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3 Powerful Ways to Stay Motivated While Building Your Startup

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building a startup

I hear one particular story being repeated over and over again in the startup world. See if you’ve heard it before. A friend tells me how excited he is about a new business idea. He’s talked to several potential customers who seem really interested, and he’s even contracted folks in the industry to help him build a prototype.

Two months later, I meet with him again. He’s still very excited, working hard at all hours of the day, and he says that they’re actually about to release the prototype. Another 2 or 3 months go by and I check in to ask him how everything is going.

Glumly, he tells me, “Well, we released the prototype to a couple of early adopters, but we didn’t find they were using it on a daily basis.” Or, “We spent like $50 on Facebook ads to spread the word, but nobody signed up.” And on and on it goes.

Just like that, another wantrepreneur’s dreams are crushed. “Maybe this entrepreneurship thing just isn’t for me,” he says. Sound familiar? It happens to all of us. We have that initial burst of excitement and we get super motivated to pursue our business idea, but then when reality hits and things don’t go as planned, we lose that spark and our motivation hits rock bottom.

People don’t realize that building a startup is like a roller coaster – one day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re having the worst day ever. Motivation is like the fuel in your car, when you run out, your company stalls and comes to a complete stop.

People always ask me how I maintain my motivation throughout the ups and downs of startup life. Like any other positive habit, you have to train yourself and you need a few techniques in your back pocket to help you get out of that rut when you (inevitably) fall into it.

Here are a few things that have helped me stay motivated while building my business:

1. Listen to or Read Something Motivational Each Day

This is actually one of my main sources of motivation. Every day, I listen to an entrepreneurship podcast and learn something new.

When you hear an interview with a successful founder, and he says he wakes up every day at 4AM to spend 2 hours writing a chapter of his book before heading into work, it makes you think “Wow! I thought I was working hard!”

I’ll listen to an owner talk about how he lost everything and managed to bring himself back from ruins. That kind of story can motivate anybody to push through the rough times in their own life and business endeavors.

When I hear these types of inspirational interviews during my morning walk, I go home eager to start work for the day!

“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.”  – Ryan Freitas

2. Have a Learning Mindset

No matter how excited you are about your startup idea, remember that it’s a learning experience. A year from now, you may end up developing something totally different based on feedback you get from customers. If your first prototype doesn’t get the traction or results you were hoping for, then learn why that is.

Did it not solve the customer’s pain point? Were you solving the wrong problem? Call up the users and ask them why are they’re not using or buying your product! Brice McBeth in his book ‘Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves’, shares his experience with the launch of an e-commerce website that he was trying to promote.

He found that potential customers were just not signing up, even though his team built a visually stunning website. It wasn’t until after he called several customers that he learned they felt the website looked too fancy for them.

They weren’t signing up because they thought the product was too expensive even though they hadn’t even looked at the pricing page. They based their assumption purely on the landing page. He changed the website and the product took off. So don’t get discouraged if your first launch fails. Go out and ask for feedback and correct your mistakes!

3. Sign Up Real Customers

The biggest motivating factor for me so far has been signing up our startup’s first real customers. Not a friend and not someone I met at a networking event who was doing me a favor. A complete stranger who found us on the web and wanted to sign up because she was interested in the product.

When I talked to this customer on the phone, she had no idea we were a startup in the beta stage. She was an office manager of a landscape and lawn service company who was looking for a time tracking software. Having a “real” customer using our application and depending on us to process payroll was a huge responsibility, but it was also motivation for us because we didn’t want to let a customer down.

I’ve found the wantrepreneurs of the world are a little intimidated by the important step of accumulating real customers. When beta customers sign up, they expect to have some issues with the product or software, but when a real, expectant, interested customer signs up and hands over their hard-earned money, it’s a whole different ball game.

But don’t be intimidated! The key is providing excellent customer service. Then your customers will stay with you even if your product is basic and buggy, because they know you will fix it and take care of them down the road. Trust me, waking up every morning knowing people are depending on you is the biggest motivation of all!

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

Maintaining motivation while you’re working on your startup, especially at the beginning, is like anything else important in your life – you have to work at it! Listen to or read something inspirational every day, maintain the mindset that everything is a learning experience, and take that plunge to find real customers.

Then, use your system to be accountable for your work and provide great service, and you’ll discover the motivation to move forward even in the toughest of times.

How do you stay motivated while building your startup or running your business? Comment below!

Raya Khashab is the CEO and co-founder of ezClocker, a time tracking and scheduling software for small business. She is passionate about customers and building products that change the way people run their business. She is also a big supporter of the startup community and helping people achieve their dreams. You can reach her on Twitter @rayakhashab

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Startups

How to Avoid Startup Clichés and Buzzwords When Pitching Investors

Using jargon can make you sound like you’re trying to fill space instead of providing meaningful data

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How to pitch investors better

Entrepreneurs frequently seek startup funding through a variety of channels. Yet, none seem as challenging as successfully pitching to experienced investors. After all, investors are pressed for time and eager for opportunities. These characteristics make it challenging to motivate them, especially if you’re bombarding them with a pitch full of jargon. (more…)

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From Idea to Empire: 5 Power Moves for Your Startup to Thrive in Today’s Market

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial

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How to thrive in the startup market in 2024

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial.

A few months into the startup, I was quick to gauge why it is necessary to go beyond the nuances of operational efficiency and the art of sustaining a business amid growing competition.

Collaboration is key.

The HR and the recruiting teams work with departments to foster a culture of collaboration, but what’s indispensable to business performance is the sync between the marketing and sales teams. What we’d consider as entrepreneurs is the need to ensure seamless collaboration to predict and achieve business goals together. In turn, this will help secure long-term recurring revenue for the business.

Besides, entrepreneurs need to focus on revenue as they gear up to take their startup from $0 to $1 million. The journey is filled with critical decisions, from identifying your target customer base to choosing the right funding strategy.

So, what next?

Read on… because here are five practical, results-driven strategies that you as a founder can implement to make a mark in their industry.

#1. Embrace the Lean Methodology

What is lean methodology?

It is all about pivoting resources to create more value for customers with fewer resources. 

This principle encourages you to be more agile and allow rapid iteration based on customer feedback rather than spending years perfecting a product before it hits the market.

Want to implement it?

Here’s what you can do.

Build “Measure-Learn” Loop: What I did was develop a minimum viable product (MVP), a simple version of the product. You can do the same since it allows you to start the learning process as quickly as possible. After launching MVP, measure how customers use it and learn from their behaviors and feedback.

Here’s what I can recommend here:

  • Identify the core features that solve your customers’ primary needs and focus solely on those to develop your MVP.
  • Know the feedback channels where early users can communicate their experiences, suggestions, and complaints.
  • Analyze user behavior and feedback to make informed product development and iteration decisions.

#2. Focus on Customer Development

Let’s talk about taking our startup to the next level. 

It’s not just about getting customers – it’s about really getting to know them. We need to dive into their world, understand their struggles, and see how our product or service can make a difference in their lives. 

It’s like we’re detectives, piecing together the puzzle of our business hypothesis by actually chatting with our customers

What would you ideally do here?

Understand Customer Segments: I’d say, start dividing your target market into segments and develop a deep understanding of each segment’s demographics, behaviors, needs, and pain points. The idea is to get into their shoes and really feel what they feel.

Ensure your Product Clicks: When starting up, think of what you offer and consider whether it clicks with what our customers need. My thought was “Does my product solve their problems? Does it make their day better?” Put yourself through a tough grilling session to show customers the value proposition and ensure that the product’s promise matches what our customers are looking for.

I’d recommend the following actions here:

  • Talk to them – through surveys, interviews, or even casual chats. The goal? To gather real, raw insights about what they need and expect.
  • Use the collected data to create detailed profiles for each type of customer. This way, everyone on our team really understood we were serving. I think this should help your startup as well.
  • Try out different versions of our product with a few customer groups. It’s all about feedback here – understanding if you’re hitting the mark or if we need to pivot.

#3. Foster a Data-Driven Culture

The digital world is highly data driven since it fuels key decisions in a startup. 

I believe it’s essential for us to build a data-driven culture. This means, you’ll move from making decisions based on hunches or assumptions. Instead, the focus should be on data analytics and insights to guide our strategies and improve our outcomes.

What can you do?

Use Data Analytics Tools: You should be using these tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data related to customer behavior, market trends, and our business operations. Here, consider the adoption of pipeline forecasting that leverages AI to find patterns in marketing data. 

In turn, you’ll get areas for improvement since it can analyze historical data and predict the outcome for you to plan your.

Action Items:

  • Pinpoint key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your business objectives and ensure they are measurable and actionable.
  • Next, you can consider training your team to understand and use data analytics tools. This might involve workshops or bringing in experts to build a data-savvy workforce.
  • Once everything is in place, regularly review data reports and dashboards. This gives us a clear picture of a startup’s health and helps adjust your strategies and predict future trends.

#4. Strengthen Your Financial Acumen

A good grip on financial skills is important to steer your business towards growth and making sure it stays on track. For this, you’ll have to understand the money side of things, which helps you manage your cash flow. Think of figuring out smart investment moves and sizing up any risks that come your way.

Here’s a tip on how you can get savvy with your finances.

Maintain Rigorous Financial Discipline: I’m really focused on cultivating a strong company culture, one that truly resonates with our mission. So, I’d suggest fostering open communication and encouraging a sense of ownership and collaboration among everyone in the team.

Action Items:

  • Get to know your financial statements inside out – I’m talking about the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. These are like the vital signs for your business’s financial health
  • Use financial forecasting that helps predict your future money moves. With this, you will have a heads-up on upcoming revenues, expenses, and how much cash you’ll need. Also, research on the available financial forecasting tools that can make predictions spot-on.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Regularly touch base with financial advisors or mentors. With them by your side, you’ll have a fresh perspective on your financial strategies to ensure you’re on the right path to hit your business goals.

5. Prioritize Team Building and Leadership Development

It is crucial to focus on building a solid team and developing strong leaders. This means putting our resources into the people who are going to propel our company forward. 

What you’ll aim for here?

Creating a culture where everyone collaborates and every team member has the chance to emerge as a leader.

What I would do:

Cultivate a Strong Company Culture: This culture should mirror our mission and foster open communication. It’s important that it encourages everyone to feel a sense of ownership and work together.

Invest in Leadership and Team Development: As founders, we’ll have to make way for opportunities for teams to enhance their skills, face new challenges, and grow in their careers.

Some concrete steps that you should consider taking:

  • Begin with clearly communicating your startup’s vision, mission, and values so that every team member is on the same page.
  • Conduct regular team-building activities and workshops to boost skills and strengthen a sense of unity and collaboration.
  • How about starting a mentorship program within our organization? The more experienced team members could guide and support the growth of newer or less experienced folks.
  • Alas… encourage feedback at all levels. We should keep striving to create an environment where open, honest communication is the norm and everyone feels safe to speak up.

I know it’s one thing to get your head around these ideas and quite another to actually make them a part of your everyday business life. But that’s where the real magic happens, right? It’s all in the doing. 

As a startup founder, this means more than just being a big dreamer. How about rolling up your sleeves to be the planner who pays attention to the smallest details. Ultimately, these tips and more tactics around it will help carve a leader in you who listens and cares and the learner who’s always ready to adapt

So, as you’re either starting out or moving forward on this entrepreneurial adventure, keep these practical tips right there.

May these be your guiding lights, helping you steer through the wild and exciting world of building a startup that’s not just a dream, but a thriving reality.

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12 Things I Learned in 12 Months of Working on My Startup

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A few weeks ago I launched my startup. It took exactly 12 months from the initial idea until the moment I saw my app in the App Store. And these were some of the most challenging, fun and exciting 12 months of my whole life. (more…)

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8 Actionable Ways to Get Your Startup’s First 100 Customers

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What’s the one thing that every business wants? Is it money, fame, or endless resources? The answer is quite simple—customers. Having customers is the sure-shot way of ensuring that your business stays afloat in the long run. No matter how good your product or services are, without people buying what you sell, you won’t reach anywhere. However, establishing a customer base is one of the most challenging things a business has to do, especially if you are just starting. (more…)

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