Address These Considerations for Your Start-Up
Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
Are you ready to start your new company? I am presuming you are not doing it alone. And, as such, your start-up team needs a combined skill set covering your needs in engineering, business, and finance. That typically means your team will be comprised of 3 or 4 members. (Our spin-off firms started with 5, 3, 3, 4, and 3 members, over the past four decades.) But, that doesnít really tell you enough about what needs must be addressed. Here are some basic considerations before you officially start the venture.
Domain expertise is required.
If no one on your team has experience in your target niche, you need to expand the group. You need someone who understands the vagaries of the market, what has and has not worked in the past, and the vocabulary to insure the success of your team. If you are going to need outside funding, it wonít come without this component on your team.
Decide on your company culture and mission statement.
If you canít agree on these matters, then you need a different team- or perhaps a different team member who can help you all agree. This face you will present to the world- and to your new employees- is what needs to be firm, to insure the success of your product/service, your marketing, and your growth.
Decide on your CEO.
This is the person that will arbitrate among the various factions to insure your product/service meets the needs and wants of the niche you plan to satisfy. He/She will insure that the actions of your team mesh with the culture and mission statement. Note that this person may not be the right person for your team (and company) as you reach the next growth stages. That is not the failure of the CEO, but a result of matching the team strengths to the actions needed.
Determine your marketing approaches.
Nowadays, we must address traditional and social media efforts. You need to understand the nicheís current and future needs. This requires both business and technical savvy to insure success. In addition to these conventional avenues (print, journal, and personal marketing), social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) needs to be included to succeed in todayís marketplace (yes, even if you niche market involves the senior citizen set).
Address Personal and Passion Issues among the team members.
This is where the younger teams excel. They have the passion AND the energy to continue to provide 110%. Not that we geezers canít muster up such reserves, itsí that there are typically family issues that come into play. You also need to insure that your team is devoted to success- or you all know that this is just a part-time gig until/unless certain milestones are reached. And, if that is the approach, you team members must understand what the commitments will be once the milestones are achieved. This is not something that can be glossed over- because it will lead to untold grief in the future.
Choosing people with various skills to develop your team is at best a minimum requirement. You need folks with passion, are hard workers, want the same business culture and missions you do. Not usually discussed are the long-term goals you all have- but they need to be. Some folks are serial entrepreneurs, looking to start a venture, get it going, and hand it off to others. Other folks hope to make millions from the venture via sale to another entity; still others want to turn it into a public stock firm; with just as many looking for a lifestyle business. These need to be defined at the outset to insure the success of the venture as everyone sees it.
Codify your Partnership Agreements.
Just like I advocate for pre-nuptial agreements, you need partnership agreements. You will notice that this means you really canít start a business with strangers. You need to do a little dating first to make sure you all have the right fit. (The term ďpartnership agreementĒ does not mean you are setting up a partnership; your entity can be a corporation, an LLC, or a partnership; although, if you seeking outside funding, a corporation is usually best.) This needs to cover decision making (what constitutes a tie-breaker), vesting schedules, intellectual property rights, as well as the failure of an individual to meet the obligations discussed above. You need to protect yourselves AND your venture.
The following concerns are not absolutely required- but we would strongly advocate for their inclusion.
Constitute an Advisory Board
You will not be able to afford a full-fledged board of directors, at first. But, including folks (talented and skilled, in particular) who can tell you when the Emperorís clothes are missing or tattered are vital to the success of your organization. It would be even more useful if these folks have experience in your intended domain.
Get a Cheerleader
Things are not going to go as planned all the time. On days like that- or when you donít get the sale for which you hoped, you will need someone to help keep your spirits up. This can be a spouse, a great friend, or a dog- just get someone or something to help you find the light on those cloudy day.
Prepare Your Rainy-Day Fund.
Paychecks are going to be few and far between, on more than one occasion. You will need to have some money squirreled away to handle these periods. You will, at times, wonder why you are working 60, 70, or 80 hours a week to make less than you were making working for someone else. You are doing this because itís your baby- and you always love your babies.
Good luck! And I wish you- Great Success!
The Adjuvancy, LLC
Post Office Box 25766
Alexandria, Virginia 22313