Having run a startup company of sorts the last few years, there’s still a whole startup world that’s completely alien to me.
I had the good luck, and yes I do mean that, to start up a business with no funding.
A lot of the blogs I read about entrepreneurs and start-ups seem to focus on this other world, with tips for attracting investors, managing their expectations and getting through to the next round of funding.
I appreciate that some projects must have capital costs higher that what I’ve dealt with, but it also seems that this focus can distract you away from your far more important and ultimately the only source of funds that matters – your customers!
In the end, start-up funding is a temporary situation to give a business sufficient time to test and perfect its business model. But there’s something refreshingly clear about having no external funding and no investors to keep happy, allowing you to focus 100 per cent on your customers.
If you can satisfy them, and they pay for it, you’re in business.
If they don’t, you’re not.
It cuts to the chase a lot faster.
When you are forced to rely on your customers, it puts you in direct contact with them a lot more quickly and you very quickly find out exactly what they want and don’t want.
When I started Monkey Media, before I spent a cent on offices, websites or anything else, I was on the phone to potential customers, sounding out the types of products and services they’d be interested in. As we’ve grown over the last couple of years I can look back and realise it was the best thing I could have done.
To be honest, starting a business from nothing felt like a refreshingly easy change. Some years ago I’d been put in charge of a business that had about $5,000 in the bank and about $130,000 of unpaid bills due before I’d even arrived, so starting on an even keel feels like a step up!
But it’s amazing how quickly you learn what is necessary and what’s not when your funds are so limited. If these same lean principles were applied to any regular publishing company, I think they could halve their overhead, at least!
If only every CEO, and not just in publishing, had the opportunity to try and build a company from nothing. The assumptions that would shatter and the knowledge they would be gain would be invaluable.