Uncertainty is inevitable when you’re working on an innovative early-stage startup. While there are … [+]
If something is certain, it’s probably not innovative. Consequently, managing an early-stage startup is by definition a constant fight with uncertainty. While there are well-tested, industry-standard steps to building a startup, sometimes it’s hard to adopt them directly to your unique case, which is likely to face unique challenges.
While you’re in the early startup stages, you’ll constantly be faced with the question “what’s the next step?”. This is a hard question to answer because you wouldn’t always know which activity will pay the highest dividends, and you’ll have limited resources whether it’s time or money, which makes it hard to hedge your bets. You’ll most likely have to go all-in on a path and bear the consequences of your wrong bets.
Because of this, it’s very natural to grow frustrated with the constant setbacks and outright failures that are an inevitable part of the early startup journey. However, you shouldn’t let this lead to irrational behavior, because investing your time and efforts wisely in the early startup stages is vital for startup success. Here are four ways to manage startup uncertainty.
1. Make Sure There Is Certainty In Your Personal Life
Everyone needs some form of stability in their lives. Since your professional life as a startup founder would often submerge you into chaos, it’s vital to make sure your personal life allows you to retreat into the realm of order. How you define this depends on you, but a healthy routine (sleep, exercise) and a stable social life (family, friends) are likely the key pillars. If your personal life is in order, it’ll be much easier to deal with the frustration that your professional life serves you.
2. Take A Step Back And Look At The Direction Rather Than The Individual Steps
When you’re working on your startup, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the details. Make sure to allocate the needed time to pause, take a step back, and make a high-level overview of your project. If you don’t do this, you risk blindly making a turn in a direction that you’re not comfortable with. If you are confident in your goal, it’s much easier to bear hardships that come your way. If the goal fades out of sight, the efforts can easily become Sisyphean.
3. Ask An Experienced Advisor
While you certainly shouldn’t take advice from anyone exactly because your situation would be unique, it’s extremely valuable to take advice from people with experience as entrepreneurs. In fact, based on research conducted by Endeavor, founders who have been mentored by top-performing entrepreneurs are three times more likely to become top performers themselves. It’s very common for startup founders who didn’t have access to a mentor to wish that they did (according to the Endeavor study, that’s true for 89% of small business owners).
Or in other words, a great way to deal with uncertainty is to ask someone who has dealt with the same kind of uncertainty you’re facing.
4. Ask Your Customers And Review The Data
Ultimately, when you’re in doubt about your next step, you should always go back to your customers. First, talk to them, then review any useful data you have access to. Having both qualitative and quantitative answers to your questions increases the likelihood of taking steps in the right direction.
In summary, uncertainty is inevitable when you’re working on an innovative early-stage startup. In order to deal with it, first, you should make sure you’re standing on firm ground. Take care of your personal life so that it provides stability, and actively keep track if you’re moving in the right direction in the long run.
Second, make sure that you’re taking the best possible next steps in the short term – talk to an advisor with startup experience and always keep in touch with the needs and wants of your customers.