1. They Start Small
2. They Have Full Control of Their Finances
The number one way startups stay in business is by not running out of money. The best founders understand this fact and carefully build up sales as they grow. Whether they got their first round of funding through family and friends, customers through consulting or another revenue source, these founders are acutely aware of how much money they need to survive. With this handle of finances they know they need to scale revenue and expenses at the same time and take calculated risks. These founders don’t give out free rides – everyone in the company contributes and keeps the startup running until it’s ready to scale.
3. Their Startups Run Efficiently
Before scaling their company to the next level, the best founders know to make sure the current operation makes sense financially and economically. There’s no point trying to grow a company that has exponential costs as it grows. The best founders know that if they take time to fix their problems in the beginning, those problems won’t grow and bog down efficiency in the future. Even though the company will naturally cut down costs as it scales, having the ability to scale an efficient operation makes growth exponentially easier.
4. They’re Honest with Their Shortcomings
5. They Replace Themselves Out at the Right Time
The role of a startup founder changes with the company. In the early stages, the founder or founding team has done every role at least once. This changes as the company grows and scales, and the founders need to know when it’s the right time to replace themselves and hire a dedicated resource. The best founders can anticipate this moment, and spend a good amount of time before recruiting the perfect candidate to take over as they solidly sales or investment. When recruiting and investment align, these founders can move fast and get the right person in place.
6. They Fit the Product to the Market
Since the best founders start small and continuously iterate, they can make thousands of small changes to their product over time based on feedback from actual customers. This way they can almost retrofit the product to the market with customer feedback. As long as the customers advising the product build can account for most use cases in the market, founders can almost guarantee success finding product market fit.
7. They Focus on What Matters
The best startup founders focus their time on what will move the business forward. They can switch modes when necessary and make sure they hold themselves and their teams accountable for hitting their goals. If a part of the business doesn’t perform, they’ll have to pivot their time to fix it before handling more strategic initiatives. When they don’t have pressing issues, they make sure they’re spending time in the right place to bring in dividends for the future.
8. They Master Sales
Not every founder starts their career as a natural sales person, but every successful founder does cultivate that skill. Since revenue is the lifeblood of any business, the businesses with the founders who can sell will be the ones that survive. Missteps will happen with wrong investments being made, paying a certain role too much or running an ad campaign that couldn’t support itself. The companies that survive are the ones where the founder can easily close more business or put relationships back on track.
9. They Pivot When Necessary
The best founders can see the writing on the wall when their product isn’t taking off as anticipated. If these founders see a trend where they have trouble having users adopt the product or selling deals, they need to quickly pivot and either find a new market or change the product to match what users envision. Sometimes they’ve mistimed the market and the users don’t have the necessary knowledge to use it as intended. Other times the competition has already taken too much of the market and it’s too difficult to find new customers.
10. They Network and Know the Industry
Good founders start by solving a problem close to their hearts. Great founders then learn the industry and find key mentors, partners and employees within that industry to go even deeper. Although the problem an entrepreneur is solving can be the guiding light for success, having a pulse on the industry and its movement will ensure the startup doesn’t miss an important trend and lose its competitive edge. In addition to moving with the industry, having contacts deeply embedded in the industry can create strategic alliances, creative partnerships and positioning that stands out. Groups of tangential founders and startups can grow together and even co-sell if they have synergistic offerings.