There are many schools of thought on how you should start your startup. Experts like Melinda Emerson say that the best way to get started is to take small, concrete steps towards eventual independence, while other approaches, such as the Lean Startup method advocate for hitting the ground running and never pausing.
Every successful entrepreneur has weighed this question, of whether to start their business all in a rush, or with slow baby steps. There is no wrong answer; what's important is that you ask the question. I had the same challenge when I was launching Movers Corp. As a moving and storage booking platform, I had to take the baby steps because of my business model.
So what's right for you and your idea? Much of this comes down to your strengths as an entrepreneur, your ability to multitask, what kind of capital you have access to, and what your end goal is. Let's talk.
Benefits: Starting Fast, Launching Big
When you have the available capital and expertise to get everything lined up and ready to go, you get many benefits that are hard to replicate with a slower start. You may find:
You get more media attention. Everyone is interested in the new, exciting, happening now project. If you've been in slow but steady operation for the past several years, it can be harder to get media outlets to notice you, even if you're just now ready to be noticed.
You are more interesting to venture capital. Just like media, venture capitalists want to know what you're doing right now, not what you're going to be able to do eventually. You may have an easier time getting investments if you approach with a total business plan.
You can more easily keep your company lean and cost-effective. Because you're starting your company all at once, you have the ability to decide exactly what you need and hire very precisely.
Benefits: Starting in Steps
With all the benefits that come with a big start and a fast time table, you'd think that baby steps would be useless. In fact, there are many reasons that a baby step approach to product and business development can be perfect. Such as:
Mistakes can be small. When a big startup makes a big mistake, it gets big attention. When a small company makes a big mistake, it's not always as noticeable. Course correction is easier, and is often less dramatic.
You have time to learn. When you're building your company slowly, you have the chance to learn as you go. It's often just you and maybe one other person running things. You have the time to research, for example, SEO, or web design, or marketing strategies, which large companies that need to have everything ready to go tomorrow may not have.
You get to experiment and develop based on feedback. When you send out your product to your first few customers, you get to hear what they have to say, and refine your product and process accordingly.
How Do You Know Which Business Model Is For You?
If you're just starting out as an entrepreneur, how do you decide whether you're better off hitting the ground running, or building up a slow but steady start before your official launch?
Consider your personality and skill set. Do you feel most connected and in control when you have detailed knowledge of every piece of your business? Then start out slow, and delegate different tasks as they grow beyond what you can manage.
Are you a big picture person, excelling at seeing all the different pieces, but less spectacular at the fine details of coding, marketing, or working with data? You might want to start out with a team so that you can focus on your specialty.
Think about how you learn best. Do you easily pick up the basics of something as you do it the first time, or do you need to study something at multiple levels before you really fully comprehend it? If you excel at learning on your feet, shooting for a fast pace launch may be the right choice for you. If you really need time to digest and retain information, slower and steadier may be simpler.
Weigh the funding benefits. There are a multitude of funding options available for different types of businesses, but depending on your field, venture capitalists might have different expectations. Research your niche to find out what businesses have done previously in order to be extremely successful.
There is no one formula that is guaranteed to create a successful business, but with some self analysis and careful consideration, you can have a good idea of what sort of business might work best for you. Ultimately, the things that destroy many young businesses are problems like cash flow issues, poor marketing or branding choices, or not reaching the right customers at the right time. Whether your business gets off to a fast, rapid rise, or a slow but steady pace, these are problems that your business might need to manage at some point in time.
If you're still not sure which way to go, it's time to reach out in your local business community to get some in-person advice. Talk to your local Chamber of Commerce to find a mentor, or think about taking classes with your Small Business Administration chapter or local community college. Talk about the history of successful businesses in your community, work with them to get a better sense of your own skills and strengths, and consider their suggestions for what might work best for you to raise the capital you need to get started.