Being in a startup is a lot like dating. I’ve spent countless hours in front of mirrors, obsessing over my hair, makeup and outfit – much in the way I spend sleepless nights in front of my computer wondering what potential customers would say about my product.
Launching a product is like diving into the dating pool; it’s trial by fire. Canadians don’t talk about ‘it’ nearly enough, so let me be clear: things will go horribly wrong along the way, and it’s likely that you’ll think it’s the end of the world, but that’s what’s supposed to happen when you start a company. The same can be said for the number of duds you will date in your search for the perfect mate. But the faster you find out what doesn’t work in your startup, the better.
The first step is getting out there: tell someone you know (or don’t know) exactly what you’re after. I’m constantly looking at revenue models, how to find my target market and get introductions to resources who can help build out our platform. But if I don’t tell people I need help, how will they know?
It’s irrelevant whether people are in my field or not. Through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, I contact those who’ve done cool things and send a simple e-mail that just says, ‘I admire what you’ve done and am sure I could learn a lot from them over a coffee or cocktail.’ Like a first date, you needn’t waste time over-analyzing the situation.
In a startup, people are generally happy to meet, share their stories and give you advice. It’s important to thank them promptly, remind them of who they said they’d introduce me to and then get ready; to this day, I’m still amazed not only by how quickly my calendar fills up, but the calibre of connections that I now have.
But while face-to-face meetings are useful, the best advice I can give is to ask for feedback. It may be tough listening to criticism, but a new perspective will help you in the long run. Yesterday, for example, I asked a woman – who I didn’t know – what she thought about about my website. She said: “It’s really hard to get started with your service. Lots of upfront effort before I see anything at all.” She also followed it up with a list of tactical ideas I could easily implement. Brilliant. And off in a new direction I go, albeit a bit more of a strategy than directional change.
Launch quickly, execute one idea after the other and keep circling back to those who have helped you along the way. The more your network - whether friends, clients or partners - understand the business, its needs and your vision, the faster they can help you get back in the saddle and find ‘the one’.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Kelly Fallis is the founder and CEO of RemoteStylist.com, the online platform that is revolutionizing the furniture and design industries with free stylists, less-than-retail pricing and to-your-door delivery. Prior to that she helped 750 families jockey homes in six years with her home staging company Organized Outcomes, and held a variety of sales positions in Toronto-based finance companies. Follow her on Twitt er at @ kellyfallis.