How to Effectively Lead a Startup

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With competition among entrepreneurs more cut-throat than it's ever been, it's not enough to simply lead your start-up if you want to ensure long-lasting success in your business. You have to step up as a leader, which means paying attention to the smallest details as well as the large ones; you have to teach, lead by example, motivate, and encourage your employees while showing them exactly how to generate leads, sales, and profits. Your brand is now everything, no matter what you're offering to your customers, so you have to live and breathe it to make it.

Narrow Your Goals to a Fine Point

Entrepreneurs are largely creative creatures. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, you likely come up with at least six brilliant ideas before breakfast every day, and by lunch, you're certain that you've devised a way to change the world when it comes to cooking, branding, designing apps, or manufacturing clothing. That's absolutely commendable, and you should never let that creative streak die, but you should keep it in check.

To effectively lead your start-up, you have to think big but start small. Your business is not a three-ring circus just yet, so keep the spotlight finely focused on one or two things at first. It's better to produce one thing, to make it perfect and necessary, than to produce a half-dozen things filled with bugs, flaws, or planning mistakes. Pick one vital product or service, perfect it, sell it as hard as you can, then branch out as you go.

Teach as You Lead

Leaders are teachers by design. You have knowledge. You know your goals, your products, and your ideas better than anyone else. Building your team is essential, but before you begin, think about your game plan. What's the best way to share what you know? How can you guide your team members so they not only see the success of your company, but understand how to make that vision a reality?

Put Together a Knowledgeable Team

It's not enough to simply choose valuable players; you have to groom them as well. A successful start-up thrives on organization. Behind the scenes, you need to have a team for every part of your business and business plan. The members you choose should all qualify as MVPs—versatile MVPs, in fact.

Choose team leaders who specialize in something you need, but know a bit about everything else as well. Encourage them to learn from you and from each other, and encourage them to teach. Make sure that any member can step up into any position if necessary, and above all, make sure they know both the business plan and the product from the inside out. They need to answer every question a potential customer has and should anticipate a customer's needs.

Build Your Brand on the Details

The smallest details are often the most monumental. To guarantee the success of your business, you have to dig into the consumer consciousness. Doing that requires making your brand easily recognizable, like the Nike check or Chanel's interlocking C's. Your brand should become unmistakable, because when people recognize something, they tend to trust it more. They seek it out, they want it, and then they begin to need it.

Your business cards, your letterhead, and your company logo are essential, but go further than that. Everyone who comes into your store or orders something online should receive something emblazoned with your brand. Consider promo pens, because custom pens are functional, affordable, attractive, and useful — also, who doesn't need a pen? From there, when former or potential customers reach for a pen, your brand greets them, which puts your start-up at the forefront of their minds. The best and most cost efficient way of advertising is through word of mouth.

Keep Talking to Your Customers

You can't simply give your customers free items and leave it at that. You have to talk to them, as well. Send out feelers in as many ways as you can, such as:

  • An active social networking presence
  • Email campaigns featuring newsletters
  • Satisfaction surveys after purchase orders
  • And face-to-face interactions, when possible

What are you looking for in these interactions? The quintessential customer experience, of course. Find out what they like and dislike, what they need, and how they prefer getting it. You might discover that you can supplement a bricks-and-mortar shop with an online presence. In time, depending on what you offer, you might discover the need to branch out to new locations or create a franchise out of your business.

Keep Up with New Acquisition Techniques

Your customers are everything. When you stop pulling in new business, you start to fail. Bearing in mind that this is a technologically driven world, you have to find the balance between old-school tactics and modern campaigns. Don't underestimate the power of word of mouth. Pleasing your current customers with solid products, excellent customer service, and strong values will keep them happy. When they're happy, they'll recommend you to others. People also still enjoy the human touch, so don't make the mistake of relying too much on technology.

With that being said, you have to venture onto the Internet to get your name out there. Start a blog, keep a fun Facebook page, invite Twitter discussions, and make sure your LinkedIn account is up-to-date. Use email to reach out to people, but don't fill up their inbox with superfluous messages full of meaningless updates.

Advertise everywhere you possibly can. Remember that you can advertise online for free in many cases, especially on your own social media profiles, websites, and blogs. Make use of those valuable promotional items, especially when you're fulfilling orders and sending out products. While emailing, don't forget to send direct mail as well, especially if your start-up makes use of coupons. You can still rely on good old-fashioned cold calling, but focus more on face-to-face salesmanship, primarily by attending local conferences and trade shows.

If your techniques are effective, your start-up is successful—that's the ideal equation. How do you plan to build your brand?

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