Startups should never, ever, never compete with big companies. They must offer something different. “Differentiated” is the most important word in designing a startup market entry strategy.
Look at this diagram and decide how you can adjust your company to be in the top right quadrant. Without that you have no chance of surviving, never mind profiting, because you will compete with companies 100 to 1,000,000 times larger than you with already developed marketing and sales channels and huge budgets.
Only these kinds of companies will attract investors (needed to grow) and top employees because they know the stock options can be game changers for their personal wealth.
Over 80% of startups fail because they do not prepare well. This takes 15+ years' experience with 5 going to learning some technical or industry skills, 5 going to learning to hire and manage people and another 5 to learning strategy, business, leadership, legal, HR, etc. This can be spread among the founder team, but I would never allow anyone with less than 5 years' professional experience to be a Founder.
Starting a company without all these skills on the team is basically a suicide mission. You will never find anyone who did this alone, either. Those stories are all myths that hide the years of learning and preparation, and/or senior people with gray hair (or no hair like me) hired to help. Sure, you can start a “Professional Services” company (selling your time) or all products on Amazon, but those are not valuable, scalable companies.
There are no shortcuts to building a substantial company. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Never been done in less than 5 years, and usually there is ten to fifteen years of learning and preparation behind every success. If not, I guarantee it was a long and hard struggle, no overnight success. Bill Gates is a good example of this. He had many years to learn and prepare. Microsoft was founded in 1975. And went public in 1986, eleven years. Even though he was an exceptionally smart and hardworking entrepreneur, and perfectly positioned in a space that needed a solution, it took many years to establish Microsoft. Those stories are just clickbait headlines written by naive reporters and “influencers”. Or people that end up like Sam Bankman-Fried and Elisabeth Holmes. No investor should ever invest in someone who just graduated from college without a substantial team behind them, as happened at Google – again, a unique situation.
A differentiated, strong team, hard work and many years of preparation are required to build any substantial company. You will not find any company that did not do all these things. No matter how much your teachers told you, “You are special and can do anything”. That’s just bull*hit.
Register for a free workshop on growing companies at: https://airtightgrowth.com/growth-and-scaling-workshop/ This monthly event is for CEOs at $1M plus companies and those preparing to scale in the years to come. It is held on the first Wednesday of each month and replays are sent to registrants. All twelve sessions are available for a fee, with recording for your entire management team. And get lots of free resources for startups under $1M annual sales at www.EntrepreneurshipU.com. We help companies get to $10M, then $100M in sales after product-market fit is achieved by installing everything needed to scale. See www.AirTightGrowth.com
Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. He helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies raise capital.
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