Startup Lesson 8: You need some help

One of the emotional motivations for starting your own business is the thought process of “I can fix this problem” or “I can do this better.”  You absolutely can, even when the odds are completely against you. However, don’t get deluded into thinking you can do it all by yourself. Perhaps you can, but that would be extraordinarily rare, and there’s a reason that most accelerators require at least two co-founders. You need help!

Specifically, you need help doing the things that are not what your business is focused on. Remember back in the ’90s they called it your “core competency”? Well, like all the other buzzwords, nobody likes to say core competency anymore, and that’s ok. Call it whatever you want. It’s the problem you’re business was started to solve. Everything else is stuff someone else should be doing.  Here’s a short list.

  • Legal – unless you’ve passed the Bar, do not try this at home.
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping – for simple businesses, you really can do this yourself. QuickBooks Online, Freshbooks, and a plethora of others in that space make it much easier than you think.
  • Tax – PAY SOMEONE TO DO THIS. Trust me, you do NOT want the IRS coming near you with their version of a microscope.
  • Software – in today’s tech world, the ideal team is a business co-founder and a “technical” co-founder. That’s optimal, but if you’ve ever attended a co-founder speed dating type meeting, you’ll find that these technical co-founders are few and far between, especially in ATL.
  • Hardware – Please do not ever consider hosting your own web site. Good Lord, why would anyone ever do that in today’s world?  Don’t.
  • PR – you can write a press release, but unless you’ve done that for a long time, it won’t be very good. If you need press to grow your business, you will need to hire someone who knows how to get the press to actually read your press release and then write something about it. PR is more than just writing press releases.
  • Social Media – way too many people think this is way too easy. Yes, anyone can post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Google+, Flickr, Instagram, etc., etc., etc.; however, there’s a reason that folks like Josh Martin get 80,000+ retweets on a single post to Twitter and you have 113 followers.

OK, so that list isn’t so short. Unless one of the above is what you do, then you should let someone else do it for you. Of course now you’re actually saying out loud, “and pay them with what exactly?!?”  Good point. By definition, startups are broke. So what can you do? Here’s another short list.

  • Barter – whether you know it or not, you have something to offer that’s worth something to someone else. Perhaps that someone else does what you need doing. Ask.
  • Hire – What’s the unemployment rate where you live?  Seriously. Someone out there who does what you need is looking for a job. Don’t just hire anyone. This is a startup. Not for the faint of heart.
  • Learn – You have the gumption to step out and do a startup, right? That means you are capable of far more than you know.  What’s the hardest thing (for you) on the list above?  I bet you can learn how to do it.

The point is that when you start a business, you HAVE to wear many hats. If you, or your team, doesn’t do it, it won’t get done. Find a way, but understand that you need help. Even Superman needed Lois Lane.

What do you think about that?