Startups: dos and don’ts of the first 3 years

Source | LinkedIn : By Pradeep Agarwal

Starting up is similar to someone shaking you up from a deep slumber. You wake up rubbing your eyes trying to find out where you are; what happened and who was the one who shook you so hard.

Having been the early employee for two of the biggest cloud computing companies (and also “revered”) there are many things to learn and share. Timeline experience may vary as a lot depends on which stage of maturity the company and market are.

There are different skills required for different stages of business, for a start-up business – one requires someone with a strong chin, ability to withstand all pressures, define the momentum and understand the conditions for others to draw and analyze the course.

For a company on a growth path, one requires leaders who can bring in scale, maturity and vision to growth. At this stage, a majority of the focus has to be on how to “scale a business” with people and processes for long-term growth.

For a company which is relatively stable, one requires a leader with generalists’ skills. Who is more adept at handling multiple functions, manage operations, sales, marketing, finance, HR with equal ease. She/he brings in soothing effect and lastly for companies at a fairly mature stage of business, one needs a leader who can milk the cow and make sure it is well-fed. The whole objective here is to keep milking unless the company identifies a new space, innovation, technology or a different growth path.

Basis all of above, I share  my experiences:

During the first year:

  1. Leverage relationships and acquire first 3-4 customers. During this time, CEO is the salesman and he is the one who has to close business. No one else can do it for him/her.
  2. Make these customers super successful so that they become your brand ambassadors, however, big or small they may be. A happy customer is what matters. My first customers for SFDC (in 2006) and Google for Work (2010) in India were more of friends who had trust in me more than the product. At this stage, customers need to see your passion and commitment.
  3. Meet as many people as you can – milkman, security guards, airline staff, receptionist, CEOs, CIOs or students – whoever comes your way. Idea is to spread the word. Have a 30 seconds elevator pitch on what you or your company does and you must build an ability to translate that in simple and easy words. No one had heard of SFDC when we started.

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