Surviving the First 3 Years in Business

Year 1 is really an exploration. You may not realize it at the time, especially if your business is an extension of what you’re already doing as an employee. “It’s not actually different,” you tell yourself. “It’s the same thing but in a new format.” You spend much of year 1 determining if this is, in fact, a business. Every small win feels enormous. If you survive year 1, you walk into year 2 feeling somewhat confident.

We call Year 2 the terrible twos. You have some idea that running a business is unlike anything you’ve ever done, but now you also have expectations, and what felt like a win last year, when you expected nothing (and no one else expected anything from you), now feels like barely scraping by. Yes, it’s a business. But everything—everything—is hard.

Did you make it to year 3? You may not feel like you won, but you did. Your business is about to hit its stride, building on those foundations that could not be knocked down last year. You may have reduced your expectations, reduced your offering, and reduced your self-esteem. But you clarified what you’re really doing, you understand yourself and your business better, and you are now building the business you didn’t know you were building when you got started.

We recommend you have, at a minimum, the below in place as soon as possible in order to survive those inevitable, terrifying ups and downs:

Your Team: As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” You will need to rely on your partners, coaches, advisors, therapist, and staff members to keep you motivated—and vice versa. The initial excitement will wear off and you may be bored of the endeavour before you start making any real money, unless you have the right people in place. You will fall in and out of love with your business. Make sure there’s one person (or several people) by your side who can keep you going.

Constant Review: Entrepreneurs are famous for being forward thinking, but you need to pair that with a regular look in the rearview mirror. What worked? What didn’t? What will you do differently? There’s no point in going through the terrible twos if you don’t learn anything from them.

Process & Systems: Free up your brain time by mapping your processes, and updating them regularly as you, your business, and the world around you change. Having systems in place will give your customers the consistency they deeply desire from you, as this communicates your reliability. These processes and systems make it possible for you to delegate chunks of your work as your business grows. On top of that, the fewer decisions you have to make about what to do next, and when, will allow you greater freedom to explore, learn, and innovate.

Business is not as easy or glamorous as media often portrays, but rest assured you are not alone! For many business owners, the first years are often the most challenging, but they can also be the best, because they’re the years that changed you so deeply that you can’t imagine doing anything else.

5 Tips for Startup Teams Creating a Pitch Deck

Building a pitch deck can be a major form of eustress. On the one hand, your pitch deck can be the key to scoring investment deals that help your business grow. On the other hand, putting a pitch deck together is no easy task. This isn’t the same as putting together a slide presentation at university: often, the future of your startup depends on it. Every slide needs to be carefully designed and well-thought.

You may have bootstrapped your way for quite a while, but eventually, you need outside help to take you to the next level. Pitch decks are the vehicles that help get you there. They help potential investors gain a high-level overview of what your startup is about and what you can offer. Here are five tips for successfully creating a pitch deck that works:

1) Communicate the Plan With Your Team

Creating a pitch deck involves multiple parts. Not only do you require input from everyone on your team, but you’ll may need to outsource some of the work, too. For instance, you need the help of a graphic designer to make your deck visually appealing; a CMO, bookkeeper, or account manager to help make sense of the numbers; a marketer who can convey data from market research; and a project manager to keep the pitch deck project flowing smoothly.

Depending on your unique situation, you may have many more people involved from other roles. Organize your milestones with a team calendar that ensure everyone is on the same page. You should also have regular meetings to communicate updates as the pitch deck is being designed.

2) Start With Your Elevator Pitch

Begin your presentation by stating clearly what your startup is and what it’s about. This should be no more than three sentences, and many startups achieve this in just one. For example, Botletter calls themselves the “Mailchimp for Messenger.” In just three words, you can already get an idea about what Botletter does and what their product can offer. This elevator pitch allows potential investors to hone in on the vision early on.

3) Emphasize the Market

Half of all small businesses will fail within a few years. Studies have shown that the biggest reason for failure is that there was no market need. Many startup founders fail to research their market before presenting, and before launching. Just because you’ve created a solution to a problem doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a market need for that solution. It’s your job to communicate the market need through your pitch deck. This should be backed by data. On the same token, you don’t want to overwhelm the potential investor with a lengthy list of numbers and charts. Highlight the most important information so as not to bombard listeners with statistics they won’t remember. During this time, you should also define your ideal customer and what their core needs are.

4) Don’t Forget the Essentials

Although you should emphasize the market need, there are also other must-haves that every pitch deck should include. This includes financial projections, your concept, competitive advantage, and competition. You should also talk about your founding team and how you plan to execute your branding strategy.

Because you want to stay relatively simple so as not to overwhelm any investors, it might help to reach out ahead of time and ask them if they’re interested in a specific area of your presentation more than others. For instance, if an investor says they’re more keen to understand your competition, you know that that’s an area you have to pay special attention to.

5) Research Other Pitch Decks

Research startups that went to on acquire funding, and analyze those pitch decks to see what made them stand out. Of course, there’s much more to securing investments than having a pretty and well-executed pitch deck, however, seeing other pitch decks can help you better understand what investors are looking for in a presentation—not to mention it could be a great morale booster.

Reasons Why You Should Prototype Your Idea Before Developing It

Starting a new business is always challenging. Therefore, the entrepreneurs should make all the efforts to decrease risks and guarantee the success of the product. The creation of a prototype is one of the factors that define the success of your business ideas. Although some business people consider that prototyping is a waste of time, they should try this method to understand the benefits of it. If you still do not know the reasons why you should prototype, let us explore them. Ten reasons why you should prototype your idea before developing it demonstrate the benefits of the creation of a version of the product that might contribute to your success.

The creation of a prototype might help you understand the values and benefits of your product. Since the competitive ability plays a crucial role in the market, the development of the product that differs from the other items and can satisfy the specific needs of the customers becomes the decisive factor in the success of a business. As a result, the creation of a model helps you determine the strong points of your idea to enhance them further and contribute to the improvement of the product.

The prototype provides the chance to notice what shortcomings and drawbacks your product has before you spend a lot of time and money for the development. In business, understanding what weak points might impede the success of the product influences the ability of it to attract the attention of the target audience. Consequently, you should focus on the disadvantages to guarantee that you considered all the possible cases before launching the product. Thus, prototyping helps you save costs that you might have spent on the readjustment and the development of your idea.

You should prototype your idea before developing it because this method might help you save money. The process of launching the new product is complicated and expensive. Therefore, you should not put your idea under risk and start the process before trying your concept in the form of a model. Since this sample helps you determine the problems and drawbacks before the introduction of the final product, it saves your costs. Mainly, the visualization plays a significant role in the evaluation of different factors that influence the interest of the audience. Consequently, having visualized the product, you may use it to avoid the problems in the development of your idea.

The introduction of a prototype might help you save time. The central claim that influences the benefit of this method is the understanding that the creation of a prototype requires less time than the creation of the final product. The additional proof concerns the fact that the prototype might help you remove the defects before you launch your product. All these components show that the creation of a sample saves a lot of time and helps you to promote your idea faster because it is polished and improved.

Prototyping helps you to convince the stakeholders to invest in your business idea. Funding is an essential element of the introduction of a new product. However, recently, with the emergence of a large number of inventors, finding and gaining the confidence of the investors becomes more and more difficult. Thus, visualization becomes the instrument of persuasion and demonstration of the uniqueness of your product. When the stakeholders try your product themselves and judge its benefits by their own senses, they start trusting it more and feel freer to invest.

The other reason why you should prototype your idea before developing it concerns the ability to use the model for testing, getting feedback, and improvements. The introduction of a new product is always challenging because the inventor might know little about the ability of it to win the loyalty of the target audience. Therefore, in this case, the prototype becomes a valuable tool that helps to test the product to define its specifics and issues to avoid them in future development.

The creation of a prototype provides the chance to compare your product with that of the competitors to allow you to understand how to exceed them. The visualization offers the chance to “touch” and “feel” your product. Besides, you may compare it with the other items according to different criteria. The identification of these differences is a significant contribution to the ability of the creators to modify the product according to the information that they get during the process of comparison.

You may create multiple prototypes to choose the best one for future development. The low prices of the models enable the creators to produce several samples to test them all and choose the most appropriate variant. The inventor may define the advantages and disadvantages of all of them, compare and contrast them, ask the colleagues and other users to try the product to eventually decide which one of them deserves to enter the market.

Everyone knows that experience plays a significant role in business. The design of a prototype might become the contribution to your experience. Mainly, the more samples you produce, the more skilled you will be in the development of the product. Indeed, you gain a lot of new knowledge and understand your concept better when you try something rather than just think about it. You should prototype your idea before developing it because this practical knowledge might add to your experience.

Finally, your attempt might demonstrate the others the seriousness of your intentions and convince the investors that you are a serious entrepreneur and approach the idea with responsibility. The creation of a version of your product might show that you are determined to achieve success and apply all the possible measures to reach your goals. Besides, the prototype makes the others understand that you definitely know how business works and what steps to take before risking the money.

The creation of a prototype is an essential step in your business. It determines how effective your strategy will be and what results it will yield. Ten reasons why you should prototype your idea before developing it explain the most significant aspects that might contribute to the value of your product. In particular, the creation of a version of your product might save your time and money, show the investors the benefits of your product, and convince them in the success of your ideas. Besides, it might help you determine the problems, shortcomings, and advantages of your product before you launch its development. In addition, it might allow you to improve the product, get feedback, and test it. Therefore, before developing your idea, you should always design a model that might become the instrument of your success.