Don’t Go It Alone: Get Staffed
Great business concepts are often a lone entrepreneur’s brainchild, but successful enterprises can never be a one man band.
Although every entrepreneur is different, some characteristics are almost always shared: founders are independent, often single-minded, and great believers in the power of one. They’re important traits to have – leaders need force of conviction to compel progress. But the smart ones also recognise that everyone needs a helping hand at some stage, not least the start.
It’s why startups take on staff; one of the most essential and complex parts of running a business. You’ll want to find the smartest, most experienced people you can within reasonable financial constraints… and then there’s the ever-elusive culture fit. Even when you do find that perfect team, there are still things companies must do which don’t warrant a full-time staff member. No-one said it would be easy.
Lean, mean, money machine
If you’re thinking smart, you’re also thinking lean. While operating revenue is low, expenses should be too. You’ll want a skeleton staff in the roles you can’t live without. What are they? As a digital startup you need: a driven head of sales / business development to bring in those almighty dollars; a marketing manager to get the word out; and a brilliant coder / web designer for the daily panoply of fixes your digital assets will need.
That’s the absolute minimum. You will likely need more depending on your ambitions (or industry) but the important thing is to keep to the essentials. The fastest way to make a startup implode is to grow too fast.
Be prepared to outsource
Your local development and design agencies will tell you “you get what you pay for”, and they’re right, but don’t let that stop you from using your resources wisely. There are lots of things that don’t need to cost the earth to be done satisfactorily; for call centre customer services and digital product testing you might be better served by outsourcing.
But be careful to draw the line in the right place, you don’t want to sacrifice quality to save a few dollars on things like branding and web design. You can afford for your agile testing to be carried out overseas, maybe even some parts of your web development; the point is to be considered about where you cut costs so you don’t end up cutting corners.
And for the rest…
Startups are in a tough position, particularly in Australia. Without the relaxed regulatory environment cultivated in some other countries, startups face rigid and complex compliance issues; an endless series of hoops through which to jump. There’s help out there, but sometimes the need for one-to-one expert consultation on the most important issues is unavoidable.
There are important legal issues, the ones which can be the making or breaking of a startup (think copyrights and patents). Then there’s accounting and tax – which is similarly critical. You’ll need an HR consultant to help you deal with any complications in building your perfect team. Then there’s data compliance, branding, and management consultancy…
Multi-talented doesn’t cut it
Say you’ve scoured the earth for the only designer-developer who happens to be a qualified lawyer and is willing to take your entry level salary. You’ve found a gun marketer / accountant. You just need an HR / compliance / brand manager and you’ll be on your way! Right?
Wrong. Division of labour is about making sure one person does one job – well. As skilled as your team may be, there’s a load point that can break even the toughest 50-hour-week worker. Your role includes making sure you utilise your means to find the best balance of skills and graft, so you can do exactly what you set out to do.
So how do you get around it? You can only afford so much as a fledgling company… well, that’s where we come in.
A helping hand
It’s a common mistake that investment is all about capital. Of course, it plays a huge part, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s a cruel reality that the most complicated and unavoidable tasks are also the most expensive – legal assistance, accountancy, HR requirements, and data compliance are all business-critical jobs, and experts demand a premium to fulfil them.
Good investment firms come fully-loaded with a raft of expertise, spanning every operational requirement you have. Your VC’s specialisation in a specific industry means you’ll have access to a veritable tome of knowledge, all laser-targeted towards your business. Take the hand of a good venture fund (and make sure you know who you’re getting into bed with) and you might just find the day-to-day of running your business becomes a lot easier!