Here are the five hardest things about starting a company and our tips to make them less difficult.
1. Starting. This is really the hardest part (promise).
- Have a role model. A big part of what enabled us to get started was our time working with Marc & Vinit, the co-founders of Diapers.com. They were successful, yes, but also made it look easy and fun and awesome along the way – during the good times and the bad. Seeing this gave us a lot of confidence and inspiration.
- Have a partner. An awesome, like-minded partner you’ve ideally worked with before, so you know that your partnership works during ups and downs.
- Know your hypotheses. Then you can start to test them. You will learn as you go and should plan for things to change as a result (this takes some pressure off – there is no sense getting caught up in perfecting anything upfront)
- Take a step (and then another). Off you go!
2. Sticking to your guns. Not everyone will love your idea. And some will think their ideas are better than yours.
- Every conversation is an opportunity to learn. But it’s up to you to determine what is really helpful and enhances your vision.
- Stay focused. It’s easy to become reactive to suggestions and especially to rejection, and to start to lose your way.
- Don’t be discouraged. Finding the right people to join you on this journey (employees, advisors or investors) is like dating – you’re looking for the right match, and not everyone will be a good fit. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a good idea.
3. Asking for help.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t, you won’t be a hero, you will be at a huge disadvantage.
- Start by asking for help from the people who know and believe in you. They want to help and their efforts on your behalf will be the most meaningful. The majority of our investors and advisors for Primary trace back to a few mentors who knew us well professionally.
- Build relationships with the people you meet along the way who are truly passionate about what you’re doing.
- Be specific about what you want people to do to help you. They want to help, but they’re busy, and they’re not sure how best to help you. Make it easy for them by being clear and specific.
4. Being persistent and not giving up.
- Try not to take rejection personally. Easier said than done! It comes with the territory, and you have to be resilient. Not everyone is going to get your vision, or want to be involved. Keep going until you find the ones who do.
- Be careful when making assumptions. When we reached out to potential investors and didn’t hear back, we assumed they weren’t interested. Actually, they’re just incredibly busy and missed some of our emails. Follow up with people who matter to you if you don’t hear back.
- Follow the breadcrumbs. It’s hard to predict where a key investor, great connection, or important piece of information will come from. Follow your leads and see where they go. You have to be tenacious but it’s worth the effort.
5. Being picky about the things that really matter.
- Being in a startup means living in an 80/20 world. There just isn’t enough time or resources to try to do everything perfectly. But it’s critical to know the difference between something you need to nail, and something that can get better over time.
- In our experience, it’s important to nail your team and your core product/service. These are areas where it is much harder to undo mistakes than it is to be patient and hold out for the right choices.
- When something really matters, set a high bar, and be relentless in meeting it. Whether it’s your hiring criteria, the quality of your product, or the way you handle service issues.