Winning isn’t everything in life, but it’s absolutely critical if you’re an entrepreneur trying to get your start-up business off the ground.
To make sure your business succeeds, check out these five lessons for startup success from entrepreneur Georgianna W. Oliver, founder and CEO of Package Concierge. She built and sold two companies before launching her current business.
Like other entrepreneurs, Oliver has experienced her share of highs and lows along the way.
1. Don’t overlook the importance of timing
You’ve heard the old adage that timing is everything. When it comes to starting a business, Oliver agrees 100 percent. Don’t leap before you look closely at the market, as well as the broader economy, to determine whether the timing is right for your product or service.
She launched Package Concierge in late 2012 as the U.S. economy and the real estate market were rebounding from the recession. It was definitely the right time to start a new business geared toward high-end apartments, even though she was aware of the need for her product much earlier. Now, the luxury apartment business is booming, and so are Package Concierge’s sales.
2. Promote professionalism
Your new business may just be getting started, but as a founder and leader it is essential that you think about professionalism in every aspect of your company. Professionalism is how you present yourself, your product, your brand, and how you correspond with your prospects, customers and colleagues.
Document everything, establish policies and create procedures. Hire a bookkeeper even if only for a few hours per week. Follow a budget and practice good financial management from the start to ensure your business is able to scale from day one.
As the business grows, all these items will become more important to ensure stability, maintain employee confidence and present a professional appearance for sales leads, clients, and business and financial partners.
3. Stick with what you know
Maybe you work in real estate, but have a great idea for a healthcare app. You might make a go of it, but your journey will be far more challenging than if you identify a business opportunity within your current industry. According to Oliver, a great idea can only take you so far without proper context, insight, operational understanding, hands-on experience and connections.
Such domain expertise can put you years ahead of the competition. All three of Oliver’s businesses have been technology solutions for the apartment business because she knows the industry, understands its challenges, and has valuable and longstanding advisors and connections to help improve the quality of her company’s product and services for her customers.
She is a big believer in experience and recommends entrepreneurs work in their target industries for five years before jumping into the game. For those too eager to wait that long, she advises they find and leverage a support system of experienced business people in their target markets who can offer valuable insights and advice.
4. Invest in people and product
Investing in your team — training, compensation package and professional development — is important so that everyone understands the company’s commitment to excellence. Regular team meetings and huddles are critical for communication, setting priorities, avoiding surprises and keeping everyone on the same page.
Oliver says entrepreneurs should also continuously invest in their product. In the end, it’s the quality and performance of your product that must stand up to customer scrutiny, inspire loyalty, and withstand the test of time.
Early on, Package Concierge selected a less expensive Chinese manufacturer to build its locker system. When the prototypes were delivered, she knew immediately it was not a product she could stand behind. It was an expensive lesson, but one that led her to join forces with a reputable, U.S.-based manufacturer capable of creating a high quality, reliable, scalable product that meets the standards of her industry-leading clients.
5. Be a leader, but don’t go it alone
If you are a leader in your industry, your customers have been your friends, your supporters, and your strongest advocates. Your customers count on you to deliver what you promise, and you count on them to provide quality feedback and help you develop your offering to be the best in class.
Oliver believes this type of network is invaluable to entrepreneurs and established business leaders alike. Even as she guides her third business down the path of success, she relies on her network of peers and industry influencers to guide her in making important decisions.
There are countless factors that lead to success, and many others that can lead to failure. Entrepreneurs who lay a solid foundation clearly have an edge.
Add professionalism, a commitment to quality and operational excellence, and leaders can build a company that will surpass their highest expectations.