Prior to joining ShareASale in 2010, I worked at a start-up called UWantSavings.com. It was an incredible learning experience, not to mention fun and challenging. Unfortunately, this little four person start-up only survived for about two years.
So as it is the month of #LessonsLearned, I have put together the top five lessons I learned from a failed start-up.
1. Timing IS Important.
There is a sweet spot with any start-up. You can be before your time, or way too late. Do your research. If the market is saturated, determine what will make you different. Or, if you are starting a in a new space, how can you reach the early adopters?
2. It’s Not About You.
Start-ups are hard. The budget is limited and the resources required are seemingly endless. Budgets should be put towards the happiness of your employees and the happiness of your customers. Start-ups need a dedicated team and loyal customers. So if you need go without a salary, or take a pay cut — you do it.
3. Lose the Ego.
You will make mistakes. Other people will have better ideas. Deal with it. Take feedback with open arms, ask for help and don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong.
4. Get Your Hands Dirty.
Not in a bad, corrupt way. I mean literally. You might have to step out of your comfort zone at some point to pack boxes in the warehouse, learn how to create a PPC campaign, restock shelves, order supplies, network with clients or mop the floors. Whatever it is, use it as a learning experience.
5. Low Cost or Customer Service.
It’s hard to be both. In the case of UWantSavings, we tried to wear both hats with a small team. We priced products to be the lowest on the internet, period. Yet, we also tried to handle returns, customer service calls and even shipping with the caliber of a Zappos. We couldn’t handle both. Be sure to analyze your strategy carefully.
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Kstraw saysAugust 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm
First off, you were awesome to work with when we were an affiliate to UWS (as you are to work with at SaS). Secondly, the points you identified cut right to the point. It is a start-up. It is like a raising a baby – lots of attention and little appreciation.
Louise Bryant saysAugust 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm
Having been a part of 7 start ups in my career I would add that hiring great people is your most important tasks. While average people can do fine in a larger company you can only afford to have stellar standouts in a new business. If you make a hiring mistake correct it fast. Don’t hang on to them.
Dave saysAugust 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm
I commend those that have the perseverance for a startup. Even now as we turn 3 years old ( our http://www.DasCheap.com ) site, we still face many of these startup issues.
Especially as users get more and more demanding, you have to shave down to the bone to keep things moving. You mention Zappos, but really they are a whole different beast. They had 25 Million to start and furthered their position with even more VC money.
With that said, it’s impossible cost wise to offer everything and the kitchen sink, but what we have noticed is that the small team that we do have is of the best attitude, caliber, and they know what it means to work for a start-up.
If they are on board with that, then you have a winning combination towards success.