uring your next trip to your coffee shop, see if you can recognize the startup founder, the full-time employee, and the one who does both. Here’s a tip: look for the woman at the counter, tapping her foot as she waits for her americano, glancing expectantly at the time on her wrist. She doesn’t have a minute to waste.  Look for the guy browsing through the menu board, taking a good ten minutes just to order a latte. You guessed it -- this one works a standard, full-time gig. The person who isn’t in the coffee shop, but in the focus group above the coffee shop — he’s had his startup dreams crushed because he thought he could do both. To help you avoid having your dreams crushed, here are some important points that will require your undivided attention when building your startup:  

Starting at ground zero sounds hard… news flash, it is

The audience and the product are the two things that every startup founder needs to focus on the most. The initial stages might brush closely with an uncertain, nomadic lifestyle you didn’t expect for yourself. While this has its downsides, creating a new product that fills a real need is definitely worth your time. Curious co-founder, Linda Avey, filled a gap in a particularly niche market with a clip-on webcam that shows her what her cat does while she’s at work.  

Accelerator, Incubators, and Investors, oh my!

There is no exact template as to how a startup earns the mentorship of an accelerator or an incubator. An important step in the process of starting a business is developing and perfecting your negotiation skills — you will be negotiating often. Honing these skills will help out during your application process — Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta even sent a six-pack of beer to Y-Combinator. It is always wise to treat an accelerator or incubator as the Dr. Watson to your Sherlock Holmes, rather than the Apollo to your Rocky.  

Invest in your business or no one will invest in you

Why would someone invest in a business if its founders don’t even invest their own time in it? Write your emails to prospective investors carefully. Investors often hold the key to success for early stage startup companies. Consider your dream startup’s promising brand strategy and core values when contacting investors. Weigh all of your options before you reach out to anyone.  Also, if you have a co-founder, you two should share the outreach responsibilities -- you don’t have to go it alone. You share with each other the responsibility of growing a young company to the industry behemoth of your dreams, so make a point to be the co-founder your co-founder friend deserves.  

Your business is only as good as the people you hire

Startups are composed of teams who look up to one captain, steering the ship toward success. Give your startup’s senior team the security of having someone who will make sure they are always on the right track. According to famous football coach Tom Landry, “Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.” It is vital to provide a strong foundation to your startup’s team by promoting authority, respect, and confidence in your leadership style.  

Managing the day-to-day gets you to the year-to-year

In a small startup, managing the sales and marketing pipeline on a day-to-day basis is the founder’s responsibility. Staying on top of every detail is not an option for you; it’s an obligation. As the person with the vision, you know where you want your startup to go, and you know what it takes to get it there — it is up to you to keep things running smoothly and successfully.  

These priorities stress the importance of giving your startup your full, undivided attention at all times. Consider each one carefully to be sure that you are managing your time and attention most efficiently in each category. Think about which of the three you want to be: the one on a mission, the one just passing, or the one with regrets. This is your opportunity to decide which category you fall into.

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September 28, 2018
Business Building