Succeeding in your Startup Journey

The constant state of flux that exists within the startup environment requires each person to naturally fit into the culture, easily adapt to new things, and be able to draw on their experiences to get things done. We are hiring with these three perspectives in mind because ultimately, we are building a family.  Our process is deliberate, straight forward, and time intensive, which can be difficult, even for the most hardy among us.

So, the question you will be asking yourself now is, “what does it take to succeed in my startup journey?” To answer this, I think you need to focus in on four areas for your journey: find what ultimately drives you; focus on the right things; be consistent in everything you do; and be ready for the simple truth that you are in it for the long haul.  Let us explore each of these four themes and how they can help make your startup journey more successful.

What Drives You?

This is always the hardest question. Many of us are driven to pursue goals and experiences that are not remotely aligned with each other. This is why it is important for you to really take the time to think this question through when it comes to making a decision about joining a startup.

If money is your main motivator, then I suspect you are going to be more interested in a sales opportunity, than a startup role that is right at the beginning of its journey. Don’t get me wrong; money is an important consideration for us all, as we have to live. In a startup though, it is the icing to the cake when you have worked hard and been lucky enough to secure an exit. To get to this point you have to overcome many hurdles, and even then you may fail.

There are other drivers that may motivate you. In the world of startups, these are the ones that really matter. Do you have a burning desire to learn new ways of using technology, or does working with smart people drive you? Perhaps you are dissatisfied with working in bureaucratic and staid environments, where you are just another staffer within a cubicle city, who remains unseen and unappreciated.

In reality, you are probably an entrepreneur by nature. You will tend to be a craftsman who insists on the highest standards, while striving for excellence in everything they do. You will enjoy experimenting, especially where you can be opportunistic with learning and remain fearless about the unknown; be willing to fail and try again.

Whatever drives you, remember that a startup may not be the answer to your prayers, especially if you hate uncertainty and being asked to constantly change in an effort to bring life to the startup’s product.

Focus on the Right Things

In the hustle and bustle of a startup, there are a lot of distractions. You need to be able to focus on the things that matter and ignore the noise. Admittedly, everything in a startup is important, especially where there are many tasks that need to be accomplished, and too few hands to accomplish them.

Sometimes, you really do feel like the mythical little Dutch Boy, who put his finger in the hole of the Dyke to hold back the waters from the sea to avert disaster from flooding. This children’s tale teaches them that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources they can make a difference. Not too different from a startup, when identifying which challenge needs to be plugged to avert being flooded by distractions.

Ruthless prioritization is key. Knowing what the priorities are is the difficult question to ask, and it is critical you understand them quickly. Time literally waits for no man, and in a startup, time is the most precious of all commodities. You have the cash burn working against you, and the competitive landscape gnawing at your feet as you sprint toward the finish line. It is therefore important that you recognize the importance of focusing on the right things, while eliminating the noise generated by the distractors. It requires an ability to say no to things that do not matter, and rolling up you sleeves on the things that do.

Be Consistent in Everything you Do

At Ivy Softworks we have a saying, “Sooner is better, now is best.” We try to apply this mantra in a consistent manner to everything we do. What this means is that by tackling a task quickly and consistently, we can achieve a lot in a given time frame. However, I think it is more about doing things in a consistent fashion, where you keep moving the business forward and to do this by iterating constantly.

You do not need to be perfect when you come out of the gate. You do need to keep moving your idea forward by making frequent incremental improvements. If you get some feedback from your customer that helps further refine your solution, then apply that feedback, knowing “sooner is better, now is best.” If you, and the rest of the startup team, take this approach to iterating on all tasks, then you will be blown away by how rapidly objectives can be achieved in your organization.

It is this bias toward action that makes the difference in your chances of success within a startup. Too many companies, especially those that you will be competing with, have a hard time with iterating; unfortunately for them this is not the case with their customers who are seeking constant change themselves.

So, being consistent in getting things done by iterating is an important tool in a startup. It favors experimentation, where you throw ideas out there, then test them until you see a favorable response or decide that it is an idea whose time has not yet come. It allows your team to value the importance of failure to the learning process, but more importantly, it really does allow you to be more productive in getting things done.

The Long Haul

The simple truth is that perseverance is everything. Taking an idea from concept through to completion requires the drive to execute on the vision, the ability to remain focused on the activities that matter and to consistently iterate, while applying the lessons learned. It is still a long journey. One that is fraught with many challenges, delivering an emotional rollercoaster of experiences for all of the team as they grapple with them.

You need to be inclusive during this journey. It is a time where you will want to be open to influences that will help you find the best path. When on the path, you will want to be part of a team that nurtures and invests in each other, so you can dream and deliver together. It is also important for you to be obsessive about your journey. You will want to be obsessive about everything you do as it pertains to technology, innovation, reinvention, each other and our community. During the long haul, obsession is going to be the fuel that keeps your creativity alive.

We only read about startups that are hugely successful in the popular media. In truth, there are many startups that are quietly working away for many years, before they can see the fruits of their labor rewarded. In joining a startup, be prepared for the long haul and recognize it is going to be a fulfilling, although tough experience, should you have the motivation to embark on such a journey.