Finding your path from first to forever startup

- May 16, 2014 3 MIN READ

When it comes to the number of residents creating startup businesses, Australia is second only to the United States, according to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education’s Australian Small Business Key Statistics and Analysis. The study cites research gathered by The Comprehensive Australian Study of Entrepreneurial Emergence (CAUSEE).

Interestingly, findings show that “Australian founders are less likely to be motivated by necessity or lack of alternatives” when investing time, money and energy in establishing a fledgling startup. In addition to other implications, this suggests that Australian startups are more likely to be the result of a conscious choice, driven by the originator’s personal interest or passion. In other words, Australian founders enjoy more freedom to do what they want to do after considering multiple options.

And although common belief holds that few startups actually succeed in the long term, CAUSEE maintains that these widespread notions are not entirely accurate. For instance, many times startups undergo re-assignments or legal restructuring and do not fail in reality insomuch as they evolve on paper.

Even when they are technically terminated, this does not immediately equate to financial loss. Think about how many startup founders reach retirement age and no longer desire to remain in the working world. Additionally, there’s always the possibility that the venture no longer exists in its original form because the founder sold the startup for a profit (like I have done myself).

Given the fact that startups come and go for a multitude of reasons, the question remains: How does a founder/owner create a startup with legitimate staying power? And if it doesn’t happen the first time around, how can a founder navigate from their first to their forever startup? A good place to start is by considering the following.

Weigh all of your options.

CAUSEE’s research revealed that 90 percent of respondents “stated that they are driven by positive, opportunity-driven motivation” when initiating a business venture. This implies that efforts didn’t derive from the founder’s financial need or lack of options but rather arose out of a place of potential to grow and develop.

Whenever possible, look for openings and places where you can succeed from a source of strength rather than from a place of desperation. It’s true that need is a powerful motivator, but in terms of maintaining your startup efforts over the long term, motivation driven by potential and the possibility of a reward is preferred.

Select the option with the greatest potential.

Of course, what constitutes as the option with the greatest potential depends on your individual goals. If you are focused on earning the most money possible, you might find that you have more potential in an area that may not be your first choice. On the other hand, if your primary goal is pursuing your passions and earning power is ancillary, it makes little sense to select your second choice even when you stand to produce more capital by doing so.

Although it may seem self-explanatory, one potential trap for founders is failing to keep their eyes focused on their initial goals. Be sure to purposefully select your option with your baseline goals at the forefront. And if you opt for the financially successful venture initially, be sure to put concrete “stops” in place down the road so that you can sell for a profit and get back to your first choice.

Revise and rework your plan as you go.

One thing that separates successful startups from ones that fail is the founder’s ability to improvise and remain flexible along the way. If something isn’t working, change it. If you find that your goals were a bit too optimistic, lower your expectations and try a different route. Perhaps most importantly, successful founders should be willing to “fail.”

I don’t mean you should be willing to fail in the sense that you pack everything up and head home, doomed to defeat and equating your startup’s demise with your inherent inability to succeed. I mean that an abandoned venture could be the very thing that leads you to your destiny, and consequently, your forever startup.

But if you remain bound and determined to stick it out even when all signs are pointing you in a different direction, not only is your current startup likely headed for a dead end, but you are also going to miss out on something that could have made all of your struggles worthwhile.

Stated differently, successful startup founders are those who can recognise whether their venture has what it takes to become a final stop or should be counted as experience as they move on to bigger and better things. And it takes both: Being able to recognise the indicators and being open to trying again.

Even if you stumble with your first startup, as long as you are able to see the big picture through your minor setbacks, you can find your forever startup at the end of your journey.

Rob Chaloner is the Founder and Managing Director of stratton. Rob started stratton over 15 years ago and it has since grown into a national business with tens of thousands of customers all over Australia.