Launching a company can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be downright terrifying — not to mention risky.
Within any two-year window, around 20% of new businesses open and shut their doors. However, the flip side of that statistic is that 80% of startups chug along. Why? In many cases, their founders have put innovative measures in place to improve their chances of long-term success. And a few of those measures might not be what you’d immediately expect.
Even if you’ve been in the entrepreneurial seat before, read through the following pieces of advice. They’re based on real-world startup experiences, not theory. Plus, they’re designed to help you think differently about what it means to be (and remain) a CEO.
1. Hone in on a niche.
You probably already know the benefits of having a business plan. Yet before that plan begins, think hard about what makes your offering unique. Without differentiation, you’ll be like everybody else in your industry. That’s not exactly the way to attract consumer attention and jumpstart a lucrative operation.
John Occhipinti, CEO of Numo, recommends picking a niche and running with it. “You have to focus on customers and do one thing well, really well,” he says. “Find a deep well first then start drilling for more holes. Each hole is deeper than you think.” In the case of Numo, Occhipinti took a deep dive into the gummy vitamin world. As a result, his apple cider vinegar gummies have become must-try organic supplements disrupting a crowded marketplace. This approach underscores the significance of a well-thought-out product development strategy, where understanding your unique value proposition and customer needs leads the way in creating distinctive and successful products.
2. Prioritize the pivot.
Holding on too tightly to your initial vision can weigh down your organization. As recent Skynova research concluded, 75% of owners who were willing to pivot kept their new businesses alive. Nevertheless, pivoting can be tough, especially if you believe passionately in your product or service.
A pivot doesn’t have to mean throwing everything away, though. Pivots can take many forms. You may just need a rebrand. Or perhaps you could get more momentum if you altered the features of your offerings. The point of a pivot isn’t to change the entire fabric of your company. It’s to stay flexible and adaptable to what your target audience is telling you it wants.
3. Seek out a mentor.
According to LinkSquares CEO and cofounder Vishal Sunak, founders need to find mentors. Why? Sunak sees mentorship as an opportunity to learn the skills needed for growth. He writes, “If you’re running a company with five people generating $100,000 in revenue, find someone who has built a team of 50 earning $3 million. They can educate you about the next phase of the business so you can scale it from there.”
Though it can be challenging to know where to look, a good place to start is in your immediate network. Think of other people you know who are heads of businesses. Even if they didn’t start their companies, they could potentially share valuable insights. Ideally, your mentor will be someone who wants to see you achieve by pushing you to be your best. It’s not a bad idea to consider hiring an executive coach to hold your feet to the fire, too. It works for some of the top executives in the world and it can work for you, too.
4. Surround yourself with greatness.
You can’t do it all forever unless you’re keen on remaining a solo practitioner. This means you’re going to have to find and onboard people. Therefore, spend the energy necessary to amass a dream team. The stronger your employees are, the stronger your overall company will be.
To ensure you build out your organization with the best of the best, map out the worker skills you need today and tomorrow. Ideally, you want your team to be able to grow with your organization. Remember that a candidate who has aptitude may just need some training to develop hidden talents. Plenty of “gems in the rough” have become tremendous assets — and occasionally next-gen leaders.
5. Spend money on marketing.
It’s very important to be prudent and practical with your finances when you’re just starting out. Even so, scrimping on marketing is a bad idea. Marketing is the vehicle that’s going to get your brand noticed. It’s how you’re going to drive leads into your sales funnel. Without marketing initiatives and campaigns, you’ll have a tough time staying afloat.
How big should your marketing budget be to get the most traction? The average marketing spend per company in 2023 is just over 13% of any given business’s total operating budget. Yours may be higher or lower depending on your industry and the types of marketing you engage in. This doesn’t mean you can’t attempt some low-cost marketing tactics, of course. You just need to have some steady ones going as well to give you a diversified advertising and branding mix.
One in five startups may fail in 24 months, but yours doesn’t have to. Yours can be one of the organizations that succeeds. All it takes is the willingness to take a few extra steps that your entrepreneurial peers aren’t.