The first few years of any business is a constant learning experience. Each stage of growth will pose new problems and push you to change and adapt. In the beginning, the business’s growth will rely solely on you and your decision making. These are exciting days, but without a team, the early days of a business can also be some of the loneliest and most stressful.
We sat down with AnnieCannons’ founder, Jessica Hubley, to learn how to traverse the early stages of a startup. Hubley has vast experience as an attorney and a nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneur. The tips below will help you navigate founding, hiring and building a startup.
Founding a business is both exciting and scary. There’s a mountain of tasks to get done and every task will need your attention. Start by creating solid business foundations and working from there.
- File the paperwork. You’ll need to file paperwork to be recognized as a business. Forming a business entity changes your tax status and helps protect you from personal liability, among other benefits.. Find the state agency that handles business formations in your state to get more information on the different types of business entities and consult a lawyer to figure out which is right for you.
- Create a mission statement. You need to be crystal clear on the mission of your organization so that you’re able to repeat it over and over again to potential donors or investors. Your mission statement should be a quick and easily digestible soundbite, no longer than one minute. It should encompass who you are, what you’re doing, and why it’s important.
- Ask for guidance. During this time you’ll be putting in long hours to see your organization grow. Reach out to mentors and other founders for advice and support, but be mindful of asking for people’s time for free and try to give something back for what you ask. You can learn a lot from those who’ve already been where you are, keeping in mind what the differences are between your circumstances and theirs. And by learning from other’s mistakes you’ll save time and money – two of your most precious resources.
- Document your operations. Your operations set the groundwork for administrative processes, management, and workplace culture. Written operational guidelines mean you and your future team members will be able to follow specific procedures and processes when tasks come up. This saves time, money and headaches. Start by creating step-by-step instructions for your most common work tasks as you hand them off to others, and be prepared to modify them according to what works well for others to achieve the same objectives. These tasks will likely need to be replicated and taught to new employees. Operations will be ever changing, so set a schedule to go in and make changes a few times a year.
Hiring your first few employees is extremely exciting for a founder. You’ve grown your business to a point where you have enough work and capital to build a team. Now it’s time to learn how to hire the right people for the job at hand.
- Write a transparent job description. When you write a job description it should outline the hire’s role, responsibilities, and pay. Applicants should know exactly what they’re being hired to do and how they’ll be compensated in return. Some applicants won’t be willing to take the salary you’re able to offer so being transparent about the rate of pay will save you time and energy.
- Hire learners and doers. In the early stages of an organization, you won’t have the capital to hire a senior-level employee. Most likely, your first hire will be a junior-level employee who’s eager to learn and execute their work. These employees will accept a lower salary in exchange for job development.
When hiring your first employees you should look for learners and doers.
- Learners are driven by a desire to advance their knowledge and excel at new skills. These people will go above and beyond to solve problems and find solutions. Learners are the people that make startups thrive because they will be the first to solve tough issues.
- Doers don’t hesitate when asked to do something, they do it. These people don’t question if they can accomplish a task, they simply find the solution. Doers are integral to startups because their grit and tenacity get things done.
- Learn to manage. If you’re successful with your first hire, hopefully, you’ll be able to hire a couple more people and build a team. This can be a very difficult time for founders who find it hard to see things done differently than they did them. To grow, you’ll need to hand down specialized tasks to new hires and entrust and empower them to do the work. As a founder, you have to remember that employees will never do things the same way or be as invested in what you’ve built – even if they’re passionate about the organization and its mission. Resist the urge to micromanage and instead trust that your employee’s unique perspective will benefit the business. If you’re lucky, you’ll be hiring people who know even more about the task at hand than you do.
- Outsource specialized roles. Most startups don’t have the resources to hire full-time marketing or finance employees. And that’s okay because these hyper skilled roles rarely require 40 hours of work a week when starting out. For tasks like this, consider hiring consultants. Consultants will have more experience in the specific field and free up your precious time. Ideally, you’ll find someone that’s taken by your mission and offers you a discounted rate!
- Don’t put off letting go of a bad hire. Firing your first employee won’t be easy, but it’s important that you identify when it’s time to part and then do so quickly. Wasting time trying to put a square peg in a round hole will only cost you and the employee in the long run. Learn to understand when there’s room for growth or just an obvious disconnect between the employee and the organization.
At the beginning of a startup, you’re still building the product or service you want to offer the world. This is when you’ll start actualizing your big idea and building momentum with your audience.
- Create your minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning during new product development. You should focus on creating a first iteration of your product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of learning with the least effort. It might not be your end dream product, but it will get you to your first launch faster so that you can learn and iterate.
- Build traction. To get customers and funders you’ll need to build interest in what your organization is doing and get feedback. Actively share your MVP with friends and potential clients. Incorporate that feedback in your product and continue this cycle. This hopefully will create a flywheel effect of supporters who will share with their network and help you grow.
The beginning stages of building a business is scary, but with the right preparation and guidance, you’ll come out stronger on the other end. Watch all of our tips on our new webinar for hiring and scaling your startup!