When we are driving, we clearly know that parking in an intersection would not result in anything positive. It would mean bringing all traffic flow to a halt, it could potentially cause an accident, and certainly, parking in the intersection would create extreme frustration (perhaps even road rage) for other drivers.
Yet, many company founders will do what amounts to parking in an intersection in their businesses: wrecking professional relationships, stopping cash flow in its tracks, driving up the costs and causing employee and customer discontent.
According to Statistic Brain, 25 percent of startups fail the first year while 71 percent of businesses fail within the first decade. It doesn’t have to be that way if you put some business rules to work and navigate through the available solutions to identify those that can help keep your business pointing in the right direction.
Break #1: Underestimating the Power of SEO
Focusing on social networks can bring you some attention, but it should not be your “bread and butter” strategy, as so many startups assume. Instead, search is still where the focus should be in terms of the real traction that will be made in your new business.
As a Business2Community article noted in its roundup of SEO and search statistics, “organic search drives 51% of all visitors to both B2B and B2C websites, while paid search drives 10% (and social 5%, on average). 89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine.”
The article also noted “72% of enterprise marketers rate search engine optimization (SEO) as successful in achieving marketing objectives like lead generation and increased Web traffic,” and “the top challenges in SEO are link building (cited by 41% of corporate marketers) and keyword research (39%),” both according to MediaPost research.
If you are not taking these statistics to the heart of your marketing strategy, then you are parking in the intersection of Missed Opportunities Avenue and Competitors Win Boulevard.
Make #1: Create a Comprehensive SEO Strategy
Take the time to understand all the aspects that should go into your SEO strategy. It’s not a stand-alone tactic that involves one type of content, like optimizing your website, but instead requires a much more concerted effort across many aspects of your marketing plan. According to Searchmetrics, SEO rank correlations and ranking factors include a holistic, context-based approach, technical performance and page architecture, fewer keyword links than you most likely think and more user signals.
As Searchmetrics noted in its 2015 white paper, “A well-optimized technical performance of a page contributes to a good ranking, such as, robust site architecture with an optimal internal linking structure, short loading times and presence of meta tags.”
Note: If you've been hit with a penalty for a bad SEO strategy, read The 12-Step Program To Recover Your Blog From Any Google Penalty. It will also help you form a better plan with statistical data that I know works.
Related Article: Why You Should Consider Bing in Your SEO Strategy
Break #2: Making Work Silos Among Team
While you may not intend to do it, creating work silos among a virtual team is pretty easy to do, considering the distance and lack of interaction that may occur. Without the connection and collaborative environment in place, your team may quickly become disjointed and demotivated in their corner of the globe. Your overall productivity will drop with the risk of missed deadlines and launches. With time being of the essence to make it to market before your competition, this lack of teamwork can become your downfall, your stall in the intersection of your business.
According to findings from Wrike, a project management and collaboration platform, “It’s estimated that 25% of the average worker’s day is wasted on inefficient work. That’s huge. If you work an 8-hour day, that’s 2 hours wasted every day, 10 hours per week, and 520 hours per year."
"Do the math and you’re paying the average worker for 65 days (over three months of work!) of “info gathering” every year. For every employee in your company.”
Imagine what you could have done with that time had everyone been working together in a more efficient, effective way rather than by themselves.
Make #2: Use an Online Collaborative Process to Manage Work
To make virtual collaboration work, it is important to develop a process or use a platform that incorporates technology and that facilitates communication and social interaction to keep projects moving forward.
This recent article shares tools for telecommuting challenges, for example, platforms where everyone can come together on a team, share ideas, update each other on progress, check deadlines, ask questions, exchange files and have meetings together in a similar way to if they were in a physical office together. This type of collaborative environment can make a better team and company.
Break #3: Overspending on Basic Services
There is no reason to spend money on some basic services when so many of them are now available for free or a less-expensive rate. Certain services, such as web hosting, invoicing and business forms and templates are now available online at a much lower rate than they used to be.
So, you do not have to overspend and burn through that funding. In fact, a recent Entrepreneur article listed things like subscription-based fees as something to completely avoid for a startup.
Make #3: Opt for Service Providers That Offer High-Quality Solutions for Free or at a Low Price
Many companies, such as Hostwinds (great hosting company I like that’s not us) and The Frugal Entrepreneur have made it their goal to provide high-quality services free or very low-cost as well as release helpful templates to help you save time and money on standardized processes like web-hosting, invoices, business plans, reports, and more, including those that integrate with Word, Excel, Google Docs and more.
In return, your limited funds will go further and allow you to do more with less in a professional, efficient manner. All three services have helped me as a freelancer.
Break #4: Hiring Too Many People Too Quickly
As Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator, noted, one of the biggest mistakes in business is hiring too many people. As he noted in his article about the biggest startup mistakes, "The classic way to burn through cash is by hiring a lot of people. This bites you twice: in addition to increasing your costs, it slows you down—so money that's getting consumed faster has to last longer....so only hire people who are either going to write code or go out and get users, because those are the only things you need at first."
Upstart Magazine agreed and provided numerous other risk factors involved with hiring too quickly: "In addition to the recruitment and salary costs, there are additional physical costs such as a necessarily larger office space, equipment and supplies. There's also the psychological cost: What will happen to these people if your company doesn't grow and you need to lay them off? And don't forget the all-important reputation cost as well. How will it look to investors and others if you have to disassemble your team?"
Related Article: Do You Really Need to Hire Another Employee?
Make #4: Scale Up Your Cadre of Talent Through Outsourcing
The better approach is to outsource first and then scale up with on-site staff when ready and necessary. There are all types of outsourcing companies, such as Speedlancer, Guru, The Blur Group, SEO.io, Jobety and more.
The options are here to help you find all types of talent, including developers, graphic artists, data entry, content and SEO specialists, marketing and public relations experts and even virtual assistants. These companies often have pre-qualified the talent and can help connect you quickly to talent from all over the world to use for as short a need as a quick project to long-term relationships that may eventually turn into hires.
Besides outsourcing companies, you can find talent that is willing to work for equity as they may put their passion for success to work for you in a way that gets things done without the cost.
Break #5: Not Listening to Anyone Because You Assume You Know Better
One guest blogger on Pando and startup founder noted that their startup failed because they failed to listen to the advice of others. As he noted, "And most first-time entrepreneurs don’t listen to advice very well (especially first-time CEOs—I know I didn’t). The trait that makes you believe that you can be the statistical anomaly is actually the same trait that gives you blinders when you are in the startup trenches for the first time. You think that you know it all. After all, you’re already successful in your mind, so who cares what others have to say? Fight that urge every day…You know nothing."
Make #5: Find and Form a Relationship With a Mentor
According to Entrepreneurial Insights, "A great mentor is like a light on a dark stormy night. As a founder, you will have a lot of days where you won’t know up from down, want to quit and move to a desert island. A great mentor will be able to guide you through the toughest parts of starting up a new company: raising funds and finding the right team. Don’t think you can go it alone, and start looking for people in the same industry who might be interested in advising you as you go along the road."
The Pando guest blogger agreed: "Pay attention to the people who have been in the trenches before you. Not all advice is created equal, and knowing which advice to take is very hard. But even though they may not necessarily be right, you should at least consider their advice. They are trying to prevent you from falling where they have fallen before. Since my startup failed, I have returned to my mentors, to let them know how much I appreciated their advice, and how much I wish I had listened to them earlier."
The moral of the story here is that it is okay to listen to that backseat driver sometimes. They may know some shortcuts or provide the route out of a dead-end while hanging in there for the whole journey and redirecting you when you hit a jam.
You can find mentors in your professional social network as well as in your investors, including angels, super-angels and VCs. They have been there and done that—and most likely they have done it in your same industry. These mentors have the insights, knowledge and experience to guide you in the right direction or they will tell you when it is time to turn around and take a different route. This can make all the difference between shuttering the windows and locking the doors and or having the ability to open those same avenues to sustained success.
Stay out of that intersection you think you might want to park in. You can't and shouldn't park there. Keep your startup tooling along at the right speed by leveraging powerful resources that get you in front of your audience, bring your team together, maximize your available funds, add talent as needed and find that advice from those who are seasoned and have been there before.