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How to Start a Startup Fast: 5 Essential Steps

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How to Start a Startup Fast: 5 Essential Steps

With the prospect of being your own boss and possibly earning a ton of money, millions of entrepreneurs are eagerly tugging at the leash to launch their own startup. Starting a startup is easier said than done, however, and most businesses which try to get up and running inevitably fail within the first few years.

Don’t let the dispassionate cruelty of the market sink your startup’s prospects before it ever gets a chance to shine. Here are the 5 essential steps you’ll need to follow if you want to learn how to start a startup fast.

1. Plot out Your Vision

The first and most essential step in launching a successful startup is to thoroughly plot out your commercial vision. Many entrepreneurs have a rough idea of how they want to foray into the market, yet few of them draft up comprehensive business plans that will steer them through the tumultuous starting period that all startups must endure.

You can’t content yourself with vague details regardless of how ambitious you are, as even the most dedicated entrepreneurs need a roadmap to follow if they don’t want to get lost or outcompeted in the open marketplace.

Those who want to set up a high-growth business can’t simply snap their fingers and expect the profits to start rolling in. You should review McKinsey’s comprehensive business planning manual[1], which has been made publicly available, as this will elucidate the fine details you dare not ignore if you want your startup to be prosperous sooner rather than later.

This manual and similar guides will help you as you draft a business plan that’s tailor-made for your startup, but remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to commercial success. Manuals of this nature are excellent for giving you a general overview of what’s expected in a business plan, but you’ll also want to remember that your startup must chart its own course with its own specific strengths and weaknesses in mind.

This is an excellent time to plot out how you intend to lure in investors, too, as most of the investors you seek out will inevitably want to see some business plan or similar document detailing the inner workings of your ambitious startup. If you can’t convince investors and prospective employees that you have a comprehensive vision of where your startup is going to be in a few years’ time, then your commercial ambitions are effectively doomed from the start.

Now that you’ve plotted out your vision for your startup, you can move onto the next crucial step: assembling a team of professionals who will help you attain financial success.

2. Launch Your Recruitment Efforts

The second crucial step when learning how to start a startup fast is launching your recruitment efforts early on in the process; the sooner you get some stellar employees on your side, the easier a time you’ll have of navigating the marketplace.

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Investors will be attracted to startups that have attracted talented specialists, especially since having the best human capital available is a surefire sign that your startup is going to stand apart from the crowd and become a dominant market actor one day.

Furthermore, workers will help give your startup a sense of legitimacy that’s sorely missing when you’re the sole employee, as few customers and investors will take you seriously if you’re a one-person operation.

Phrases like “recruit the best human capital” may sound savvy, but how can you go about actually doing it? After all, the best workers usually demand hefty salaries in exchange for their expertise, and most startups seldom have excess cash to burn. This is one of the most difficult aspects when starting your startup, as you’ll have to determine how much you’re capable of spending on talented workers without bankrupting your company, understanding all the while that too much penny-pinching can result in lackluster recruitment drives that drum up meager talent at best.

Every industry is different, so your startup can’t necessarily rely on the hiring models used by others. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to conduct market research on your competitors to determine how they’re scooping up talented workers to see if you can copy their techniques.

In addition to scoping out what your competitors are up to, you should also be enlisting the help of technology; any twenty-first century startup that isn’t tech savvy is going to struggle to attain success, so consider investing in human capital management tech that can expedite the hiring, training, and management processes[2].

If you can’t afford to invest in expensive management software, consider doing things the old-fashioned way and searching for talent on today’s social media platforms. After all, the next generation of tech savvy workers is constantly online, rendering most popular social media platforms an ideal recruitment environment for your ambitious startup.

This strategy will also enable you to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the personal lives of your prospective employees, which will help you determine if they’re an adequate fit for your aspiring business.

3. Learn to Master Differentiation

After you’ve assembled an elite team of professionals who will help you learn how to start your startup, you need to give serious consideration to how you’re going to differentiate yourself from competitors in your local marketplace.

By their very nature, most startups are venturing into hostile territory from the get-go; when trying to climb to the top of your local market, you’ll face stiff headwinds from established businesses that don’t want to cede an inch of their turf to your nascent company.

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Rather than stand idly by as major companies try to stomp on your growing startup, you need to take action to separate yourself from the masses and make yourself more attractive to new customers.

The previous steps are directly related to this one; if you have a stellar workforce that’s composed of talented individuals, for instance, your startup will have an easier time proving to customers and investors alike that it’s different from others in its industry.

Learning to master differentiation takes more than hiring a few good workers, however. If you want to garner sustained attention for your brand, you need to make it clear that you’re unlike anything customers or investors have ever seen before.

There are a number of techniques that aspiring startups can rely upon to differentiate themselves. Pricing your goods and services in a competitive fashion is an age-old tactic that has worked for countless businesses in the past, but this isn’t always an option if your startup is desperate for cash and finds itself in need of higher rates to keep the lights on.

If cutting costs in order to offer cheap prices isn’t a possibility, your other option is to offer goods and services of unparalleled quality to your customers and clients in hopes that they come to associate your brand with excellence.

Reviewing a list of ways that startups can differentiate themselves[3] is a must for any entrepreneur who doesn’t want their new business to flounder in the market. If you’re offering new and intriguing services like a blockchain service that is unlike anything presently available, your startup is much more likely to garner positive press for itself while attracting talented individuals in its industry who want to be a part of the best up-and-coming company around.

Businesses that fail to differentiate themselves will inevitably fail, particularly now that we’re in the era of specialized services that are tailor-made to meet consumer demands. Ignore differentiating your startup at your own peril, as doing so will relegate your company to the dustbin of history before it ever gets a chance to prove itself.

4. Know How You’re Going to Leverage Tech

After you’ve drafted a stellar business plan, recruited talented employees, and figured out how you intend to set your brand apart from others in the market, you can address the pressing issue of how your startup is going to leverage tech as it attempts to establish itself.

Most entrepreneurs who are eager to launch their own business have a simple tech strategy: digitize your operations to the greatest extent possible in order to cut costs.

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In reality, however, this is far too vague a strategy to base your entire startup on. You need a specific, tech-centric plan that addresses how your company will leverage digital technology to make a name for itself while keeping operational costs under control.

Establishing an IT budget as early on in the startup process as possible is a good place to start. If you don’t have an allotted amount of cash set aside to spend on your digital operations, you’ll likely find yourself overspending or underspending, depending on your industry. Getting your startup up and running as soon as possible is important, but you need to understand that rushing the establishment of your digital operations is a surefire way to permanently weaken your startup’s market prospects.

Who you hire is an important part of knowing how you’re going to leverage tech for success. If you rely on third parties to manage your digital operations, for instance, you’ll end up saving money but will lose important autonomy.

Taking into consideration your startup’s industry and the local market conditions, you need to determine how much you’re willing to spend and whether you’re willing to have dedicated IT specialists as members of your permanent team.

While tech gurus frequently command high salaries, they’re often a worthwhile investment, particularly if your startup needs to establish a strong digital presence for itself to lure in new customers and attract potential investors.

Marketing is an important part of this process, too. In this day and age, virtually all marketing is conducted through digital mediums that demand IT expertise to truly master, so having some digital gurus on your side will undoubtedly bolster your outreach to customers. Knowing how to use tech[4] to take your startup to the next level may be the deciding factor that determines your overall success.

5. Plan How to Scale Your Business Upwards

Perhaps the most egregious mistake that many entrepreneurs make when leading their first startup business is ignoring the fact that they’ll one day have to scale their business upwards.

Startups are tiny by their very nature, but some startups grow at a ravenous, insatiable rate that quickly sees them outpacing competitors and growing to such an immense size that scaling upwards is a necessity if you want to keep operating.

You may think you have a plan for when you hit profitability and gain some extra spending money, but the truth of the matter is that scalability must be considered from the earliest days of your startup if you don’t want to flounder once you start hitting the big league.

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When establishing your company’s IT network, for instance, consider how scalable your digital operations are and whether the tech investments you’re making right now will be useful if your startup suddenly expands. Make sure you have adequate commercial insurance[5] in place to protect yourself against cyber attacks and other issues. Some software services are ideal for tiny startups, for instance, but simply insufficient once your business grows and finds itself in need of more complex digital services.

Furthermore, your hiring model needs to take into consideration the fact that you may suddenly need to recruit more employees to appease consumer demand or convince investors that you can keep growing.

This final step of starting a startup quickly is fundamentally tied to the very first step–when envisioning your startup’s future, you must consider what you would do if you were to attain success beyond your wildest dreams. This is because businesses plan extensively for failure, yet seldom consider what their next step will be if they actually achieve their goals under budget and ahead of schedule.

Keeping an eye on the future and understanding that scalability must be considered from the earliest days of your operations is an imperative part of making it as a successful entrepreneur.

Final Thoughts

Building a successful startup fast isn’t easy–you’ll need to make difficult hiring decisions, invest prudently in the technology your company will be reliant upon, and be constantly ready to change course if things go south.

Furthermore, ever-changing market conditions can thrust your otherwise prosperous startup into jeopardy, despite the fact that you did everything properly. Remaining flexible and fostering a persevering spirit are, therefore, essential parts of being a successful startup leader. Keep that in mind, and everything else will naturally fall into place.

More on How to Start a Startup

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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Last Updated on August 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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