SINGAPORE, MONDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2018 – Singapore is well-known as an international business centre, and attracts her fair share of MNCs and foreign investment. However, did you know that 99% of enterprises in our country is made up of SMEs? There are some 180,000 SMEs active on our tiny island, and together they contribute to nearly half of the GDP while employing about 70% of the nation’s workforce.
And in an era where disrupting traditional business practices is the name of the game, and overnight success can be found on the back of a brilliant idea, well executed, startups will become an increasingly common feature of the business landscape.
Startups may bring about new ways of work, but they aren’t immune to proven principles such as best practices. To make sure you stay ahead of the curve, check that you aren’t overlooking these 7 startup best practices.
- Choosing the Right Priorities
Running a startup is a complex affair. With the myriad problems to solve. It’s easy for your office to turn into a chaotic, quarreling mess. This often happens when priorities are wrong.
Bring clarity back into your startup by focussing on three priorities only: distribution, engagement and monetization. In other words, focus on 1) getting your products into the hands of customers 2) validating your product-market fit and that clients are using your products and 3) asking for money from your customers in return.
Have a clear, detailed plan for each of these priorities, set targets for each quarter, and have an all-hands meeting to communicate the plan to your employees. This will help everyone align along common goals, bring back cooperation and increase productivity.
- Cultivating a Media Relationship
Your startup may be doing great things, but without the media’s help, chances are your achievements won’t spread beyond the confines of your office walls.
Pursue a relationship with the media so you can amplify awareness of your brand at key moments. The secret is not to bombard the media with day-to-day minutiae, but to build and share something truly impactful, exciting and revolutionary.
Also, remember it’s not the media’s job to understand your industry; it’s their job to report it. So make sure to explain and demonstrate how and why your brand is making an impact – and why their readers should care – for the best chance of getting the coverage you need.
- Choosing the Right Competitive Strategy
When the Internet was in its infancy, Google wasn’t the only search portal around. Yet why did it survive and grow into the behemoth it is today, while its competitors floundered? Why did other portals like Alta Vista agree to let Google power their search results?
The answer: Google believed in the value of search, while the others did not. Google competed – and won – by out-distributing its competitors.
Herein lies an important lesson about how choosing the right competitive strategy can make or break your business. Going head-to-head with your competitors with the aim of taking down the leader may make for impressive boardroom rhetoric, but it rarely ever works out the way you want. Especially since startups have to be clever with how and where they employ limited resources.
Instead, study your opponents to understand their weaknesses. Once you find them, attack them by matching them to customer needs, and then build solutions and services to answer those needs. This way, you create maximum leverage while avoiding the fatal mistake of matching strength-for-strength. Yes, just like in judo!
- Being Different, Not Better
Is a better mousetrap necessarily better? Will the world really beat a path to your door if you build one?
Although many entrepreneurs seem to think so, this is a fallacy in 2018, mostly because the way consumers interact with brands have changed. (In fact, the truism started to lose its luster as early as 2014, when customers starting caring more and more about how products fit into their lives.)
Yet, many business owners and leaders seem obsessed with being better than their competition. Yes, it is important to deliver a better experience to customers, but doing so doesn’t doom you to copying the competition.
Instead strive to be different. Just think – if Apple had tried to go head to head with Microsoft back then, would it still be around today?
For all intents and purposes, both companies sell personal computers. But Apple has been so successful in ‘being different’ that it not only managed to stave off elimination, it grew into one of the most successful companies in the world today.
- Balancing Effectiveness and Productivity
Here’s a mantra that bears repeating: An effective person is productive, but a productive person may not be effective.
The difference is this: effectiveness targets work with high importance, but isn’t necessary the most urgent (such as, say, notes for next week’s investor call). Productivity deals with urgent tasks, but ones that are not that important (such as clearing your email inbox, for instance).
The next time you find yourself or your team caught in a fire-fighting quagmire, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you’re being effective or productive. And which is more important right now.
- Defining Career Paths for Employees
The employee of today is a free agent – hired, fired and resigning at will. This leads to some employers neglecting to define career paths. As a result, what could be (and should be) a rewarding career becomes just a job – i.e., a set of tasks that needs to be done.
If you want your team members to act like owners, then give them something to care about. Sit down and chart a viable career path with them, and let them know how far they can go. And if you happen to find a mismatch between ambition and ability (even the best of us falls short), offer to sponsor the relevant training when the time comes.
Try this and you will be much more likely to succeed in cultivating a high-powered and dependable team, instead of grappling with a revolving parade of new faces and thwarted project launches.
- Managing Burnout
Startups are intense experiences, and burnout is a very real danger to you and your team members. Maintaining high performance while preventing burnout is the sweet spot startups should be aiming for.
One good gauge to use is the tenor of emotion in the office – is the mood of your team members more positive or negative? An engaged and motivated team naturally displays positive energy, whereas a team that is under duress rarely does.
As one of the complaints of burnout is feeling emotionally depleted, you’ll want to strive to keep your team’s emotions on the positive side of the scale. To do so, you may have to dig deep to uncover the core issues that are affecting your employees.
However, don’t be overly concerned if your team seems to be displaying a lower level of energy. As long as the emotional tenor is positive, things are likely ok – they are probably just entering a much deserved phase of renewal!