Every Fortune 500 company and billion dollar multinational was once a start-up run by a handful of people probably out of their mom’s garage. What took them from that tiny setup to a successful business? A genius idea, years of hard work and a bit of luck. They encountered hurdles along the way, and getting over them is what separated the men from the boys.
What if you could take a peek into the hurdles these start-ups tackled? Here are 10 lessons handed down by CEOs of multibillion dollar companies:
1. Build a solid Business Strategy. It’s natural for someone with a brilliant idea to jump to the drawing board. But remember, history teaches us success comes with patience. Stop yourself from skipping the planning phase and jumping into the design phase, no matter how tempting it seems. This might be hard if you’re an engineer but it will be worth it. A business plan outlines clear goals and timelines giving your start-up a direction. Without a plan you’re a bunch of guys shooting darts in the dark. If you hit the bullseye great, if you don’t, you don’t know what to do next. Outline day-to- day tasks, vendors and supplies needed and the process flow of events.
2. Determine the service/product process flow. For your product or service to transition smoothly from its initiation at your office to the delivery at the clients end, you need to have a fixed process flow in place. Without a process flow your start-up will be a bunch of employees performing tasks at random hoping they all sync together to form the end result. Sit down and identify the chain of events that the service or product has to go through. Define the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) matrix that distributes roles around the office.
3. Deploy a Service Catalogue. A false promise to a client or an assumption made on their part about your services could negatively impact your start-up. Make sure you know what your start-up is going to do and what it is not. Next, put it in writing in the form of a catalogue. The catalogue must describe every service and/or product your start-up deals with. This can include the process flow, deliverables, cost and contacts.
4. Define strict SLAs. Your employees might not be fond of them, but Service Level Agreements, or SLAs, say you are a disciplined start-up. An SLA defines how an output will be delivered, either in quality or time. For example, how quickly an incident will be resolved, or the percentage of guarantee for every product produced. If you have your SLAs in place before you approach a client, you can be sure to score extra points.
5. Be Open about Resource Use. Every project is going to need resources: man and machine. As a start-up it is wise to track and publish what resources are being utilized for a client’s task. You are after all, billing them for the very same resources.
6. Install Proactive and Reactive incident identifying/fixing methods. This one is critical for smooth day-to- day business continuity. As a service provider or a product manufacturer, simple resource monitoring systems will help you avoid facing sudden breakdowns and unnecessary downtime. For every machine or software there are customer help teams and tools that alert you before a critical breakdown, so you can take proactive measures to fix them. Being prepared for a breakdown is the next best thing. You cannot avoid a hardware or software failure completely. Make sure you have backup machines in place and the expertise to fix the problem.
7. Don't simply pick the first supplier. Launching a start-up can be daunting, especially with the number of market choices for vendors. You will be ‘sweet talked’ by every vendor you visit, because it is their job. Remember to look for two aspects: price and quality. It is always best to visit at least more than two vendors, compare bids and make only the best decision.
8. It is never early for a service desk. As a start-up your main concern is saving enough money to survive, and service desks cost money in ways of hardware and human resources. But think about it, once you have signed a deal with a client, whom do they call in case of emergencies or queries? A support team dedicated to handling customers gives your clients a sense of comfort. It also speeds up the process of fixing issues, by streamlining the process. Good customer relations are important for business sustainability.
9. Document every event. As a rule of thumb, document every event, incident, problem and change that occurs from day one. This documentation will come in handy when you face similar issues in the future, when you have to prepare reports or when you want to identify on what step in the process something went wrong. Trust me, all mega companies have clear, referenced documents of every event that occurs in a project.
10. Keep your clients in the loop for every change, problem and achievement. Being transparent about tasks that can affect your client is important in maintaining integrity. Any other way seems sneaky. You are already documenting every event. Make it a point to share relevant documentation with your client.