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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Start a Startup Fast: 5 Essential Steps

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

More by this author

Chris Porteous

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

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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