Why some succeed, while others fail?
Most startups and companies fail, while only a small fraction of them survives through the early stages and keep growing.
|According to Fortune 9 out of 10 startups will fail. @FortuneMagazine
Is there any universal reason explaining this phenomenon? I think so. When You take a step back and look at all the successful businesses You will quickly come to realize that they have one thing in common – they are extremely strategic, meticulous at gathering intel and when they make decisions, You can be sure that they know what they are doing.
These people don’t leave much down to luck, they make their own luck by working smart and hard to maximize the odds of succeeding.
The value strategy
Business is war – it may be more civilized and failure in this case doesn’t mean death of innocent people, but it undeniably is a game with a highly competitive environment, where the stakes are very high and the limited amount of place and resources dictate that someone’s victory comes with other’s defeats.
In order to win, both require a disciplined, analytical approach to setting goals and developing flexible, long-term plans to reach those goals – in other words You need to think strategically.
Since you can’t predict what fortune will hand You, You must prepare yourself to handle the external circumstances. Remember that regardless of how chaotic a situation may be, there are universal principles that can provide You with guidance and give shape to your thinking about the situation. Immersion in such principles allows for genius flashes of insight.
The purpose of this article is to hand You a set of principles that are applicable to businesses of any shape and size. If You study and proactively use them, You can be sure that You’ve done everything in your power to increase the odds of the best outcome coming about.
1. Ultimate Intent
War and business are extremely costly endeavors, so you better don’t start conflicts or create companies if You don’t have a certain goal in mind.
Imagine that You are a general on a battlefield. What is your ultimate goal? To win a battle or win the entire war? Entrepreneurs often create companies and launch products, while having a particular intent in mind – to solve some problem and make an impact on society.
Making that impact is equal to winning the war. However there are many battles to fight and with each one it becomes easier to fall off the track. Having an ultimate intent does one very important thing – it shifts your focus in a way that You can backwards engineer every step that gets You to accomplish that purpose.
It keeps You informed about what You should do today based on where You want to be 5 years from now.
Can You imagine Steve Jobs not having a big-picture vision for Apple?
Would it be a first $800 billion company in history if their actions weren’t dictated by a clear intent from the beginning: to enrich people’s lives through well designed, user-friendly devices?
Will winning this battle will actually get you closer to winning the war? If the answer is no then You should not fight this battle. See how easy it is to get lost without a bigger picture in mind?
Without having an ultimate intent for your company or a product, You don’t even know exactly what You want to accomplish with it. Fortunately enough, most startups get this point right.
2. Gathering and Analysis of Intelligence
Many people fuck this up a big time, when they assume their cat-petting idea will turn out to be so great that they don’t really need to gather the data about the market, customers, competition, investors, marketing channels and so on.
Do You assume that You know everything?
Just think about a military strategist who’s supposed to win a battle, but he invested no time into getting intel about the enemy – his weaknesses, habits and tendencies – it’s a recipe for a disaster.
A good general goes out onto a battlefield the morning before to analyze the landscape, all possible places enemy could’ve set the traps. Having the same approach to your business will ensure that You won’t end up launching an obsolete product or not knowing why You’re losing your customer base.
Have You studied the market You want to get into?
Have You determined whether your product has qualities that people need?
We have an abundance of tools these days that make our lives (and businesses) way easier and You have no excuse not to take advantage them.
You should have as much information about the strengths and weaknesses of your product, as well as about opportunities and threats that present themselves on the market. Pushing something blindly is more of a lottery than business.
So don’t be stupid & do your homework.
3. Preparation of Resources
Can You imagine a general on a battlefield who rushes into battle with no strategic resources? He hasn’t prepared food for the troops, hasn’t arranged logistical support, no reserves, no backup plan, so he has zero resources besides what he’s going in there with. He’s going to get slaughtered and that’s what happens to most startups.
What are the resources that You need in order to accomplish what You want with your product or service?
Everybody has the same 24 hours in a day, the only difference is how You manage your time, and that is a skill that You can develop.
“Do not get urgent confused with important–it is easy to get sucked into all those urgent issues, but you really should be prioritizing by what is most important”
~Troy Henikoff, chief executive of Excelerate Labs in Chicago
Other way to handle tight schedule is to outsource as much as You can: accounting, CFO services, create digitized tasks, even appointment setup can be outsourced thanks to TimeTrade or Calendly.
Every penny counts, especially at the early stages of a startup, bootstrapping can make it much easier to raise capital.
“We are in hardware so we needed quite a lot of cash. We bootstrapped the first 18 months, built it all in-house. Revenue from their first 200 products sold was used to pay back suppliers.”
~Kate Unsworth, founder of Vinaya
Finding the right people can be a daunting task, but there is no better reward than stumbling upon a perfect fit with the right personality, skills and abilities for its role. You need to go to universities, tradeshows, events, scout through LinkedIn, Facebook and look for people who are better than You at doing something.
Then You just have to inspire them with your vision – the brightest ones will stick with You, because it’s a great vision and others are obsolete.
If You have point #2 in check, this one is much easier, because You already have the data telling You what is necessary and what’s not. However don’t forget that You need to GO and develop those resources. Knowledge helps, but won’t get the job done for You in this case.
4. Concentration of Force
Usually, to win a military battle You have to concentrate all your available forces, given that You have limited resources, at a decisive point that breaks through the enemy and leads to a victory. This applies to war as much as it applies to business.
Once You know what You have to focus on from principle #2 and You have the necessary resources from #3, it is crucial that You concentrate your forces on improving the most important metric that drives growth of your company. For Yelp it’s the number of reviews for each business, as well as the total amount of businesses reviewed. For Uber it’s ensuring that there’s enough drivers to fit the demands of each city and so on.
Long ago there was a time where You had to pay for e-mail services, but Hotmail went against the grain and became world’s first free e-mail provider. However a great product (for its time) wasn’t enough to get more people to know about it, so it critically needed to focus on increasing its user base.
Conventional advertising was very expensive and its effectiveness questionable, so the founders had to figure out how to make Hotmail viral in other way – they ended up adding “PS. Love You. Get Your Free Email at Hotmail” at the bottom of every e-mail sent by its users.
As a result of that they got over 12 million accounts hosted in less than a year. They made the most from the users they already had instead of leeching resources and power everywhere else.
This is the essence of strategy – focusing all available power at the point where it hurts the most (a.k.a. leveraging). But our aim is not doing harm, quite the opposite is true we want to make an impact on society, and the impact we shall make, provided that we remain strategic in our ventures.
5. Disciplined Execution
Disciplined execution is a scarce. According to Harvard Business Review, 75% of organizations struggle to implement strategy and only 8% of leaders are good are good at both creating good strategies and putting them into practice.
I can’t emphasize how essential it is to NOT get stuck in overthinking and taking no action. People get paralysis by analysis, they stay in airy-fairy land of concepts that never become real-life products and services. Many companies have great ideas and good plans, however most of them fail to make things happen.
There is a place for planning as much as there is for putting these plans into reality.
This point is so crucial I would highly encourage reading this great book, dedicated solely to the topic of getting things done in business.
|Startups Don’t Fail On Ideas, They Fail On Execution @Forbeshttp://bit.ly/2uihQEU|
A great plan poorly executed leads to disaster. A poor plan greatly executed may be better, but also leads to nowhere. If You’re serious about it, You need both.
A static plan or thoughtless check-list is far from being strategic. Strategy is not a formula or a manual. Many people look for a secret strategy when the real secret is thinking strategically. It is about laying out a solid plan, but also being flexible when the unexpected inevitably occurs.
Unfortunate scenarios are likely to happen to people who choose to follow the original plan from the start to finish while ignoring new insights and constantly changing environment that the marketplace is. Life is not static and persistence doesn’t mean sticking to one way of doing things, it’s rather the ability to keep your eyes on the target, while remaining flexible and creative in order to reach it.
There is no one, ultimate, best strategy for your project that You can go with forever.
If You want to accomplish something, You have to be willing to rewrite the plan, every week, if it’s necessary.
To avoid being disconnected from reality, You could spend time working on the product AND the traction channels in parallel.
You follow your original concept, yet stay open enough for your customers to let You know how to tweak it.
It will give You an advantage over the long run, because otherwise You would fall into product-adjustment cycle, where You first launch a product that is semi good for your customers, THEN You gather feedback and make another (costly) product to adjust to the demands of your customers.
If You think about it, flexibility is pretty affordable, while staying rigid can turn out to be extremely expensive.
Today’s companies hit plateaus sooner & harder, because they either don’t actualize their business models or don’t exploit them fully.
|“After a stall sets in, the odds against recovery rise dramatically with the passage of time.” @HarvardBiz[Tweet]|
If You have every single one of those seven principles in check, You can be sure that You minimized the odds of failing close to zero.