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What To Think About in Running a Start-up

What To Think About in Running a Start-up

I’ve founded a lot of different businesses over the years and there is one thing for sure, running a start-up is very different to running an established business. So what’s a few key things that I’ve learned?

The biggest mistake that many entrepreneurs make is they believe their cashflows and assume that success is only moments away. A cashflow is the result of modelling the business in Excel and often bears little resemblance to reality. There are a lot of assumptions that you are able to identify that are built into any cashflow and then there are a lot of other assumptions that never make it to your analysis because you never thought of them.

For example, today I was looking at a cashflow for a new business unit I’m working on and one of the major assumptions is the price of the new offering. When I put the cashflow projection together I really thought about the pricing and made sure that it at least looked sensible. Despite this, now that we are market testing the service I’m going to be looking at what real customers tell me more than my guestimates.

Many entrepreneurs also make the mistake of trying to make the perfect product/service prior to taking it to market. Don’t do this! You could end up spending a huge amount of time and money on something that no one will actually pay for.

My advice is to get something together as quickly as possible and get it in front of real potential buyers. Then, do a lot of listening. You’ll soon learn what they value and what they don’t. Don’t be surprised that this may be a LOT different from what you initially thought they’d want.

So here’s a good saying that we constantly say at ParkLogic, “Build the rusty mini-bike before the shiny Harley Davison.” In other words, cobble your product/service together before you automate everything and make it all perfect.

Where is your first dollar of revenue going to come from? This is the number one question that entrepreneurs should really be able to answer. It encompasses what you are selling, what value you bring and more importantly, who’s going to pay for it.

Really understanding the value you bring to your market is critical to the success of any new venture. Are you solving a complex problem? Making a task easier?  Or saving your potential clients money? Once you understand the value proposition then you can work on ways to build barriers to potential competitors.

One of the things that I really like doing is solving really complex problems. A lot of people shy away from tough problem solving but I must admit that I really enjoy it. I know that if I can crack the tough nuts then I’ll have loyal clients and large barrier to entry for any potential competitors. By their very nature, tough problems are also often the ones that get paid to be solved.

The next thing I look for is how to productise solutions that I developed for one client and run it across many. This will provide the scalability and impetus to really accelerate the growth of the business.

For example, when I’m looking at buying or selling domains I like establishing standardised relationships. I may lose a few percentage points by adopting this strategy but it allows me to scale my business by selling many domains very quickly. A lot of the hidden costs in buy and selling is setting up the relationships with either party. If you can give away a little bit of margin for a large volume of transactions then it’s a no brainer.

So there’s a few things that I look for in start-ups...most of them hinge around speed of execution, scaling and really understanding your customer. Let me know your own thoughts on what you like me discuss in future business related articles.


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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