The 7 things most start-ups fail to do

I like 7 it’s a magic number I’ve recently given you 7 things you can improve in raising finance as a start-up and networking  in these recent posts, and in all of my interviews on wisequeenweekly I ask 7 questions.

I’ve sat in on hundreds of developer and start-up meetings, and not as a journalist, as a project manager and entrepreneur,

these are the 7 things that come up time and time again when you look at start-ups that failed and why..

I. Work for someone else first. Dealing with office politics and learning how to work with and communicate with tech people, developers, managers and clients is a skill that is severely under-estimated. The number one ingredient in successful start-ups and business teams is chemistry between the team members. Learn how to communicate. Good leaders are always good communicators. You can hire -in the other skills, but if you can’t communicate effectively, theres no lift-off.

Most start-ups that have taken off are preceeded by 5 attempts that never got off the ground, making mistakes and learning from them is the official university for start-ups who bootstrap it.

2. Stop moving the goalposts. You don’t get your goals written down, actioned with agreement and a time line with all the members of your team, but you just go off with a rifle picking off all the stuff that pops up. So you start off improving the look and feel of your site, platform or app and you get some of it done with the team members pulling together hard, putting in hours and always watching the budget limitations. Then, instead of closing that issue as a success and encouraging everyone “job well done”, before you take the next steps to building an audience, you’re off on another tangent. Lets do that, lets build an app, lets go and sign up the ten biggest CEO s in the city to raise finance, Hey, lets go talk to Richard Branson!. Slow down cowboy, your team are getting post traumtic stress disorder, the attention span you are giving on any issue is ten minutes.

3. Know what you want to achieve, at some stage you have to close phase one, breathe a sigh of relief that you are still alive and move on to phase two, Developing on the run or agile development is what every successful start -up that was established and eventually acquired, had focused on, but know what you want, or you will waste money and burn a lot of people.

4. Who are your clients or prospective clients? Now this may seem silly, but everytime I ask this question, few can answer it, they simply assume everyone will love their product or idea and run to buy it, they truly believe it’s a brand new, never-before-seen invention, and once they build it people will come.

5. Who are you competitors and what can you learn from them. If I had a penny for everytime I have heard the response – “We dont have any competitors, we are the only ones doing this”, I would be a billionaire by now. Of course you have competitors, wake up and smell the coffee! Use social tools to find out. If you’e building an app in stealth mode you have mere months to get it to market before you’re eclipsed by someone else. Unless of course you have already built your kingdom and just want to build a free app to keep your users happy.

6. Think, think, re-think, or as my mother the tailor says: think twice, cut once. People get stuck on their idea, and refuse to re-think, revise and restructure the original plan according to what is happening in the market, this attitude trips many people up. Maybe your original plan was to open a sales platform which is beyond your budget and you stubbornly stick to that and refuse to take advice from the market who made the mistakes you could learn from. Social analytics was designed for you.

7. Ask for the business. People forget to ask for what they want when they get in front of a client or email them. Once you have your ten solid clients and have built loyalty, be useful to them, ask them how you can help them reach their goals, you can build a solid business from them.

People buy from people. Always keep your audience in mind, dont try and compete with Facebook, or become the next Bloomberg. Don’t try to game SEO or Google with content. You must build trust first, learn how to engage first.

You need to walk before you run, bad communication and management is the number one reason a startup or any business fails.
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