Admit it. Startup life is HARD. So hard, that my go-to answer when someone asks me whether or not they should start a company (or startup) over an idea is don’t.
The folks that can’t be convinced, are the ones that had a shot over an idea. These outliers will fight through the loneliness & darkness, push through when progress looks impossible to others, and stay strong when it all would seem lost.
These are the kind of people who succeed.
To all of you, folks. The fighters. The challengers. The misfits. I want to give you a small piece of advice.
Make it easy on yourself, figure out your own story, and figure it out at the earliest possible. And do remember on a mantra,
Your company story is your company strategy.
Getting Everyone On The Same Page
Last week, I met with teams from two different startups from different verticals in Delhi, and during both meeting sessions, I had each member of the group submit answers to two simple questions. “What do you do as a startup, and who do you do it for?”.
The answers, from each one of them, in both meetings, were different but were upright towards a perspective. Both answers confirmed enough variety that every employee wasn’t swimming in the same direction and wasn’t focused on solving the same long-term issue and avail the same opportunities.
In a nutshell, they were misaligned. And misalignment leads to more grief than just a piece of lousy code, or poor user experience, or crappy market placement, every damn time.
Seems Like It Should Be Easy
There are a lot of articles on how to use storytelling, You could study more on this art and use it in aligning your mission around the why and the who, rather than the what. Take note, features and figures of your product/service don’t move people, stories and missions do.
Seems simple? Yet we see people struggle with this concept over and over again.
The telling of a story in the simplest way possible, then crafting it as a mission that moves people & their beliefs, getting everyone onto your organization in that exact same pace, is hard. It takes effort, work, commitment, and constant repetition to make it as a part of your DNA and to have it influence your day-to-day operations as an organization.
In a perfect world, we would nail this all down before hiring a particular candidate and go heads down towards build things of value. Sadly, we don’t live in this ideal world, and far too often teams move right over to building things before nailing down their path of doing it in the form of a story.
To help you move your team or organization in the right direction, here’s a list of a few tips,
- Take an afternoon, an evening, a day or a weekend and think hard about all possible ways to improve your product/service/platform/offering to make your customer successful/content/happier/better/productive, now throw out everything in form of a list, then choose the top two or three items.
- Write a personal note (or letter) to those customers from you, as the founder, talking about why you decided to start your company/service/product, and how you plan to grow it and change over the course of years. In this letter, do not “sell” anything, just ‘convey’ your purpose/mission to your customers.
- Edit this list and the letter for clarity and cut down by half the amount of words you used in your initial proposal.
- Repeat #3 till you get a satisfied & short version which you could use as an answer.
Congrats! You now have the starting point in how to answer the why and the what with regards to your organization to your end customers & potential investors.
Now go talk & spread the word to your audience.
Customers to start with, investors if you have any by your side, friends, if they’ll listen to you. Talk to these people in the form of flesh and blood. Don’t forget that they are human beings, again, don’t sell at this initial stage. More precisely, you first work on telling them the way that doesn’t have them tuning out from you, or rolling their eyes while you speak. Watch and listen to how they respond (if possible, record), ask questions, account feedback, take notes if you have to.
Further, repeat this over and over again, until you have a story that leaves people nodding and saying wow! Make this a priority even before writing a single line of code, even if what you’re selling is of zero interest to them.
Now take that, have a writer look at it and give it a once a glance. Don’t let them change the core concept of this exercise, simply ask them to smooth out the edges & make them curve. Allow them to give it yet another edit for length.
Now, extract the front page of your website, along with your about section. Replace them with this story of why & how.
Gather all your employees together at one place, tell them this same story in a precise manner. Tell them how you need their help to bring this vision into a reality. How only with their help, and their contribution(s) can this all become life. Stay there until they have no more questions left to ask you on what you’ve just told them. Then tell them again the same story, this time, account for new questions & expressions.
This is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated also. And it would not be much complicated either if you commit to doing it in the right manner and perform it effectively early. Not when you put in the time with accurate measures. Not when your focus is on solving the problem that others are facing.
Trust me. You got this! Now, get back to hustle and this time, give it all you got.