PR Tips for Startups » startup mistakes Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Sat, 05 Oct 2013 06:32:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Chikodi Chima: Public Relations, Content Marketing , Sales and Business Development Strategist no Innovative Marketing Strategies From Today Public Relations, Content Marketing, Media Relations, Business Development, Lead Generation, Public Speaking, Storytelling, Entrepreneurship PR Tips for Startups » startup mistakes San Francisco, CA Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs Tue, 23 Jul 2013 15:47:30 +0000 Chikodi Chima

Entrepreneurship is about being uncomfortable CC 1sock Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

[Note: This post is part of a Startup Edition series on lessons for new entrepreneurs]

“I sense you’re going to be very successful,” my cab driver said. As San Francisco afternoon traffic lurched forward, the conversation had gotten very personal, as taxi cab confessions often do.

“There’s something about the way you carry yourself, and how you communicate your ideas,” she said.

“Why do I feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall half the time?” I wanted to say. “The other half of the time feels like I’m punching sand.”

I bit my tongue.

“Thanks,” I replied.

Perhaps I should be applauding the fact that a nagging, ever-present sense of discomfort had an inspirational effect on a complete stranger. It certainly didn’t feel that way at the time.

I’m sure this feeling of disquiet and unrest is shared by many entrepreneurs. While things may appear “normal” on the outside, below the surface is a boiling sea of conflicting emotions. With so many mission-critical decisions to make it’s hard to recognize and celebrate incremental progress.

“Being succesful in entrepreneurship is not about intelligence, it’s about perserverance,” co-founder and CEO Sunil Rajaraman said on a recent episode of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.

In spite of all the hype-making, entrepreneurship is the furthest thing from glamorous. If you aren’t making it on a or Pinteterest level, you’re fighting an uphill battle for survival.  And the biggest struggle is to keep yourself focused on the mission at hand. As I’m learning, entrepreneurship is about how to make peace with being uncomfortable.

While each entrepreneur’s journey is different, here are five pieces of advice I have for young, first-time startup founders and small business owners.

Starting a business is easy but it takes perserverance to be successful CC Jasmine Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

1. Starting is the easy part

Launching a business is exhilarating.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren recently wrote on LinkedIn about his heady startup days  back in 1999. Crammed into a studio apartment, and surrounded by whiteboards, he and his Pandora co-founders were confident they were going to revolutionize the music industry, and put artists first. They even raised money from investors who believed in their mission.

And then $#!t got real:

We began running out of money and wound up in a long, grueling fight for survival. It took almost 4 years, a few business model changes, and 348 investor pitches before we were able to raise another venture capital round. By the time we got to the closing in March of 2004, we had deferred close to $2 million of salary, racked up massive credit card debt, battled lawsuits and eviction notices, and experienced just about every other imaginable challenge for a young business. It was a wild process that by all measures we should not have survived. As I enjoy the progress of Pandora, those days are never far from my mind.

Do you have the grit to suffer through four years of the so-called “trough of despair?” That’s how long it could take to get real traction–if it happens at all. And the more audacious your vision, the harder you will have to fight.

Creating product-market fit is much harder than getting the ball rolling.

Entrepreneurship is a balance of passion and pragmatism CC Beniamino Baj Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

2. Balance passion and practicality

In order to make it as an entrepreneur you have to have passion, but pragmatism is the attribute that will get you much further.

“Make something people want,” Y Combinator founder Paul Graham says.

While you may think your idea is going to set the world ablaze, you’re not your customer. Neither are your friends and family.

Practice customer development to ensure you’re not going down the wrong road with a product or service no one needs. A fast and easy way to “get out of the building,” and get real feedback is to take your product idea or prototype to a coffee shop ask random strangers for their honest opinion. Even if you have to buy a few coffees, and hear some unwanted criticism, it’s a lot cheaper than building a full product no one buys.

Its OK to work for someone else before becoming an entrepreneur CC Fabian Mohr Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

3. There’s no shame in having a job first

Starting an entrepreneurial career as someone’s employee can be a safe and advantageous way to ease into startup life. You have a steady paycheck, and you get to learn from other people’s mistakes at no cost to yourself.

Fellow Startup Edition writer Jason Shah wrote:

I didn’t buy the, “Work on 0.0001% of a product that touches millions,” argument. The control-freak, narcissist in me wanted to own the damn thing.

After all, Jason had just sold his five-year-old company before graduating college. Not too shabby. But Jason admits he didn’t know how much he didn’t know until he started working for someone else.

When I worked on my own, I didn’t have analytics teams, useful dashboards, and a kickass in-house multivariate testing tool. Sure, you have Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and others. But Yammer has provided a 101 in the AARRR metrics and focusing on engagement, retention, and virality with a certain clarity that I didn’t have on my own. With millions of users, I have been able to measure things on a new level vs. the purely qualitative data I got from user testing with my other products that had much smaller user bases.

The most successful entrepreneurs are in their forties and fifties, running companies you’ve never read about on TechCrunch, Mashable or The Verge. With age comes experience. Working within an organization allows you to see its deficiencies, and to build up a rolodex of potential customers once you’ve launched a product.

And while tech acquisitions are rare form of exit, startups created by former employees to solve enterprise problems become juicy targets. Marc Benioff of Salesforce was a long-time Oracle employee before striking out on his own. And established players like Microsoft and Oracle often buy smaller firms for their customer relationships, and recurring revenue, or simply to snuff out a rival.

Today’s Salesforce would be a pretty rich meal.

Entrepreneurs Need Mentors CC arriba Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

4. Seek out mentors

Mentorship is a vital and increasingly-scarce form of career education. You’ll make plenty of startup mistakes of your own, but a mentor can help you spot many before they happen.

Priscilla Claman writes in the Harvard Business Review that you should seek out a “personal board of directors for your career,” a panel of expert mentors who can advise you across a range of professional aptitudes.

There’s no need to hold meetings or even inform each person of his or her status as a board member — but you do need to select the right people and stay in touch. Just like any good board, the people you choose should have different contributions to make to your thinking….The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view.

Sometimes you’ll have a mentor and not even realize it. That person you go to for advice could be the corner shopkeeper, or in my case a local restaurateur whom I jokingly refer to as “my guru.”

While it’s great to have a mentor who understands your business, it’s equally valuable to have a mentor who can provide you with valuable life insights. I’d say this is even more important than having an advisor. “The night is dark, and full of terrors,” as Game Of Thrones character Milesandra is fond of repeating. Recruit allies to your cause whose perspectives will keep your grounded, motivated and focused on the big picture.

Bonus: Podcasters are great mentors

You can and should listen to entrepreneurship podcasts to hear how other startup founders made it work, and to learn from their failures. Podcasts such as Mixergy, Entrepreneur on Fire, Foolish Adventure, The Lifestyle Business Podcast and the Web Domination Podcast are great resources, because you won’t always hear from the same handful of founders who dominate the mainstream news.

The process of entrepreneurship is the same, whether you aim for an IPO, or you just can’t stand working for someone else your whole life. Entrepreneur podcasts allow you to tap into the minds of fellow entrepreneurs and learn from a wide range of industries and perspectives.

The World Needs Entreprenuers CC Nomadic Lass Uncomfortable Is The New Normal: Five Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

5. The world needs you

Even when you feel at your loneliest point remember that the world needs entrepreneurs like you. There are many time when you will feel alone, confused and aimless. It happens to everyone. And you may be building the wrong product, and have to start again from scratch. But the world is full of problems, and problem-solvers like you are in short supply.

“I’d rather see you fail at your own startup then succeed reading about someone else’s,” As Dave McClure from 500 Startups says.

Your time is now. The world needs you!

This post was part of a Startup Edition series on lessons for young entrepreneurs

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Startups Without Goals Plan To Fail Mon, 15 Jul 2013 01:45:46 +0000 Chikodi Chima Startups Failure Comes From Setting Goals After Its Too Late CC cobiie Startups Without Goals Plan To FailFailure to plan is planning to fail.

Far too many startups fail because they don’t define their mission until its too late. One of my biggest startup mistakes was fleshing out goals with my co-founder more than a year after we had been working together.  As ridiculous as this sounds, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has launched a venture without a discreet goal in mind.

I valued connections with people over making money. I still wanted to make money, but it wasn’t what motivated me to launch the endeavor. My co-founder saw an opportunity to disrupt incumbent technologies with huge financial upside if we got it right. It was the classic example of blind men describing an elephant. We were doomed to startup failure because the closer we got to achieving one set of priorities, the further we would be from the other.

Defining Goals Is Crucial To Startup Success CC TheLizardQueen Startups Without Goals Plan To Fail


When genius fails to plan

Last night I watched Beauty is Embarrassing  an amazing documentary about artist, animator, puppeteer and all-around awesome human being Wayne White. If you’ve ever seen Pee Wee’s Playhouse you know his work.

Wayne says his mission is to add humor to the world of fine art. Simple as it sounds, this is no small task. The art world is a stuffy and self-serious domain. Comedy is one of the most difficult things to pull off. Anyone who has ever been to an amateur standup night can tell you this. But equipped with a clear mission Wayne is tearing the art world a new one, and living a fully-realized life. We should all be so lucky.

Wayne says his first memories are watching people react to his drawings as a toddler. Growing up in the deep South Wayne knew he wasn’t destined for small town life. He moved to New York, and then Hollywood, but even as he excelled as an artist, Wayne struggled to define his mission; to make fine art fun.

The voices in his head told him what he wanted was wrong, but no one will tell you to your face. Even if someone had the guts to say it, they don’t have the power to stop you from achieving your destiny because no one is in charge. Those few people (trolls) who have the audacity to publicly doubt you are probably your greatest source of inspiration. You burn with the fire to prove them wrong.

Define success before you start

Goal-setting is one of the most powerful tools in the startup arsenal. In a world of uncertainty the goals you set for yourself are something within your control. Much like setting reasonable expectations, goals are concrete outcomes you hope to achieve, and committing to  expectations we set for ourselves that can lay the path for future success.

Why setting goals is so hard

Setting goals is one of the hardest things to do in life. Seriously. We may be working towards something, but if we never define it clearly we can never be wrong.


Failing to fail

This is called failing to fail. It’s a dangerous. Failing to fail is a defense mechanism we use so that we never get our hopes up too high, and we can avoid embarrassment. It’s the opposite of setting goals, because we’ll accept whatever we get as fate.

So much of entrepreneurial success is due to luck. But it’s not blind, dumb luck. As my wise uncle in Nigeria always says, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” If you’re prepared for opportunity, you’ll know what it looks like and what to do with it.


Startup Failure Comes From Not Setting Goals CC sweis78 Startups Without Goals Plan To Fail

Get lucky with S.M.A.R.T. goals

I recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, which I first encountered after listening Pat Flynn talk about the subject of mind hacks on his podcast. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurarable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Once you have a framework for success you’ll know when you’re on the right track and when you’re not.


Goals allow you to say “no”

Saying “no” is the ultimate badge of achievement. It’s a hard-earned right, and not a privilege.

Ghandi said, “A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”  And Apple founder Steve Jobs said, “Innovations is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things,” to focus on the few that matter.

If you don’t know, or don’t recognize what you really want, you’ll say “yes” to things that will never deliver your desired outcomes. Having a goal allows you to say no to 1,000 things so you can say yes to the right few.


Goals must be public

My goal here at PR Tips For Startups is to help entrepreneurs change the world. We achieve this by providing innovative marketing strategies from today’s small business leaders. The better we all are at finding the right audience for our message, the sooner they can benefit from what we have to offer. In this way we jointly make a contribution to a better life.

I was a little uncomfortable sharing my goal. Who am I to want such a thing? Every entrepreneur in Silicon Valley wants to change the world. That’s so corny! Why shouldn’t I focus my energy on something else.

No one tells you what they really think except your true friends. You’re lucky if three people in your life are such straight shooters. All the self-doubt comes from me.

Well, what else would that something be? My destiny is mine! No one lives my mistakes.

Goals hold you accountable to an outcome, but it’s you who has to do the work to succeed.


Setting the wrong goals is an avoidable startup mistake

So much of startup life is focused on tactical goals, such as getting outside investment from the right VCs, launching new features, and getting media coverage from the right technology journalists. All of these are worthy pursuits. They should not interfere with your larger goals.

Understand the difference between tactical goals and strategic goals. Think of a tactical goal as the roadmap to your destination. Imagine a cross-country road trip. Tactical goals are the mile markers along the way, such as stopping at the Grand Canyon as you drive from California to New York.

 Stretch Goals CC Rainbirder Startups Without Goals Plan To Fail

Stretch goals vs milestones


I recently read an amazing LifeHacker piece about scientific ways to crush procrastination. I highly recommend checking it out.

There are many categories of startup mistakes, but overcommitment is one of the most flagrant offenses. As the CEO of a startup you’re aspirations are limitless, but your resources–and especially time–is finite.

In the most basic sense, “dreaming big” isn’t all that bad advice (though dreaming too much can be harmful, more on that later).

But there’s also the problem of setting up grandiose plans and becoming intimidated by your own lofty expectations. Since you don’t want to stop dreaming big, the best way to find a balance is to simply set “macro goals” and “micro quotas.” Your goals should be the large scale things that you hope to accomplish, that much is obvious. But your quotas are what you must get done everyday to make it happen.

Setting a low bar means overachieving every day.

You know there will always be a fire to put out tomorrow, but racking up small wins daily is a great way to build momentum and keep yourself moving forward.

Stretch goals are the opposite of bankable daily quotas. With the wind at your back you should challenge yourself to achieve greatness. You never know where you’ll end up, but visualization of success is of the most important things you can do. Surprise yourself
And in spite of what you’ve read, I still have a lot of work to do setting goals. It’s definitely a growth area. At the beginning of a work day I often write my session goals, but I don’t reconcile the daily, tactical achievements against my long-term mission.

Part of writing about goals and goal-setting is a reminder, and  a public declaration of my intent. I’m accountable to you now, but especially to myself.

Any suggestions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best ways to consistently achieve your goals. You don’t have to be an expert at it–I’m not–but how do you get more done in less time, and keep focused on what’s important? I want to hear from you!

  • What are your favorite goal-setting apps?
  • What goal hacks work for you?
  • Where do you go for inspiration?
  • What’s your best productivity hack?

Sound off in the comments section below.

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