We are smart people. So before we started our startup, we thoroughly thought about our business strategy . Perhaps we drafted a comprehensive business plan which outlined our specific market and how to leverage our competitive advantages.
Armed with our plan, we started. We marketed and began selling. We talked to our customers.
Here is where it always gets interesting. When we offer our product, a lot of times, the consumer will ask us for something else. Another way to use our product. An altered product, perhaps. Or a service related to what we are offering, but not exactly what we are offering. When I was selling our HR technology products in our startup STORM, I was asked several times by HR Directors about whether we did executive search. I always thought it was a good thing that I kept on saying no.
Since we are smart, we would probably invoke Steve Jobs and think about his “Focus is saying no” mantra. You might be tempted to say no and say “the money’s good , but this will be a distraction.”
Let me give you one piece of advice:
Do the service. Bend over backward a bit. Then take the money.
When you begin startup operations, there should be one thing that should consume you above everything else: SURVIVAL. A lot of us have grand plans and we dream of raking in the dough the moment we start. Then we do start and the dual-reality hits us: it’s hard to get customers to open up their wallets and costs are higher than we expected. The dream then transforms into a (necessary) desperation.
Most startups kick the bucket in 5 years. 99% of them do so because they didn’t have enough cash to sustain operations. Cash is king.
As CEO, would you rather deal with a profitable company dealing with lack of focus, or a “strategic” company going under? Thought so.
Beggars aren’t choosers. Startups are essentially beggars. So take whatever money that you can to survive.
Saying no to focus is crucial, but it normally comes after a few years when your startup more or less has created an identity and is a bit more financially stable.
Cash allows your startup to be flexible. Cash will give you leverage – and time – to solve problems. Lack of cash is the opposite – it is a death sentence.
For startups, survival is success. If your startup idea is a good one, I guarantee you this: as long as you survive those critical first few years, IT WILL GET BETTER. But until it does, you have to hang in there and just concentrate keep your head above water. This means saying yes to any and every monetary opportunity available, as long as you don’t veer so much from your main vision ( a judgment call). Keep your head above water – there is nothing more crucial than this when you start. Eliminate luxuries, create an ultra-conscious culture to keep costs low, and maximize every earning opportunity.
The mind-blowing thing is, that “extra” thing that you were asked to do might be the bigger business opportunity than your original plan. Paypal started out as a Palm Pilot electronic wallet idea. The had an online emulator which did payments online, and at first, they were ignoring the sudden rush of people which wanted to do online payments. Then it finally hit them in the head that they were inadvertently sitting on a goldmine.
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