Leaving a stable corporate career to launch your startup is a bold move filled with both risk and rewards. While entrepreneurship provides exciting opportunities to build something from the ground up, it also comes with unique challenges. For business executives shifting gears into the startup world, leaning on fundamental business principles while embracing an entrepreneurial mindset is key.
Create a strong strategic foundation
Seasoned executives understand the importance of strategic planning, but startups require flexibility to pivot as the business develops. Successful scott biddle scotlynn executive-turned-entrepreneurs recommend keeping strategy simple at first. Identify your core mission and competitive advantage, along with measurable milestones for the first 12-18 months. Be prepared to re-evaluate and adjust as needed. Having an intelligent strategy balanced with agility will position you for success.
Assemble a versatile team
Accustomed to big corporate teams, executives may be tempted to scale up quickly. But, early-stage startups fare better with a scrappy, versatile founding team. Seek out “generalists” skilled in wearing multiple hats rather than specialists. Multidisciplinary teams that handle shifting priorities are ideal for lean startups. Compensate by partnering with agencies or contractors for specialized skills like tech development. A tight-knit founding team of flexible problem-solvers goes a long way.
Embrace a frugal mindset
Most executives are used to generous budgets and abundant resources. As a startup founder, you’ll need to embrace constraints and bootstrap creatively. Take cost-saving measures like managing operations from a home office, using free marketing tools, and hosting virtual events. Every dollar counts, so vigilantly track expenses and stay disciplined on discretionary spending. Adopting a lean, frugal approach will help your runway last longer.
Learn sales skills
Founders have to be chief sales officers, regardless of background. Executives used to having extensive sales teams now need to close deals directly. Learn sales fundamentals like pitching, objection handling, and relationship-building. Shadow sales reps at networking events to upskill. Set individual sales targets and rigorously track deal pipelines. Get comfortable hearing “no” and following up persistently. Strong sales abilities allow startups to translate ideas into revenue.
Seek knowledge from mentors
As a startup founder, you’ll need to proactively cultivate those relationships through warm outreach. Identify leaders who advise you on fundraising, marketing, leadership, or other areas critical to your startup. Ask seasoned founders in your network for intros to potential mentors. Be clear on goals for the mentoring relationships and coachability. Knowledge from those further along the path can propel your success.
In contrast to having teams to analyze decisions, founders are making judgment calls constantly. This decision fatigue leads to poor choices that set the startup back. Look for opportunities to outsource decision-making when reasonable. Set standard policies for repetitive scenarios to avoid decision rework. Bring in unbiased advisors when facing major strategic dilemmas or unknowns. Conserving your decision stamina will serve the startup well.
Fundraise far in advance
Executives are rarely involved in fundraising, but it’s imperative for startups. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long before engaging investors. Start building relationships with friendly funding sources at least 12 months out. Learn pitching skills and create memorable funding decks. With sufficient runway, you won’t be scrambling for capital at inopportune times. Treat fundraising as a consistent initiative rather than a sporadic chore.