7 signs of a strong startup

You’re ready to take your business idea to the next level. You have a compelling vision for the future and devoted customers flocking to buy your products and telling their friends about them. Influencers showcase your brand frequently.

The harsh reality, however, is that most small businesses never develop into top startups.

Your vision is an important part of starting your company, but it’s important to take the actions necessary to develop a sustainable business too. Here are seven characteristics that define a strong startup:

  1. Product-market fit

  2. Although there are a lot of good ideas for products and services, not all of them will work as a business. The “if I build it, they will come” philosophy doesn’t produce actual concrete results.

    Only startups that address the needs of a specific customer group will succeed in aligning what the market wants with what the product delivers. A strong startup has a strong customer base that appreciates the product’s solution to their problem and continues to buy from that startup.

    For firms that have achieved product-market alignment, considerable market research created the company’s understanding of the market: what it looks like, what customers want, and why.

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  3. Robust market/user testing

  4. A startup must consistently check the product-market fit to ensure they provide an exceptional experience and an ideal solution for the customer’s problem.

    Regular user testing and trial runs of products in the marketplace demonstrate confidence and a willingness to make necessary changes should a user uncover an issue. This process can also help detect conditions that might detract from the customer experience.

    Successful startups leverage user testing services and beta testing apps to assess how their products work and where tweaks need to be made. That way, they don’t make a bad first impression when a product launches.

  5. Passion to disrupt the current market

  6. Strong startups fuel their success with their passion to revolutionize the current way of doing something through a product or service solution. That disruption doesn’t have to be a large, explosive change. Startups project strength through incremental changes as well.

    In fact, the startups that make incremental changes to existing products are most often labeled as disruptive. Think about how Airbnb changed the vacation rental market, how Uber and Lyft altered the ride-share/taxi business, and how Apple disrupted the way we communicate through mobile phones. Each worked with an existing paradigm or product but revamped it to be more efficient, convenient, or valuable to a particular audience segment.

  7. Leadership ability and vision

  8. Whether a company is in startup mode or is already established, capable leadership can determine success or failure. In a strong startup, the founder has stepped into the visionary role of the leader, inspiring the team and devising the strategy. If there’s a cofounder or partner, they steer the startup and rally the troops to prepare for the company’s launch.

    If you aren’t sure whether you have the leadership skills you need, work with a business coach to develop them. Alternatively, you can seek direction from a partner or investor who has the experience to create and execute a strategic plan.

  9. An established, compelling company culture

  10. A company’s culture sets a precedent for how people work. It’s also a distinguishing feature that differentiates the organization from other companies and serves as the internal brand through its specific attributes and values. The company culture provides the framework for how employees treat each other, communicate, and perceive expectations.

    Culture is a critical component for success because it impacts motivation, talent retention, operations, and productivity. Successful startups define their culture from the beginning to emphasize its importance and clearly define how everyone should work.

  11. Engaged communities

  12. Engaged communities help a startup grow brand awareness and credibility, which leads to more customers. Strong startups have an ever-growing group of online loyalists who share content on social media, influence others to try your products, and offer input when asked.

    To create an engaged community, make your startup easy to find, actively listen to your audience, give them valuable information, and be transparent.

  13. Willingness to hear feedback

  14. As part of the engagement process, a strong startup must be willing to take advice and suggestions from their community, team, advisors, investors, and customer base. This ability to accept feedback flows from a growth mind-set that thrives on learning and a desire to continually improve.

    Incorporate different feedback mechanisms like surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups. Offering several channels for stakeholders to share their opinions encourages more feedback and helps the startup remain relevant, attract job seekers, satisfy customers, and motivate employees.

Flash doesn’t make a company great

There’s more to building one of the best startups in your space than finding top talent and venture capital or being located in Silicon Valley. An open attitude toward customer and employee feedback, leadership ability, research, and passion all play vital roles. Seek out criticism with an eye toward making your product better for the people who care about it. That’s the day-to-day glue that unifies a strong startup team, helping them achieve amazing things.

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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