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The Top 9 Things Startups Do Very Wrong

kokou adzo

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The majority of startups fail, and even those who manage to make something out of a startup usually have a few failed ones before this big success. Why is this the case?

Even if we take out of the equation the fact that the business world is competitive and hostile and that there are more new businesses than there’s a need for, this still doesn’t explain such high numbers.

It’s not just the saturation of the niche since, tomorrow, someone will come up with the same idea and this time it will work.

The problem is in the lack of experience. So, to avoid allowing this to come back to haunt you, here are the top nine things that startups do wrong, very wrong.

1. Not doing market research

I want to buy it; therefore, everyone wants to buy it – is the single worst assumption that you could possibly make. You see, you’re not necessarily your target demographic, and even if you were, you’re just one person, which is too small of a sample to make any kind of meaningful conclusions.

Also, just remember that you’re not just asking if they’re willing to get their product/service. What you’re really interested in is whether they want to buy it at the price at which they can afford to sell it.

This is called doing your market research, and the lack of it is the single biggest reason why so many startups fail.

2. Not diversifying their investments

Your profit should be reinvested into your business, but not all of it. You need to diversify and make sure that some of your investments go into stocks of the biggest companies in the world, a part of your funds goes into precious metals, and, with the rest, you take a bit of a risk.

You see, as long as the part that you’re investing in volatile markets is small enough, you’re doing the risk management right. Cryptos, for instance, can be incredibly profitable, and as long as you have a good presales list from which to draw points, you should be just fine.

3. Ignoring customer feedback

Everyone is asking customers for their opinions, but what happens when you get this feedback? Are you going to do anything about it? What if fixing it turns out to be too expensive or inconvenient?

You see when the majority of startups gather feedback, they’re actually hunting for positive reviews and social proof that they can use for marketing purposes.

What they don’t realize is that negative feedback is far more important. This negative feedback helps you understand what you’re doing wrong. It’s a reality check, and ignoring it is dangerous.

Not to mention that graciously responding to negative feedback may turn haters into fans.

4. Scaling without infrastructure

If you’re not ready for it, growing can be incredibly dangerous. You see, if you have to rapidly adjust to an increased workload, you’ll have to move to a bigger place and hire more people (usually without time to vet and onboard them properly and more).

The worst part is that this increase in productivity is not permanent. Instead, what you’ll be facing is uncontrolled growth, and when the seasonal demand drops, you’ll be unable to downscale.

This is why it’s so important that you pick scalable solutions for your enterprise. This way, you’ll always know what you’re dealing with.

5. Ignoring cybersecurity

You’re never too small to be a target. Sure, the value that they’ll get from you is a lot lower, but so is the risk. This is why startups should outsource their cybersecurity in order to ensure that they get the best available protection.

Another area that’s worth paying attention to is employee education. While you have just a few employees, this is easier to handle. Most notably, any gaps will be fixed through a direct approach or a mentoring program. The key thing is that you start addressing these cybersecurity problems as early as possible.

6. Underestimating marketing

What good is even the best product that no one is even aware of? The most important thing you need to understand about this is the fact that companies with larger marketing budgets have better performances and higher revenues across the board.

Now, it’s also important that you keep track of one tiny little thing – you can’t do marketing for free.

The fact that they can start a blog for a handful of dollars and post on Facebook for free has, for some reason, convinced people that they can just promote their business free of charge. While this is technically the truth, your reach will be incredibly low.

You shouldn’t ignore the value of sponsored ads, PPC, or even paid YouTube views. All’s fair in love and war.

7. Fundraising is just enough to get started

Getting started can be incredibly expensive, but, as a startup, you shouldn’t expect to be profitable or self-sustainable right off the bat. It will take so long for you to start making enough money to cover all your expenses and even more to become profitable. Not to mention that reaching the break-even point is even further down the line.

This is why you need to have a solid cash reserve while starting. Include this in your fundraising objectives. Also, you need to prioritize cash flow early into business. This way, you’ll have a much easier job at staying afloat.

Other than the lack of market research, cash problems are the biggest reason why startups go out of business.

8. Ignoring your staff

The customer is not always right, and sticking to assuming they are will just scare away your most productive staff members. You see, the biggest problem with the idea that the customer is always right lies in the false premise that it’s better to lose an employee than a customer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s not just about the customers; it’s about their well-being, satisfaction in the workplace, and burnout. As a startup, you have very few employees. Losing them is a disaster, which is why you need to focus and double down on talent retention strategies.

9. Rigidly adhering to original plans

One of the worst things you could do is stick to the original plan with little regard for the ever-shifting business landscape. Sure, you need to have plans and goals to know where your business is going. These goals need to be measurable so that you have a way of figuring out if you’re on the right path.

The biggest problem, however, lies in the fact that sticking to them at all costs and refusing to change them will result in failure.

Helmut von Moltke once said that no plan survives a first contact with the enemy. Iron Mike Tyson said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. This is the same attitude that you should have when it comes to plans.

Learning from the experience of others is safer and cheaper

Learning from your own mistakes is the most effective way to learn, but it’s definitely not the best one. Every mistake is costly, especially when you’re a startup and you can’t afford too many such mistakes. This is why seeing where others have gone wrong might save you quite a bit of money and stress.

 

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of Startup.info. He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at Startup.info.

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