Startup advice you haven't heard before

There's a lot of advice out there for startups.

Here are seven ways to think about your startup that will have greater impact on you and your business than any of the typical BS being passed around.

#1: Don't take yourself so seriously

This is such a terrible problem with startups these days.

Many startups take themselves so seriously that they won’t take a stand for anything and therefore, have no personality. All they stand for is not looking unprofessional and it makes me gag every time I see it.

It's like walking up to the investment banker or a lawyer at a party who’s wearing a light blue button up, dark slacks, and brown loafers -- just like every other investment banker I've ever met.

It's 2018, the world is changing, and customers aren't looking for a startup with a personality that’s as interesting as dry paint. They want to sign up for a product that elicits an emotional response, not a dressed up cardboard box.

As an example of this, you can spot it by looking at the homepage of any startup that looks like it was built with a Wordpress template, stock photography, bland, robotic copy, and a bunch of features spewed on the screen.

Maybe you're not at a point of being able to afford to do anything custom, that's fine. A good jumping off place is to start using conversational copy rather than rattling off statements with no meaning at all.

It's not just on the marketing site that I see startups taking themselves too seriously, but it's also in social media, marketing, and the way they interact with their customers.

You'll have a lot more fun building your startup and your co-workers will, too, if you drop the whole “holier-than-thou” brand and loosen the belt on your dark slacks.

#2: Don't be deceitful

For a startup to succeed, it needs to stop misleading its customers.

A common example of this is when a customer writes in with a feature request and the startup responds by telling them that “it's on their Roadmap” or that they'll “share the feedback with the team.”

Sometimes the above example might be true, and in that case, go ahead, but more often than not, it's lip service to try and convince the customer to sign up or to stay on the platform.

You may get away with telling a lie, you might not. What's more important is to always tell the truth to your customers, whether it's a feature request or a statement on your marketing site.

If not, lies and deceit will filter into your startup and it'll become acceptable to bend the truth in all things.

#3: Face the bad times head on

When the bad times come (and they will, multiple times during the life of your startup) you can't shy away. It's far easier to ignore what's right in front of you than to face it head on. I've tried -- many times -- without success.

Every time I've ignored a problem hoping that it will fix itself in time, it never did -- and I've regretted it.

This applies to people I should have let go far sooner than I did because they weren't working out, slow customer growth that I shrugged off as just an "off" month, product features not getting adapted and taking too long to pull the plug on them, and many more.

You have to listen to your gut, and if anything feels unsettling, you need to address it immediately.

It doesn't mean that there's an immediate solution, but you have to talk it out with your team or with whomever the appropriate person is. If you wait, it'll fester like a bad cut.

And if you have too many bad cuts at one time, you're going to get an infection and die.

#4: Only hire people who are excited to work with you

We've done a lot of hiring over the past year and every person we've ended up hiring has really wanted to work at Podia.

Some have been wanting to work with us for years before applying. I feel very fortunate that we've built a product, a brand, and a team that people want to work for.

If someone's excitement for the job doesn't shine through immediately in their application and extend through their interviews, all their professional accomplishments don't mean anything to me.

Let's hope they have those too, but I'd trade an enthusiastic developer for an apathetic developer who was a little more qualified for the technical aspects of a role in a heartbeat.

Your team can feel the enthusiasm of their co-workers and that will have such a great impact on everyone's lives than any other characteristic.

Nobody wants to work with someone who is just there to punch a clock. It will show in their work, too.

#5: Trust your team to do their jobs

If you don't feel as if you can trust anyone on your team, then don't hire that person in the first place (or let them go now). The best teams completely trust everyone they work with.

Trust can extend to various aspects of the startup. Anything from openly sharing your numbers and financials to handing off a project to a co-worker knowing that it'll be in good hands.

When everyone trusts everyone else, your job becomes so much easier.

An example from Podia is that all of our developers trust each other to release code without going through a massive review process. Yes, we do review "mission critical" code, but for the most part, we don't.

Trust is earned and being able to rely on your co-workers to perform their jobs well is critical to being able to focus on your own work rather than having to worry about if other people are competent at theirs.

#6: Do your own thing

My eyes roll every time I see a competitor sign up for our product or attend our live demos -- it happens every few days. At this point, I just laugh it off, but I have some advice for you: stop looking at what we're doing or anyone else is doing, and do your own thing.

Everything you need to know is right in front of you: the answers are in how your product is being used and in the thoughts and intentions of your customers.

If you have to look elsewhere for inspiration, you're doing it wrong.

You might think opening up Google and searching for the answer will get you what you need, but it won't. No number of articles written by entrepreneurs will get you the answers you need.

Emulating Slack or other fast-growing startups won't have the same results for you. The only thing that will work is if you focus on doing your own thing by looking at how your product is being used by your customers, and in turn, talking to those same customers.

That's one reason why I'm such a believer in having live chat throughout your product, because nothing beats a direct communication line while your customer is using your product.

#7: Don't have a big ego

Too often, I see a startup get a taste of success, and they change the way they act and forget just how they got there.

They start taking longer to respond to customers, they disrespect their partners and other companies they work with, and they generally act as if they're better than everyone.

A big ego can (and often does) lead directly to your downfall. When you think you're the best and that nobody can touch you, you'll start to lose your edge and everything with it.

There's no room for big egos at a startup.


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