Startup Advice: How Not to Fail as a Startup

2014 was the year of startups and according to a report by The Telegraph, new startups are born every minute. If you have an idea but no money to back it up, no problem! There are tons of incubators, investors and VCs who will be more than happy to invest big money if your idea clicks to them. Read on for more startup advice…

There are more and more facilities available but unfortunately we see a large proportion of startups failing in the first few years. There are many reasons for failure which include setting up unrealistic goals, intangible business models, starting up in a declining market and others.

Failing is a part of the process but what’s always important is to know why things fail and how one can learn and steer clear from the same mistakes. In this post I am going to offer some tips and ideas that might help new startups stay in the market and be competitive for a longer period of time. Not only that but also help sustain their business and even grow.

1. Learn from Industry leaders

One of the biggest mistakes I see startup owners do is to assume they are better than everyone else in their market – this is one thing that will bring them failure. The whole idea is to learn from market leaders. They were not leaders from day one.

Get in to their history; see their sales graph, growth patterns and most importantly see what mistakes they made. Again, learn from them and plan a growth strategy for yourself instead of blindly following them and doing whatever they have done.

I was talking to the VP of search for The Workplace Depot, one of the giants in industrial supplies market in UK and this is what he advised to anyone new in their niche.

Concentrate on your own unique selling points and while keeping an eye on competition is important, you have to have a clear idea of where you want to be and how you are going to get there instead of wasting time and energy making sure you match up to your competitors.

2. Always have a Plan “B”

Business is not easy and in order to make everything run smoothly you need an extensive plan that covers everything from sales to growth, marketing to branding and more. Having a plan is important but one must realize the fact that in businesses there are times when things don’t go according plan and in that case you need to have something to fall back on.

Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion shared a great advice about why it’s always important to have a plan B. She said:

My point is to always have a Plan B that you can implement. Maybe you have to go to Plan C or D, but the point is that you always have to have a backup plan … So I look for young people who have the energy and drive to get things done, to keep their eye on where they’re going but at the same time realize they can’t do it alone. It’s not just a one-person show. You can’t be the micromanager; you have to be able to get things done through others.

3. Setting a Vision Statement

A vision statement for your business is as important as a business plan itself as it indicates what you should do as a startup and more importantly where you want to take your audience with your product or service.

There is a Japanese Proverb that says, ‘Vision without action is a daydream and actions without vision is a nightmare’.  Most startups comes up with great ideas but what they don’t focus is on their vision statement and that is one thing that keeping them away from being great.

When Rand Fishkin of changed their vision statement to create marketing tools and stop offering services that was a tough decision but they stuck to their vision and today is considered to be the most successful startup in the internet marketing industry.

I was searching for some inspiring quotes on vision statement and I found one by Sir Ernest Hall that nailed it perfectly.

To be a successful entrepreneur one needs a vision of greatness for one’s work. If we dream extravagantly we will be inspired to forge a reality beyond the straight jacket of practicalities. There is a profound connection between art and enterprise which allows businesses to overcome the limitations of their existing visions.

4. Get Real with Yourself

Another big mistake that most startups make is not getting real, and continuing to live in a dream bubble. In my opinion it’s important to dream big but in order to make that dream a reality, you have get out of their comfort zone and do some real work to make things happen as they ideally wanted to be.

A few things you can do in order to try to avoid failure is to trust data and statistics instead of using gut feelings. Set realistic goals and a proper execution plan to achieve and over achieve your set targets. Look into the mirror at yourself, if you are not management material; just hire someone who can manage things better than you can. You can then focus on something you are good at.

Once you start being honest with yourself and accept to the fact that you can’t do everything you will move a step away from failure. Lot of businesses I know failed just because they weren’t honest with themselves and didn’t understand their skillsets.

iO Tillett Wright, a New York based artist, director and photographer once said and this is exactly the kind of advice any startup owner should take in order to avoid failures.

All I’m ever looking for in my work in general is honesty and truth and people being real to them.

5. Build a Learning Culture

No matter how great your idea is, how smart your approach is and how successful you are in business at the moment, if you do not invest in building a learning culture within your startup organization, sooner or later it will fall apart.

In order to avoid failure and build a company your audience can admire you need to build a learning culture and from this I mean you need to change behaviors and processes as without these in place, it’s impossible to change the systems. Systems are key for business operations.

It’s not bad to take a business advice from a philosopher of science especially when comes to this:

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.


A startup is like setting up a family and we all know that gathering the whole family in once place is difficult,  you need to deal with all the good and bad times and stick together so that you can be successful on your own self and become an example for others.

Is your startup on a ventilator? You need to implement these ideas quickly in order to stay away from failure.

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