The Anatomy of a Start Up

You think it’s all glitzy and glamorous don’t you? You imagine I’m sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping a Mai Tai and living the good life as this damn start up starts itself! Well you’re wrong I tell you, wrong! I haven’t gotten my beauty rest in days and I’m about to throttle people!

phew… sorry for the rant, I’m operating little sleep, a half a bagel and nursing a raging head ache… I’m a little testy as you can see!

Anyhow, I am writing this for two reasons. First off, I want to explain to you what it REALLY takes to start a start up or any kind of business for that matter. And secondly I am offering a sweet contest at the end (including 2 hours of business consulting + a free $450 membership + my undying love (umm deal!). So hold onto your horses pard’ner and see the real anatomy of a start up, it’ll save you lots of time and money as you start up your own business or if your really impatient skip to the end to enter the contest!

The Body

When we look at a person walking down the street we don’t see all the millions of neurons firing in their brain or how complex their circulatory system really is – instead we see a blob of flesh, some definition here and there and maybe we notice the color of their outfit. This is the same thing that happens when one looks at a business, we see the building, or the website, we notice the product, calculate how much money they make from selling it and think Wow I wish I was that guy/gal.

Well chief, just as the human body isn’t simple, neither are start ups but you do need to begin with an overall idea of the way they look before you get started. Just as if we were making a person we’d imagine their height, weight, hair color and the general characteristics of their face…. when you are beginning to form the concept of a start up you need to have a visual image in  your mind of what the body of it will consist of:

  • Is it virtual or brick and mortar? You can either be GAP or you can be Bluehost but you shouldn’t be both.
  • Is it a small niche business or a Fortune 100 in the making? Think of www.drinkthc.com a site that caters to people who want to avoid hangovers vs. Ing.com who is well on their way to fulfilling giant mega-bank aspirations.
  • To staff or not to staff? Is this business baby something you’re going to nurse to health in your garage while your mom answers the “corporate” phone a.k.a. your extra fax line or is this going to be a fully staffed set up? You have to ask yourself if your staff will be in the flesh or virtual workers p.s. as much as you can go with the later.
  • What is  your dream $ figure for this start up? Do you want to make $10,000 a month or sell it down the road for $100 million? You’ll do things much differently depending with what monetary goals you set at the beginning.

The Systems

Just like the human body, a start up has to have well defined & well run systems to live a healthy life. You can’t just chuck your bills into a bin and mutter one day we’ll take care of those nor should you start chasing down clients before you know how your company will handle each one when they come. Your start up’s systems are as essential to it’s success as the blood that pumps through your body is critical to making sure you don’t randomly keel over – so pay attention!

  • Financials. This is VERY important, I can’t stress how much I wish I had kept track of EVERY penny from day one. If I did I would have caught myself wasting money much faster and redirected our focus. Also if you don’t get set up with some sort of book keeping/tax system you could pay high fines/go to jail down the road. So get your finances in order! Tip: I use outright it is free and amazing.
  • Billing/Burn Rate: When you are JUST starting out you must figure out how you’re going to pay for the costs associating with starting up, be it your 9 to 5 job or your Great Aunt’s loan. Calculate your burn rate early on so you know at all times how long you can go before you run out of cash. Now often you will start to bring in a small amount of cash once you get up and going – this will help slow your burn rate until you finally are in the much coveted black. I use Freshbooks to do all my billing and thus far have had great experiences with them.
  • Marketing. Do you have a marketing budget? If not you’ll have to do things real cheaply and probably by hand. Do some research on marketing plans and read some books on the subject. Figure out what type of plan fits your budget and business the best and then put aside a number of hours a day you’ll spend marketing.
  • Your USP. It took me FAR too long to realize the importance of a USP (unique selling proposition) and it’s not a mistake I want you to make. Realizing what sets you apart from your competitors or Joe down the street will help form the culture of your start up and greatly increase your productivity/profitability as you focus on what really matters not the outlying fluff.

The Brain

If you have a partner then you and he/she (weird if you’re partner is a REAL he she) are the brains behind your start up’s body. But if you are a solo-preneur like so many baby start ups then it really comes down to your brain power. This idea may be overwhelming and it was scary to me, since I know that I’m not the most brilliant person in the world – especially when it comes to EVERYTHING. If you want your business to succeed you must be BRILLIANT in every aspect, but how?! Well thankfully this is where the concept of leveraging comes into play.

You can hire people and leverage their talent, you can get interns and leverage their talent or you can read and leverage the VAST amount of knowledge provided in books. I also like the concept of finding one’s who which means to find someone(s) who have done what you want to do and are where you want to be. Say Richard Branson, then you study their methods and how they got there. This works very well when you want to learn something that you aren’t naturally great at and is probably the biggest ace up my sleeve I possess.

So remember to grow and nourish your business brain  you need to:

  • read
  • listen to people who’ve been there and done that
  • leverage other’s knowledge through interns, employees or mentors
  • and most of all READ (there are books on tape for those of you who hate reading… weirdos)

The Contest

Alright so that was as much as I can currently write on the anatomy of a start up with the raging migraine I’m currently experiencing, plus I’m hungry and my is starting to wander. So I’m going to get to the good stuff.

Your prize: 2 hours of free business consulting (my hourly is $250 so you do the math) + my undying love (priceless!) + a FREE one year membership to Virtual Zeta’s job board (a $450 value). So now we’re nearing $1000 in value!!

How to enter: Go to www.virtualassistantboard.com the job board side of my virtual worker start up and sign up as an employer, this process should take you no longer than 5 to 10 minutes. What I want from you is your feedback on the process, what you like, don’t like, if there are any glitches or if everything went smoothly and you would recommend it to friends (when it launches of course).

Winner is Ryan! Yay! Thanks so much for everyone who participated I truly appreciate it & feel free to keep signing up for the job board as we just made some new additions free so you can use it and test it out!