Ah, founders. We love you. Without you, we wouldn’t have amazing innovations and breakthroughs. Your ideas, blood, sweat and tears are making our lives – dare we say world! – better. By asking tough questions and looking at the world through your own unique lens you’ve given us exactly what we needed – oftentimes even when we didn’t know we were missing it.
But, not all founders were created equal. Indeed, while some of you seem to flourish effortlessly, others of you, well, you flounder.
Harsh, we know. But, you know what they say, truth can be a bitter pill to swallow. So, how can you learn not to flounder? We sat down with serial entrepreneur, angel investor, entrepreneur in residence and our own founder Alan Quarry to help founders avoid the peril of floundering. Here are his top five tips:
5) You are not your customer. (And neither are your parents or friends.)
Seems easy enough, except it isn’t. All too often founders are too focused on what their small group of advisors (read family and friends) think about what they’re doing. They limit their testing and inquiry groups – often in an effort to save money. But because family and friends want to encourage you, they sometimes won’t be as honest or forthcoming as you need, which will cost you more money in the long run. Get out there and talk to your customers – your actual customers. Get their opinions and feedback. Expand your circle.
4) Stop believing your own hype.
Yes, your idea is a good one. Yes, your solution could be profitable. But, maybe not. And that’s ok. Don’t forget to stop and listen to others (read 5 above) and be ready to pivot if and when it’s needed. Agility is the name of the entrepreneurial game. Flounders aren’t flexible – and it costs them.
3) Stop avoiding failure.
Entrepreneurs around the world know what it means to fail. Scratch that. Successful people – innovators, athletes, absolutely everyone in every field – knows what it means to fail. Whether it’s baskets not sunk or light bulbs that don’t glow, failure is everywhere. Being an entrepreneur means you’re going to get some things wrong. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll stumble. You’ll even fail. But, it doesn’t have to spell out your doom. Successful founders look at the learning points that come from their failures, flounders don’t. So fail and you’ll find success.
2) Remember it can’t always be all about the money.
You’ve got to take a breath and read this one through – because it’s important. We understand that funding has to happen in order for you to succeed. But, when pitching to investors, flounders spend all their time talking about the bottom line. Founders, on the other hand, talk about impact. What problem their product or service addresses. What benefits they can offer their customers. What was it that made them found their business in the first place. Don’t disregard this story – share it. If investors can see the impact they’ll be more willing to invest.
1) You are a founder – not the President, CEO, CFO and Creative Director (plus everything else)
Yes, when you first started it was just you. Maybe if you were lucky, you had a co-founder helping you to do all the things. But, as soon as you secure funding or start to make sales, you need to stop thinking of this as your baby and start to see it as a business – and run it as such. Seek out and hire the best people for the right roles to bring you from startup to stay up. By holding onto too much, you’re not doing what you do best – innovating – and you’re stifling your company’s potential success. It’s the ultimate flounder pitfall. Confidence is king in starting your own business, but arrogance – the belief that everything will fall apart without you – is a surefire way to sink your business before it takes off.
At BarnRaising Associates, our goal is to help our clients move past floundering and make the world a better place. Contact us to see how we can help your business achieve its goals.