I’ve spent the last few years working closely with some exciting new startup companies—and I’ve loved it! Startup companies get me excited. I love the youthfulness and energy that these companies tend to have as part of their culture—and I relish opportunities to augment that youthfulness with my own insight and experience.
I’m not the only person who’s excited about startup companies, of course. The very word startup has become hot terminology, suggesting something cutting-edge, forward-thinking—and often quite successful.
In fact, you may have considered launching a startup company of your own—and if you’ve got the business mettle and the sales skills to make it happen, then I say go for it! Before doing so, though, let me offer you a word of caution: You can’t believe everything you read about launching a startup.
The truth is, the nature of the startup company is somewhat nebulously understood by the masses. I’ll give you an example: When’s the last time you heard someone talk about a non-technical startup company? To hear the news media tell it, there’s really no such thing as a non-tech startup, but of course that’s ridiculous. Your product may not be the next iPhone, and that’s completely okay.
Do you need to have some technical skills and online know-how to make a startup work? Absolutely. But those things can be learned. They don’t have to be part of your DNA.
Another myth that I often hear about launching a startup: It’s next to impossible to really develop your brand identity or to sell your product, simply because, as a new company, you have no name recognition.
Don’t think of it in those terms. Think about it like this: You’ve basically got a clean slate. You’ve got a fresh chance to forge your company culture, starting from square one. And in the end, your brand will have an identity and your company will have a culture—as defined, in large part, by your product.
I have heard many small business owners worry that they are simply too small to provide superior service to a large customer base—or simply to larger customers.
But let’s think about this for a moment: Have you ever received poor service from a large company? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you have—probably as recently as today! Size and service are not as closely related as you might think. Don’t get hung up on size. Just focus on people, on relationships, on adding value.
Another common myth is simply this: A startup company doesn’t have a culture when it first starts out.
Think again. As people, we all have our own personal culture—whether we recognize it or not—and when people come together, they form a corporate culture. Your company culture will start to form the second you start talking about starting up. Be aware of it. Every decision you make, every step you take ultimately reflects—and shapes—your values.
Last on my list: Everyone will tell you that you need an exit strategy. I’m really of two minds about this. On the one hand, I do think it’s important to plan for all contingencies, and to always know what your choices are. At the same time, though, forming an exit strategy is an awful lot like planning to fail—so maybe it’s better to just focus on providing a great product over the long term, and see where that takes you?
Regardless, my larger point is simply that you can’t trust all of the conventional wisdom about startups. You should definitely do some research and some planning—but you shouldn’t take every word you read as gospel truth.