Seasoned entrepreneurs will agree that there is a lot more to building a successful business than having a great idea. Really, your big idea is just the first step — it's simply choosing which mountain you are going to climb. Profitable companies are built upon thousands of subsequent great ideas and implementations.
As a serial entrepreneur and current founder of Qzzr, an online-quiz platform, I’ve trekked up a few mountains, and I’ve learned a bit about which trails are the most efficient, what gear to pack and who to bring along for the trip.
Below are seven tips that are the bedrock for any successful startup venture.
1. Fiercely pursue the most impactful thing.
The number of tasks competing for an entrepreneur’s time exceeds the number of explosions in a Michael Bay movie. While your many to-do’s -- emails, meetings, people, opportunities -- all seem important, none of them will matter unless you nail down the most impactful activities. Be honest with yourself about what tasks only you can do and what tasks others could do. Remember that good is the enemy of great and that your time is finite. Many startups fail because they can't allocate their limited time to the right things.
2. Dare to be remarkable.
The question to ask about everything related to your business – your product, your marketing, your interactions with customers -- is, Is this remarkable? Your offering should be surprising to people, attention grabbing and breaks through all the noise. Being remarkable in all aspects of your business is the ultimate competitive advantage.
One way my company was remarkable during a conference was we opted to forego purchasing a $15,000 booth and instead hired locals to wear lively clothing (read: bright purple shirts and ridiculous hats). They walked around the conference, giving away $2 bills and talking to attendees about our platform. Not only was this much more cost effective, but everyone at the conference knew who we were, because we chose to bypass the conventional conference protocol.
3. Start with the "cool kids."
Team building is like creating a rock band. No one wants to be in a band that’s just “OK.” Not even mediocre musicians want to play with mediocre musicians. But everyone wants to play with Slash.The first step to building a successful team is finding the Slash of your industry and paying her what she deserves.
When you start with the right core of team members, the rest of the band falls in line. Starting with B players will yield more B and likely C players. The upfront investment of getting a Slash will quickly pay itself off as you bring the competition to its knees.
4. Out-teach the competition.
Sales is the lifeblood of any company and you should have at least one phenomenal salesman at your company’s core. The measure of a good salesperson is often the ability to teach potential customers why your company is relevant to them. If a person can truly educate someone about their company's options and why their solution is the clear choice, it’s going to be hard for a customer to say no. Being charming, intelligent and helpful are table stakes. Good salesmanship also serves as a protective barrier against your competition. If you can become the best at educating the industry, you create competitive walls that are too high to scale.
5. Don’t be afraid to move the boat.
Good fishermen know better than to waste an entire day fishing in the wrong spot: No tackle or technique will overcome a poor location. The fishermen who aren’t afraid to pull in the lines and try a new spot are likely to come home with the most fish.
When customers seem hard to catch, it might be because you are fishing in the wrong spot. Be humble enough to relocate your focus, and do it before you’ve burned through your capital. Opportunity costs are exaggerated early in a company's lifecycle, so it's important to be nimble and willing to adjust on the fly.
6. Make sure your medicine actually cures the disease.
Just because people are sick and want your medicine, doesn’t mean it cures the disease. Entrepreneurs often stop innovating once customers are interested and willing to pay for a solution. They believe they have “nailed it,” but really they have only succeeded in identifying market demand. If you want to last for the long haul, be honest about whether or not your medicine actually cures the disease. Customers today are more informed and connected than any other time in history, and your company will ultimately be exposed if it does not deliver long-lasting solutions.
7. Experience is everything.
The payoff of delivering a superior experience is clear: The best companies in the world have created great experiences around buying and owning their products, whether it’s Southwest, Zappos, Amazon or Apple.
Be fanatical about every little detail of the customer experience. This means spending the money to hire the best user and customer-experience designers you can find. Do things that don’t scale, like giving your early customers white-glove treatment. Your first customers will serve an immensely valuable role as brand ambassadors if you treat them right.