service to be?’ – before filling a flipchart with enormous goals, you might want to ask ‘what’s going to make this product/service deliverable?’
Don’t misunderstand – it’s good to get a feel for what amazing would look like, but it’s a constantly moving criteria – you’ll get to perfect, then the next tweak will represent just a couple more days, or a quick revision, then suddenly, you’re weeks or months behind. Let your launch date dictate your timescales – rather than letting ever expanding timescales dictate your launch date.
Plan Your IT Network
IT can be a tricky subject for startups – you might not want to blow a huge chunk of budget with a big shopping list right out of the gate, but equally, you don’t want to delay growth by constantly having to add, change and adjust.
Planning your network is a little like tip 1 on this list – ask yourself, “what are we realistically going to need if our growth goes to plan for 12 months?” – then, look to put it in place. There’s no need to daydream at this stage – just getting a functional network into place is worth much more than elaborate plans that take an age to execute.
Your internet circuit connection is the absolute first thing to consider. Delivery times can be huge – so, think about what kind of connection is going to suffice in the medium term. Will Ethernet or fiber work for you? Or will you need to look at higher spec MPLS connections? If so, how can you find suitable MPLS providers?
You might also want to weigh up the difference in cost and agility between keeping your IT in-house – or finding a good local managed service provider to help you deliver your IT plans.
Establish Financial Procedures
If you’ve put money matters off until tomorrow when you’re dealing with your startup, you’re very definitely not alone – but you’re at the top of a very slippery slope if you keep delaying.
Putting financial procedures into place (and sticking to them) is going to save you a huge amount of time versus tidying up messy money conduct further down the line – and the good news is, it can be fairly simple.
Try to get into the habit of never letting a transaction go unrecorded or without an invoice. That can be difficult when there’s a lot going on, but even the most rudimentary tracking method (Google Sheets, Excel 365, etc) is better than nothing.
Financial procedures don’t have to be in depth for your entire team – you can easily find people with solid book keeping skills who can consolidate your accounts, but having clear, up to date and well organised information for them to deal with is going to save you a lot of time and money; even in the short term.
Of course, financial procedures aren’t going to be the only ones you have in place – so get in the habit of documenting ways of working as early as possible – and you won’t find yourself repeating these processes for training, or, repeating errors you’ve made when you’re starting out.
Take your sales process for instance. Of course, there’s no one process that can be applied to every business – but the chances are, there are going to be several steps involved. There’s a quote, there’s an order, there’s an invoice, there’s payment – and then there’s the delivery of the service. Can you be sure something with this many variables is going to go smoothly each time?
The answer is fairly simple – you can’t, especially given that human-error accounts for 90% of business hold ups and service lapses. Document every repeat process you and your team perform – not only will it give you steps you can repeat, it also gives you a baseline to work from if you look to improve delivery and conversion rates moving forward.
Bootstrapping If Not Required
Bootstrapping your startup is somewhat fashionable – there’s no end of articles you’ll see about people who have created empires from their kitchen or parent’s basement – but don’t be fooled, there are far more businesses crumbling in these environments than flourishing.
Money is going to be tight – that’s a given, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pull the purse-strings tight on everything.
When you startup on a tiny budget, you’re almost inevitably exchanging your time for results – and since there’s only a limited number of hours in the day, you’re limited to what you can feed into that deal. Look at it the other way around – if you were starting up with a $1M marketing budget, you could be flying within a week – so, where does the balance lie for you? Bootstrapping can be extremely useful, but it’s absolutely vital that you understand it comes with a greatly expanded timeline before you see results.
To understand what the right investment level is for you, you’re going to need to do some good old-fashioned research. Look at case studies that relate to the field and area you’re considering allocating a budget to – then look at predicted ROI and the timescales you can expect.
As a startup, it’s tempting to think your time is free – but it’s not. The sooner you put a value against it, the sooner you’ll understand whether applying time or money is going to be the best way to avoid delays and run your business efficiently.