When you go into business for the first time, you tend to think you’re the only one who faces certain challenges.
But a lot of challenges you’re facing as a startup are commodity challenges, meaning challenges that have been faced by many companies before you. It’s very important to to tap into this knowledge base and find services out there from those who have solved your same problems.
In the U.S., for every problem there’s a society, blog, podcast, or convention that can help you solve it. It’s just a matter of doing your homework.
We recently interviewed Ehsan Alipour, CEO at Oliso, a company looking to reinvent home appliances. Ehsan shared some great advice on how to solve a handful of the most common commodity challenges.
Let’s take a look at a few of those solutions.
Building an Excited, Motivated Team
Your team is your best asset. But with so many attractive companies out there in the world, it’s difficult to find good people, much less keep them excited about working for you.
The most important part of building a great team is to create a strong nucleus, made up of smart people with strong ethics who take great pride in what they do.
A strong nucleus ensures that new team members will be drawn into the excitement. However, it’s important to be realistic and not over-promise.
Also, when you put your team together, make sure they see the position as a career opportunity for themselves and a challenge. And they should have the right skill level. If they have too much skill and no challenge, they get bored. If there’s too much challenge and not matching skill, there’s stress.
So spend some time figuring out the right combination of challenge and stress on your team.
Sales and Marketing
If you build it, they will come…
…but not in real life. As an entrepreneur, you always think that people need your product or service—after all, your mom likes it! But when other people aren’t drawn into your enthusiasm, you wonder where you went wrong.
Hence, the importance of sales and marketing, which go hand in hand. So many people go up to Ehsan with design questions about their product, but he says that the real question is “How are you going to sell it?”
So Many Platforms…
TV, smartphones, laptops, tablets . . . Today’s businesses are fortunate to have all these mediums to tap into.
The problem is, this diversity is a curse as well as a gift. Now you have a million things out there all competing for people’s attention.
The first thing you have to do is step back from the noise, do some testing, and demonstrate your product/service live, in front of people. See what sticks.
Then, when you have that valuable information, you package it into the different mediums. Of course, they each have strengths and weaknesses, so you have to be able to customize your message to each platform.
Your Own Store
Having your own store means there are no excuses for not getting it right. Imagine a real world shop where people come through the door every day: that’s your site. You have no excuses for not communicating who you are and not creating an experience on your site.
Ehsan sees people who hire web/graphic designers to take six months to develop a site; then they want to change it three months later and can’t. It’s important to be hands-on, to pick a platform that’s flexible and allows changes as you go, so you can adjust your site to reflect who and what you are.
Also, we are all perfectionists, but it’s important to put things in perspective. See your website as your latest prototype: what you learn in the next month will help you make changes. It’s very important to actually put something out there instead of waiting three years to get the “perfect” site.
Ehsan had a design teacher at Stanford who used to say, “Don’t design products for left-handed Armenians. There are very few of them.” But he actually suggests turning that statement on its head.
When you start a business, who’s going to be your left-handed Armenian group? Where are you going to get traction? Who are going to be your extreme users and extreme needers?
Get focused. You have to pick one community; the biggest mistake is trying to be one thing for everybody. Instead, focus on who the people are that really, really need your product/service to work. The smaller the community, the better.
And remember, your eCommerce platform is a dialogue; it’s very important to listen to analytics and the reactions of real humans.
Then take your platform, and refine it, refine it, refine it.