What We Can All Learn from Start-Ups

cityYour company might be a few months old or a few hundred years old. Change is inevitable and we can still learn from the start-up mentality. In an interview by Inc.com’s Issie Lapowsky, sits down with Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder to answer the fundamental question with start-ups: Why do some start-ups succeed and others flop?

Simply put, failing start-ups and businesses run out of money. Easy enough, so what is the cause?

Graham equates start-ups to restaurants.

They can either not make something people want or they can be bad at selling it. Sometimes, they’re just bad at selling.

But most of the time, start-ups fail for the same reasons restaurants do: Their food is bad. If it has bad food, boy, it better do something really special to get anybody in there. Which is why we say, “Make something people want.” That’s the fundamental problem. If you die, it’s probably because you didn’t make something people wanted.

So be unique, standout and sell an exceptional product or service:

Make Something People Want and Sell it Well

Using the restaurant-business analogy: If a place has really good food, it can be in an obscure location, charge a lot, and have really bad service, and it will still be popular.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New

“Nobody knows what they’re capable of until they try it.” – Graham You might be in a traditional company, but new ideas can make your company that much better than the competition. It is okay to start with a small idea, Bill Gates had a thousand users on his first implementation.

Foster a Culture of Innovation

Even if your company is years away from the “start-up” phase, don’t be afraid to take risks and evaluate the outcomes. Having the right type of leader, who will allow employees to flex their creative muscles, will positively affect the company- think Amazon or Starbucks.

Have Unflagging Optimism tempered with Realism

Start-ups enter the game because they have an idea that they feel passionate about. This idea will be tested and tried. Your energy and optimism are as critical to success as follow-through and remember that even the best ideas seem like bad ideas to others in the beginning: who needed another search engine (Google) or a platform where a bunch of college kids shared pictures (Facebook).

Hire Up

Hire and work within a community of people who are smarter than you. This fosters what Salesforce founder Marc Benioff calls a culture of innovation. “I can’t do it all. I don’t have all the ideas. That isn’t my job. My job is to build a culture of innovation. That’s something that we try to enforce. We encourage it. We value it. We notice it. We compensate for it. We require it.”

Any company can be innovative, just as any company or start-up can fail. By learning from start-ups, our goal should be to foster those traits that will ensure lasting success.

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