8 Business Tips you can Steal from Successful Startups

Business isn’t an exact science.

What works for one business may not work for the next, and it is often not the idea that makes a business successful but rather the execution.

So whilst it’s important to remain true to yourself and make your own course, it’s still sometimes helpful to see how other companies and entrepreneurs have made success – to help guide your journey in generally the right direction.

The following tips aren’t official quotes from the founders, they are what I have extracted from researching these businesses from startup to where they are today.

So have a read and take from them what you need, to help steer your business towards success.

Don’t Worry about the Competition – Facebook

Remember MySpace?

They were once the leading social media platform up to 2008 – now they have practically disappeared.

There will always be competition in your field, both direct and indirect, but if seeing the competition (and how much market share they own) puts you off pursuing a business idea or continuing to challenge them, then you could have missed an opportunity to surpass them at some point and be the market leader.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t watch Dragon’s Den. When I used to see this program, the Dragons would always ask the people pitching for investment whether what they are doing is unique, and whether they hold a patent.

Patent or not, nothing successful stays unique for long.

Plus, when you analyse each one of the Dragons’ own entrepreneurial journeys, none of them did anything distinctly unique – health clubs, restaurants, online retail, there’s nothing patentable that allowed them to make their fortune!

So don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t compete unless you have something totally unique or patentable.

Yes, you need unique selling points, but the ultimate premise of your business model doesn’t have to be completely unique.

If Zuckerberg would have thrown in the towel after seeing how MySpace were dominating social media up to 2008, then he wouldn’t be on the Rich List in 2016.

Be aware of the competition, and figure out how you can make your offering more attractive than theirs, but don’t let their success and power put you off challenging them – you might just be surprised if you hit on their weaknesses.

Continually Innovate – HP

HP invests $3.6B each year into research and development – with the vast majority of their sales coming from new products.

This means, if HP didn’t continually innovate and invest in R&D then the business would quickly shrink.

HP is an extreme example of innovation – the markets in which they operate are very fickle ie consumers always want the latest gadgets, and very fast-changing.

Your market may also be similar. But even in less dynamic industries, innovation is still key to growth and success.

Many marketers talk about focusing on selling ‘evergreen’ products – products that will always be in demand, no matter the season or how long the product has been on the market.

But every product has a shelf life. Even the lifeblood of the World economy and something that has been in high demand consistently for decades, oil, has a finite lifespan – soon it will be overtaken by renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro.

If the oil companies don’t pay attention to these market changes and concurrently invest in renewable energy provision, then when the switchover really gathers momentum, they will die. Demand for oil will nosedive, and so will their profits.

So, always keep an eye on the bigger picture and reinvest so that you are able to adapt to market and environmental changes.

Learn from Failure – Virgin Group

You can learn more from failure than you can success.

Richard Branson has seen some enormous successes in his entrepreneurial career, but he has also had his fair share of failure.

Virgin Cars, Virgin Brides, Virgin Cola, and many more Virgin businesses failed for various reasons.

But that didn’t stop the Group continually diversifying and entering new markets with the Virgin brand.

Provided you’re still alive, no matter how bad the failure you experience, you are here, and you are therefore able to pick yourself back up and try again.

In the moment, failure doesn’t feel good – I’ve felt this myself in some of my own ventures like Vitalife Cell Bank. And in the moment, you don’t really feel that much good can come from that situation.

But once the dust has settled and you’ve tied everything up with your failed venture, then comes the moment of reflection and the opportunity to realise how the experience you have just gone through can be used to better guide your other ventures.

What other option do you have? Give up? You still have your life to live – what will you spend it doing? Feeling sorry for yourself that things didn’t work out? No.

Wrap things up, give your failed venture closure, reflect on the reasons it failed, then start again with these lessons in-mind.

Provided you don’t keep making the same mistakes and you learn from your failures, if you persist and keep getting back up, the law of averages says you’ll find success eventually – just never give up.

Branson was fortunate in that he experienced wild success before his other business failures, so he knew the feeling of exhiliration that comes with being successful in business and I’m sure this taste for success was helpful when dealing with and recovering from later business failures.

For those that haven’t yet tasted success and know this experience so they can use it as motivation to try again, it takes even more grit and determination – but it carries the same principles, learn what caused you to fail last time and let this guide your approach differently the next time.

Diversify from your Core Stengths – Fujifilm

Once a humble photography start-up, now a multinational corporation operating in diverse industries from medical equipment to LCD televisions.

When traditional film photography rapidly declined with the advent of digital photography, Fujifilm and many other photography companies were faced with rapidly adapting to the new digital marketplace, or bankruptcy.

Many firms ended-up doing the latter, like the photography giant Kodak, but Fujifilm not only survived, they thrived following some drastic strategy changes.

Instead of becoming purely a digital photography business, they chose to diversify into brand new markets with their existing competencies and strengths.

They discovered that the technology and chemicals that they had been using to develop their photography film was also used in liquid crystal displays for computers and televisions, and that the process of getting the colours to stick to the film could also lend itself to cosmetics!

So they branched-out and entered these new markets, becoming widely diverse in terms of the industries in which they now operate, but very focused in terms of their core competencies and strengths.

Look for ways that your business competencies and strengths can be applied to other industries and businesses, and see if you can diversify in this manner also – to protect yourself from specific industry decline and environmental/market changes.

Be Adaptable – Vitalife Group

Vitalife switched their focus from full-price retail health products, to cut-price discount health products – following intense competition and pricing pressures.

Fast-moving consumer goods are things consumers buy regularly, and they therefore want the best possible price for their items.

With increasing online competition, margins became squeezed. The way Vitalife reacted was to create a sub-brand that focused purely on discount health products, in a way that didn’t damage margins further and allowed them to compete more effectively on price.

Their original health product site vitalifehealth.com also changed and focus was placed on delivering a greater level of value to customers that were seeking goods without potentially harmful ingredients that other ‘health shops’ would still offer customers.

This strategic change allowed Vitalife to grow sales and profitability in a time of increased competition – quite an achievement.

So when your market and environment places pressures on your business, be prepared to adapt in order to continue to grow and reach success.

Continually attempting to force products or services on a market that isn’t responding well to them, or to cave into price competition – paying disregard to the profitability of your model, are surefire ways to go out of business.

Have Long Term, High Level Vision – Tesla/Solar City

Elon Musk had a vision – to create a closed-loop, fully-renewable electric vehicle.

Not only did he envisage manufacturing the electric vehicle and overcoming all of the obstacles that the major car manufacturers faced in the production of electric vehicles, but he also had vision to provide the energy source for these electric vehicles, from solar energy.

To do this, he created 2 companies, Tesla Motors (to manufacture the vehicles) and Solar City (to provide the energy) – they have since announced acquisition of Solar City by Tesla, bringing Elon’s vision under one entity.

And this is way, way down the road in Elon’s entrepreneurial career – by this point he has already launched and sold several businesses for multi-million dollar figures, including PayPal.

But the vision to create a closed-loop electric vehicle existed way back in his student days where he fantasized about the concept – although at this point he didn’t have the resources at his disposal to make it reality. He stuck the concept in the back of his mind, making the other huge ventures he’s exited in-between appear a means to achieve the ultimate vision.

Whereas most would be content with 1% of the things Elon has achieved, he just keeps going – taking bigger and bigger risks, in order to achieve his overall, high-level vision.

Whilst there aren’t many people like Elon Musk in the World, it still highlights the importance of having a long-term, high-level vision – the sort of focus that would prevent you from retiring even when you have several million pounds banked, the focus that would drive you to take further risks even when you don’t need to, the focus that makes money a means to an end goal, not the end goal in itself.

Achieve this mindset and focus, and lose the emotional attachment you have to money, and that unlocks the door to unlimited success and the ability to fulfill your ultimate vision.

Focus on the Customer – Amazon

Everything Amazon does is from a customer perspective.

If you’ve ever made a complaint on an Amazon order, you’ll know how good their customer service is – they seem to throw financials out of the window and don’t hesitate to grant full refunds or replacement orders for the smallest of issues.

This shows that they are looking at the long-term, lifetime customer value and not the value attached to each individual transaction that a customer makes.

They want to keep customers happy at all costs – if they keep you happy and show exceptional service, you’ll buy from them again, and they will make the money back that they lost on the order with an issue, over the next few orders you make with them.

If you’ve ever sold on Amazon, you’ll see even more dedication to customer happiness. Sellers are faced with a set of strict metrics to meet in terms of delivery times, despatch times, customer responses, and cancellation rates. If sellers don’t meet these metrics, they are banned from selling on Amazon.

So, try not to be too short-sighted when it comes to pleasing customers. Focus on lifetime value, and retaining repeat custom, and let go of looking closely at the financials of each particular complaint.

Even if what you sell isn’t fast-moving and doesn’t attract a great deal of regular repeat custom by its very nature, word-of-mouth spreads fast, and if you show exceptional service then you’ll build a good name and encourage orders from the friends and family of existing customers.

Be Persistent – Disney

Think of Disney and you think Disneyland, cartoons, merchandise, films, Disney stores, and many more.

They are hugely successful, and known Worldwide.

But for the founder, Walt Disney, the story was more one of consistent struggle and cashflow dilemmas than of unbridled success.

He didn’t build the first Disneyland until just prior to his death, and before Disneyland his films and animations were often met with mixed reviews and varying levels of success – they borrowed millions of dollars, and faced bankruptcy several times.

But eventually, towards the end of Walt’s life, he began to see his consistent efforts and never-say-die attitude pay-off – seeing Disneyland become a huge success from the off, and other ventures begin to turn a healthy profit.

If he hadn’t smoked so heavily he may have had more time to enjoy the fruits of his labour!

But Walt’s story is inspiring nonetheless – a true visionary and a very persistent character, his legacy shows what can be achieved with this approach in business.

And that’s that!

Hopefully the above analyses provide some useful insight into how these business tips can be applied to your business and entrepreneurial journey.

If you’d like more guidance or want to learn more about starting your own business, then enroll in my 4-week business course over on Udemy today.

If you have witnessed a business successfully using certain concepts then please share them in the comments below.

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