Entrepreneurship may be the lifeblood of the economy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So how can you improve the chances for your concept, product or business so that it is among the success stories? Travis Lindsay, entrepreneur-in-residence at the CSUF Startup Incubator, discusses three things that must align for startup success.
On the frontlines of Mihaylo College’s outreach to Southern California entrepreneurs, Travis Lindsay has witnessed both startup successes and failures firsthand. He will be the first to tell you that finding success with your own business can be a long and winding road.
Lindsay, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics at Cal State Fullerton in 2007 and continued on to receive his MBA two years later, says “it can be overwhelming because there are literally hundreds of things to know when you’re starting a business. Legal structure, finance, accounting, human resources, partnerships, marketing and who your customers are, to name just a few.”
However, he points out that there are three factors to consider that will help you get your business venture off to a strong start.
While you might be able to start a business as a sole proprietorship, if you want to expand your model, you are going to need the help of others. And even single-person entities need outside advice and input.
“If you want to grow your business, you have to have a team,” says Lindsay. “You want to create an environment where individuals are able to bring their own expertise and energy into the equation.” You need to find partners who are strong in skill areas that you are weak in. If you are a strong salesperson but bad with numbers, for instance, it would help you to find a partner with accounting or finance training. Plus, having more people working toward a common goal who can tackle problems in a collaborative way is always beneficial.
Having a great business plan, a great product and a brilliant marketing strategy do not guarantee that everything will go smoothly for your business. In fact, lots of things are going to go wrong and you must be prepared for this reality. The success of your business depends on how strong and determined you can be in the face of the challenges that will inevitably appear.
“Keep on moving forward” says Lindsay. “Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go well.” The better you deal with hard times, the more likely it is that you will stick to your goals and achieve success. Tenacity is key.
Arguably the most difficult of the three factors to control is timing, but poor timing can be the downfall of even the best designed business model, while a plan that is only average can take off running if the timing is right. “If you act slowly, someone will overtake you,” says Lindsay. “If you’re too quick, there isn’t the infrastructure to support you.” Consider tech companies such as Google, Apple or Facebook. If potential competitors to these entrenched companies came onto the scene today, they would have a huge uphill battle competing for attention and market share. But had they debuted too early, there would not have been a market for their concepts.
While it is impossible to predict the future, one way to hedge against bad timing is to know your market inside and out. Read everything you can about your industry, study the competitors in the marketplace and talk to your customer base. The better you know your industry and customers’ needs, the better you will be at timing your company or product right.
Mihaylo’s Center for Entrepreneurship provides mentoring to students and community members with startup business concepts through the CSUF Startup Incubator. Apply for a six-month residency to get professional help with your business concept.