Female founders and C-level executives are dominating the market right now. There are more women in top-level management than ever before. New and existing startups founded by women are also tackling market challenges left and right, seizing a lot of opportunities along the way.
There is no better time to start a new business than right now. Market opportunities are plentiful and ready to be seized. Resources needed to start a new business are in abundance. More importantly, getting started with your own company is easier than ever.
Before you go ahead and join forces with colleagues to start a new business, however, there are a few preparations to be made first. You have to be ready for the challenges ahead, and these five things are exactly what you need to be the next startup success story.
A Mature Product Idea
The process of developing a simple idea into a product that customers can actually use is a long one. Many founders started their businesses with a simple idea in mind, only to find that transforming that idea into tangible products and services is not as easy as it seems.
Rather than developing a raw idea after starting the new business, it is actually better to take your idea to a certain point before entering the business landscape. At the very least, you want your idea to be mature enough as a business proposition.
The best product ideas are ones that solve real, existing problems faced by potential customers. When you have a solution to a problem everyone faces, you don't have to spend as many resources trying to create a market for your new business.
While developing the idea, you can also start working on your business plan. How will the product enter the market? What are the resources you need to turn that plan into a reality? What's the market size for your product or service?
The more of these details you collect and process, the more prepared you'll be as a startup founder. You know exactly what to expect from the market when you do start the new business, making the rest of the process easier to manage.
Good Project Management
Many founders see leadership as an essential skill. It is, but it is not the only fundamental skill that you absolutely need to succeed. A more fundamental skill is project management. Think of starting a business as managing multiple projects. There are tasks that need to be completed before you can take the business off the ground, and good project management is the key to completing those tasks.
The Kanban system is a methodology that you can count on if you are new to project management. It is simple enough to use and flexible enough to adapt to different organizations and business models. You can even make an adjustment to the Kanban board based on what you actually need.
Mastering the basics of the Kanban system will also make you a better project manager. What is cycle time? How you can keep the lead time of each task at a minimum? How do you spot bottlenecks based on the Kanban cards? These questions become easier to answer now that your tasks – the projects you handle – are visualized on the board. Kanbanize is a great example of a Kanban board. Visit their site to learn more and read up on the Kanban way of managing projects.
A Strong Team
As a founder, you need to be prepared to do most of the heavy lifting. After all, this is your business, and its future is tied – in large part – to your future. You cannot expect your business to be successful from the beginning, at least not when you are not willing to invest time, money, and energy into it.
However, being a startup founder doesn't mean doing everything yourself. In fact, it doesn't have to be that way at all. You still have the ability to create a strong team, filled with capable people whose skills can help support the business.
If you are not sure about the business side of, well, your business, you can add a team member whose focus is in this field. The same is true with other tasks that you need to tackle, including manufacturing your products and marketing them to a wider audience.
Developing a strong team is perhaps the biggest challenge all founders must face. It is never easy to find likeminded people that understand your vision. Never settle for less, especially when you have big dreams for the new business.
Sufficient Financial Support
The last thing to prepare is the set of resources required to start the business. I'm talking about having enough funds to get the ball rolling, at least until the business begins generating revenue from selling products and services. Sufficient financial support, however, doesn't mean a large starting capital.
Most of the big corporations we know today were founded in a garage somewhere, with little to no capital and plenty of passion. However, those businesses face financial challenges along the way, and their founders know exactly how to face those challenges like a champ.
When you suddenly receive a big order for your product, for instance, you should know how to best cover the manufacturing and distribution costs to fulfill that order. You may have to rely on loans from friends or financial institutions.
The important thing here is knowing what to do. You can self-fund the new business at the beginning. You can keep the business self-funded in the long run too. Nevertheless, you always know what to do when you run into financial roadblocks.
Okay, there is one more thing to get right when you are starting a new business: a strong passion for the business venture. As mentioned repeatedly before, there are a lot of challenges to overcome when starting a new business. Those challenges can be overwhelming, and the only way you can stay motivated is by loving – and I do mean truly loving – what you do.
Passion is the last piece of the puzzle. Combined with the other four components covered in this article, you are ready to be the next big success story in the startup landscape.
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"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."