Getting a business off the ground is hard work. Between securing financing, figuring out how to reach customers and managing growth, there’s a lot to think about. And this doesn’t even include the obstacles we create all on our own.
All of this adversity can easily give us tunnel vision. We become so focused on a few things, others get left behind. In some respects, this is good. Focusing on one or two things ensures we do them well. There are some things many startups don’t pay attention to, typically because they don’t consider them relevant to the initial stage of the company.
But then there are some other things, considered to be business pillars, which we tend to overlook even though they should really be a focus right from the beginning. Here are a few you need to be paying attention to:
Core values and culture.
The vast majority of business leaders agree that a strong company culture gives you a competitive edge. This is why it is considered to be one of the main business pillars. But when you’re a startup, your group is small, sometimes just a few people. So why do you need to be worried about culture? It will develop on its own, right?
Yes, it will. And this is exactly why you need to be paying attention to it right now. If you ignore it, as you grow, a culture will develop on its own, and if it’s not reflective of the type of company you want to build, you could be in trouble.
Your culture is a reflection of your values and identity. And these are what will help set you apart from the competition. So, you need to figure out right from the beginning who you are and who you want to be.
One of the best ways to do this is to establish your core values. These are the guiding principles of your company that will define you. By setting them in the beginning, you’re giving yourself something to always go back to when making decisions. If an investment decision or marketing strategy isn’t in line with your core values, then it’s not right for you. It’s as simple as that.
Culture is more than just these principles, though. It also defines what type of company you are, and this will be critical in helping you attract and retain talent, something that will have a tremendous impact on the success of your company. What kind of work environment do you want to create? Do you want to be competitive? Or are you a more laid-back, free coffee for everyone workplace?
Make these decisions now so that as you grow you can be sure you’re building the type of company you want to build. Waiting until later will have you playing catchup, and this will make it much harder to build a culture that supports your business and makes it stronger.
It might seem strange one of the business pillars most startups overlook is the accounting. But for proof that this happens, we need only to look at some of the top reasons small business fail. Improper cash flow management has always been near the top of this list.
Part of the reason for this is that startups simply don’t take the time to set up robust accounting systems. Things are changing quickly, and while you’re surely doing something to track revenues and expenses, there is far more involved in accounting. And this becomes especially true when payments from customers aren’t instant, or when you start purchasing things on credit.
Really, the best way to make sure you’re doing things right is to hire a professional. If you don’t already have a full-time accountant, you need to make this a priority. Sure, it’s an expense. But when you consider how this investment can ultimately save your business from failure and set it up for success, it’s clear this investment is well worth it.
It’s virtually impossible to understate the value of a strong brand. While it’s possible to make lots of money without it (think of oil and telecommunications companies), these businesses exist because we simply cannot live without them. When it comes to your startup though, you don’t have this advantage. You need to give something else to people. Plus, strong brands make more money. Do you need any more convincing?
But startups often leave branding until later. In the beginning, there is so much focus on simply reaching new customers and convincing them to become users that we often leave brand messaging by the wayside. This is a real mistake.
Branding is considered to be one of the most important business pillars because of its power to create loyalty. When people begin to associate your company with a certain identity, personality or value set, then they will be more likely to come back to you. Since you’re spending so much time recruiting new customers, doesn’t it also make sense to look for ways to convince them to stay with you?
Determining your core values is a good first step, but you’ll also want to come up with a vision and mission statement. Furthermore, you need to determine a brand identity and personality; this is what your brand would be like if it were a person. And once you do this, you need to make sure all your communications, across all platforms, are consistent and supportive of these messages.
Figure this stuff out from the beginning and your company will be in a better position to succeed in the long run. This is an excellent reason for writing a business plan before setting off on your business is a great idea.
Pay attention to what’s important.
There are, of course, some things you simply can’t pay attention to right now, but these business pillars are not these things. Your top priority needs to be on making your company grow steadily and sustainably. But this does not mean you can put your blinders on. There’s lots of stuff you’ll need to decide early on in the life of your company that will determine its future success. But if you pay attention to it now, you’ll be well on your way to building a company that can stand the test of time.