6 Critical steps to take before launching your startup

Entrepreneurs may come up with a winning startup idea overnight, but putting it into action takes much more time and plenty of mistakes. Each misstep can be a learning opportunity as long as it isn’t your nascent company’s downfall. Here are six things you can do in the pre-launch phase to make sure your startup actually sees the light of day and winds up succeeding.

1. Decide what’s useful, discard the rest

There are thousands of great startup ideas out there, but not every entrepreneur has the confidence to put them into action, and some of them get shot down by naysayers. There’s no startup founder who doesn’t encounter self-doubt or skeptics, but if you can overcome these obstacles, you’re on the right path.

Don’t waste time. Disregard nonconstructive criticism, and stay focused on your idea. One way to do that is to be meticulous about planning: Put together a strategic road map for your first steps, and outline all the possible situations where things might go wrong. You won’t anticipate all of them, but it’s an important exercise in those early days.

2. Know what works for your competitors

It goes without saying that you’ll need to thoroughly research the market sector you’re trying to enter. But don’t just look for your competitors’ blind spots—figure out what’s working for them, too. Once you do, you can begin thinking of ways to improve on what’s already working for customers in that space, even if the idea originally came from a competitor. Sometimes real disruption is just about doing things better, not dramatically differently.

3. Simplify your ideas

Make sure your ideas are clear—then make sure again. Muddled thoughts lead to muddled business plans, and that lack of clarity can be a huge stumbling block. There are already plenty of unknowns to navigate in the pre-launch period, so you’ll want to do everything you can to minimize them. Simplify your central business idea to its core components, then build upon it so that every feature serves that main mission.

4. Self-educate

Seek advice from other successful entrepreneurs. Through networking, I’ve built relationships with friends and mentors who’ve overcome some of the same startup challenges I’ve faced. Whenever I had a question, I had someone reliable to reach out to. You should also spend your pre-launch phase brushing up on the art of entrepreneurship itself. Even if you only gain a little insight and it still feels pretty abstract until you actually dive in, that’s still knowledge you didn’t have before.

5. Outsource work right away

Funding is usually minimal in the early stages of startups, so hiring full-time staffers is nearly impossible—it’s hard to get dedicated talent without offering a salary you can’t afford. Save that for later, and outsource the work as you take off. This is also a great way to find talent as your business grows.

6. Look past the money

Don’t focus on turning a fast profit, because chances are that you won’t. This actually goes hand in hand with the importance of clarifying your ideas: How can you possibly make sound decisions when all your energy is tied up in the financials? Of course, that doesn’t mean throwing those considerations to the wind. It just means that the stages before you launch should be devoted first and foremost to developing a sound business model and following it with a strategic plan for growth. Once you get those things right, the money will be there.

As entrepreneurs, we all make mistakes, but it’s those who learn from them that ultimately make it. You need to do that right from the get-go, otherwise your startup may not have a chance to launch at all.

This article was originally published in Fast Company

Image credit: www.steamfeed.com

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