If you’re starting a business, I have some good and bad news for you. The good news is that this will be one of the greatest adventures of your lifetime. The bad news is that the odds of success are grim.
Have plans for a tech startup? According to Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider, only 1 in 200 companies that apply to Y Combinator becomes a “success”. And don’t get too giddy about venture funding: Harvard Business School lecturer Shikhar Gosh found that 3 out of 4 venture-backed startups don’t return their investors’ capital.
If you are actually starting a company – as in, you’re beyond the “Well, like, I have this idea” phase – none of this should discourage you. Rather, it should motivate you and force you to ask a simple question: “How do we beat the odds?”
Since 1996, I’ve founded and grown two startups into $100M+ companies. I think many companies have great talent and vision, but they still fail because they fall short in two areas: communication and collaboration, or “C&C.” If you’d like to build a successful company, here’s how to build on a foundation of C&C.
Find, Drive and Repeat Your Vision
Entrepreneurship begins with a declaration. You have a business as soon as you declare that you are offering a good or service. Declaring your business signals an intention to transact—but declaring your vision tells the world and your team how you will change, improve or transform X, and it sets a future that you can grow into. You have nothing substantial to communicate or collaborate on until you declare a vision.
Markets and strategies morph continually, so you must repeat your vision again and again if it is to persist. Repeating your vision demonstrates conviction, and conviction rubs off on your employees. If they’re going give more than a quarter of their living hours to achieve it, they need to know that you’re just as committed.
Some of your customers are going to complain about what you do—no matter what—and the market will sometimes appear to be laughing at you. If you don’t communicate your vision – to your employees, customers and the market – you will get shoved off course. Your marketing content, sales documents, social media and internal communications must form a magnifying glass around this vision. If you can’t connect your words and actions back to the vision, what are you doing?
C&C to Get Your Team On Board
Today, startups begin in apartments, coffee shops, dorm rooms and garages. This means your ‘management team’ can probably ride a tandem bicycle or fit in the frame of a group selfie. And this is why you must form a loop between communication and collaboration.
The benefit of tightly knit C&C is consensus on the implementation of your vision. We could all agree that curing cancer is a fantastic vision—but to get anywhere, the team of scientists would have to agree on an approach. If some thought that the chosen approach was absurd, what would motivate them?
Before you make big decisions, ask your team to voice their concerns if they disagree with the plan of action. Communicating and collaborating on a plan enables your team to exercise independent thinking, commit based on choice and therefore increase the likelihood of success.
Follow Up Will Be the Biggest Hurdle
If declaring a vision and sharing it is five percent of entrepreneurship, then implementation is the other 95 percent. Execution only happens if you follow up smartly.
“Did this get done?” is a start, but follow up should help you determine how to improve your business too. Try more open-ended questions:
- When we updated X, how did customers respond?
- What could we have done differently during the sales process?
- What are the three most important things that could affect our launch plan?
Startups succeed when the founders communicate a vision, collaborate on planning and then weave C&C into their workflow. Before you worry about capital, customers and press, focus on building a team that communicates well and cultivates a culture of collaboration. If your vision, target market or product is off, communication and collaboration will provide an environment in which all the failures become grand opportunities. If you beat the odds, it will be because you know how to fail—as a team—better than 99.5% of startups.
“Working Meeting” courtesy of Ambro / www.freedigitalphotos.net
About the author: Steve McIntosh is the co-founder and Chief Fan Ambassador of Fanhub, a new kind of cloud-based, collaborative CRM developed specifically for the needs of small businesses. In charge of building brand awareness and customer outreach, Steve is dedicated to helping SMBs find ways to communicate collaborate and delight customers.