That Startup Life

Q: What have you learned from your start-up?

Since I don’t have any venture capitol, and I don’t have any intention to get venture capitol, nor am I on a fast-track to sell, I don’t actually consider myself “a start-up” in either of my businesses.

We are starting up, but I don’t fit into the start-up culture at all. There’s a move fast and break things mindset that I’m not interested in being a part of. I’m more of an invest in community sustainability girl myself. But, in terms of starting ventures, this is not my first rodeo. More like third and forth, respectively.

At my first start-up, I learned that I don’t want to be “a part of the family,” because people treat their family members like crap. I also learned that consistency is key, and far more important to the majority of consumers than quality. Even then, quality without consistency is less than worthless.

At my second start-up I learned that manufacturing is difficult, and holding an inventory is for suckers. I also learned market penetration is the most back-breaking and illusive part of business.

Now at my third and fourth start-ups, I learned that if you really love something, you will let it kill you. Namely, your fledgling start-up.

All joking aside, the things I’ve learned are this:

• In the beginning, all you have is your word and your reputation. In the end, only those things will matter tho the people who matter to you. No amount of money or success can make up for the lack of a good reputation.

• Your idea, while good, means nothing at all. Everyone has thousands of good ideas. Very few people have a successful business. Get over your idea immediately and get into your ability to deliver.

• No one knows you. And no one cares to know you. Your ego does not belong in your business. If you want to feel important, call your mom, but don’t look to the business to make you important.

• It’s your fault. Whatever it is, if it’s happening to your business, it’s your fault. You either failed to anticipate, failed to act, or aren’t good at something and you need to admit it and fix it right away.

• Sleep. Bathe. Call your family. Visit your friends. Don’t let the business become your whole life. You will develop tunnel vision and that will take you down.

• At the same time, always remember that the buck stops at you.

• Be ready to take at least two years of your life where you’re mowing lawns or something crazy in order to keep your business up and running. This is not a failing, this is a fact of modern small business. So, pick something you love enough that you would get a second job just to support your habit.

• Know when to walk away. From a deal, from a client, from the whole damn thing. Live to fight another day.

No business is perfect. Most businesses fail. But most people who start businesses will start multiple businesses over their lives. Being able to roll with the punches is the most important skill anyone can have in any situation.