Being an entrepreneur in the dynamic startup world is a long, difficult road of challenges and new experiences. From NDAs to building MVPs and fundraising, there are a million things that any successful entrepreneur has to look out for. Between documents and development, one of the most important things anyone working at startup can do is to set a goal and keep focused on what they want to accomplish.
One of the best ways to stay motivated is by laying out “the big picture.” For startups, this big picture is often the ultimate goal of the company or solution, whether it’s something like creating the next big social platform or providing an optimized new service for people working in a given industry.
A startup’s big picture will often act as the driving force to keep the team from getting lost in the minutiae and minor details, and can help make sure that they effectively execute the company’s strategy.
Guide Decision Making
Running a startup invariably requires a great deal of decision-making. Some of them will feel like no-brainers, like deciding which emails are worth replying to or not. Others require a lot more thought, like the pros and cons of relocating or expanding your business to another city or even state.
Keeping an eye on the big picture would ideally make these kinds of decisions easier. Everything will eventually come down to the question: “Is this important to reaching my goal?"
The big picture allows startups to look at the decisions they need to make with some objective distance, rather than making a choice based on an immediate need. Getting some high-quality photos and high-fidelity designs for things like outbound marketing collateral is important, but maybe solidifying content and brand identity is more important in the long run.
Having the big picture and associated goals in mind can also help you find the tools that work the best for your startup, such as decision matrices, gantt charts, or other types of decision-making visualizations.
You don’t have to respond to every demand and opportunity that might come up as you continue building your startup -- it’s more important to pick and pursue the ones that will benefit you in the long run. Making the right decisions for your startup is all about staying focused on what you want to accomplish.
The big picture should act as a guide for each of your yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly milestones. Everything your startup does should be motivated by an overarching goal.
Find a way to remind yourself of the big picture every day, even if it’s as simple as writing it down somewhere where you and the others in your startup can easily find it.
Use it to Cultivate Culture
The big picture is something you and the other members of your team should share, so make sure to communicate it to all of your new and existing team members. Laying out a common goal gives everyone something in common to work toward, which can act as the basis for the team’s culture. If everyone cares about and stands behind the big picture goal, they’ll be motivated to improve what they do every day.
An overarching goal can also help guide your team and prioritize the data points and KPIs that will help your company grow in the way that it needs. You can find and set keywords that you can use to optimize your blog posts and website pages, identify who your competitors are and what keywords they’re competing for, and position your business in a way that would be valuable to your potential customers.
Think Big and Dream Big, but Stay Realistic
Reminding yourself of the big picture can bring you that much closer to your dreams, but you have to remember to set realistic expectations of yourself and your team.
Having a world-changing goal isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just as easy to get caught up in changing the world as it is to get caught up in the smallest details. You don’t have to start building up to your biggest vision immediately -- hit the milestones you’ve set first, and then think about how to optimize and improve from there.
Setbacks and challenges are inevitable when you’re trying to manage a startup, so having your vision is important, but you also have to make sure to maintain a balance. The road to the vision is just as important as the vision itself, so don’t be afraid to see where the process itself takes you and how your vision may even change.
If you have your vision and are looking for a team to build it, consider checking out our services page to see if we can help you bring it to life.
written by Celyn Matienzo
On Monday, The Portal hosted our quarterly Face to Face with Investors event -- one of the largest investor and entrepreneur gatherings in Orange County. This time we wanted to give our entrepreneurs an opportunity to join in the conversation and showcase their work, so we opened the floor for startups to share their insight on something that contributed to their success.
We welcomed Bjoern Zinssmeister and Matthias Kadenbach, co-founders of Templarbit to the stage to share what they learned from their experience as a summer 2017 Y Combinator company. Along with important reminders to sleep, exercise, and take care of yourself while going through the rigorous process of creating a startup, Bjoern and Matthias had important tips to successfully launching and growing their company.
Identify potential teammates. Relationships are an important part of beginning and launching a startup. You have to find someone that you can trust and can help you build your MVP.
Figure out a personal financial plan. Launching a startup doesn't come with a steady paycheck. Check how long you can survive on your savings without any additional money, and shoot for 6 - 12 months.
Work on something you're passionate about. Startups don't succeed overnight, and aiming for large-scale success can often require over a decade of commitment. If you're going to dedicate this much time to something, make sure that you really care about it. It'll give you the drive you need, and if you really believe that what you're doing will change the world, it'll help you communicate your idea with others.
Don't wait -- start today. Nothing, and no one is holding you back. You shouldn't waste your time with superficial details; focus on solving the underlying issues instead. Don't go out there hiring software agencies in foreign countries. If you have the skills and the requirements, start fixing and coding things on your own.
Make something that people want. This is the Y-Combinator slogan and it holds true.
Hold your early customers' hands. Don't worry about scale in the beginning. It might feel stupid, but your early customers will give you the most insight about your market and what your users want. Don't sacrifice these relationships and opportunities to focus on scaling too early.
Write code and talk to users. This is all that matters until you find your product market fit. Interact with your early customers, find out what they want, and build accordingly.
All startups are broken. But that's normal. Every startup will run into problems big and small, but take them in stride. Prioritize the larger, inevitable roadblocks and don't get caught up in the minutiae.
GROWTH. As your startup matures, make sure to focus on growth metrics. For example, you should be looking at your monthly active users, not just your signups. New users are great, but make sure the ones that you do have continue to use your product.
Don't hire until you have product market fit. You've heard it before: hire slow, fire fast. If you've made the wrong hiring decision, fire as fast as you can. Everyone in your team will appreciate it. Operate as lean as possible and keep your burn rate down. Sometimes a startup wins just by surviving longer than a competitor.
Ignore your competitors in the early phases. It might be good to know who's playing in your field, but put your blinders on and focus on your company. It's too easy to get caught up in your competition and end up dissuading yourself from continuing.
Raising money is not necessarily success. Raising money doesn't buy you success, just a runway that can help you take off. Bootstrapping for as long as possible might sometimes be the best option. When you raise money, you're giving away a portion of control your company, meaning you're more likely to have a boss again and having no leverage also means your terms will be less favorable. That being said, don't over-optimize your term sheet.
Invest in your co-founder relationship health. Being co-founders of a company is often like a marriage. All of you are in this together, so work on maintaining your relationships so you can continue to build your vision.
Celebrate all wins, big and small. It can sometimes feel like startups go through more downs than ups, so make sure to celebrate all the little victories.
Last week, we shared with you our interview with Miles Bonner, a Portal alumnus. He expressed that his time at The Portal helped him cultivate communication skills, in addition to providing him real-world technical experience.
This week, we want to show you that Miles does not stand alone in his assessment of The Portal. Our student apprentices highly value the experiences and skills they gain when they learn with us. After surveying almost 30 of our students, here are the top 5 reasons students love their experiences at The Portal:
1) Sharpening their skills through real-world experience
When students learn at The Portal, they gain experience on live projects for real clients. We want to fill the skills gap. When students graduate from college, they start applying to jobs so that they can gain experience. But when they go to apply to jobs they discover that they need experience just to apply! How’s a student supposed to get ahead?
The Portal solves this problem by mentoring students as they are trained on live projects. Our students learn applicable technical skills, as well as soft skills like communication and teamwork. By the time students graduate from The Portal, they are prepared with experience to land the jobs they want.
2) Practicing teamwork
Just like technical capabilities, working on a team is a skill we aim to cultivate in our students. In classes, students are asked to work on group projects. But have you ever been in the situation where you end up doing all the work, and someone else gets the same credit you do?
When students are involved in real projects at The Portal, everyone pulls their own weight. As students work together, they learn to ask for help when they need it, and how to help their peers in turn.
3) Talking with clients
When our students talk with clients, they learn that they are doing much more than coding. Every company we partner with is aiming to solve a problem with their product or service. Our developers come alongside our clients and help them execute those solutions.
4) Mentorship by our professional staff
Our professional staff is passionate about helping students and ensuring our clients receive quality products and services. We work hard to cultivate a learning environment where all of our developers are encouraged to ask questions.
We ask that our students to take initiative and have a desire to learn on their own. When they do, our professional staff is ready and excited to help.
5) Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit
The Portal is a small company and we partner primarily with other small companies. Because of this, students are constantly surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit that encourages them to try new things and solve new problems.
In their time at The Portal, students learn what it takes to start a business as they observe their clients. A desire to find solutions, no matter the context, is an attitude that follows our students long after they leave The Portal.
Now that you’ve learned what students appreciate about The Portal, are you ready to join our team? Great! We are currently accepting applications for our development apprenticeship program. We look forward to meeting you!