All The Steps Your Startup Should Skip

Photo by  Warren Wong

Photo by Warren Wong

The number of launch items, administrative to-do’s, and events you have to check off your list as a startup founder can make your head spin. 

It’s absolutely overwhelming to understand what things you have to do for the benefit of your business when you surely can’t do all of it. 

What do you actually have to do, and what is actually a bunch of fluff?

Startup culture is brimming with advice on all the things you have to do, but not a ton of advice on all the things you should skip.

As I enter my 13th year as an entrepreneur, I’ve increasingly become more selective and grumpy, requiring me to remove all the things from my attention that doesn’t have a substantial return. I’ve been largely guided by the question — what will help me make quantum leaps for my business, and skip all the unnecessary steps in between? 

Here are some of my favorite “skips” that I’ve discovered along the way.

Skip: Opening A Social Media Account On Every Platform

One of the first to-do items I see a lot of entrepreneurs gravitate towards is to open their company’s account on every social media platform. It’s fine to hold your brand’s name in case you want to use it in the future, but do not open an account on every platform with the intention of using all of them.

We are currently in an age where specific social platforms and mediums are exemplary for specific industries — Instagram for health and wellness businesses, Pinterest for retail, Youtube for indie makeup brands, podcasting and Medium for thought leaders and authors, just to name a few.

Therefore, there’s really no need to have your business hang out in places where it’ll barely be heard or looked for.

If your Instagram for your yoga brand is popping with thousands of followers, picture-forward posts, and daily story uploads, it’s basically a guarantee that no one will pay attention to your Twitter where it’s less image-forward and active. People gravitate towards fireworks and crowds, and won’t even care that the other location exists.

Do This Instead: Pick 1–2 social platforms for your brand and excel at it. Do some light market research, find evidence of where your industry has excelled on various social platforms if you need some guidance. 

Be extremely active and reliable on the platforms that you choose and consistently show up. Results from mass-audience mediums like social platforms, podcasting, and blogging all require consistency and time before they reap fruits for your business.

Skip: Shiny Launch Campaign

If you’re planning on a brand launch with a large, one-time marketing campaign or event that you’ll be putting all your money into, skip it (unless you have the cash to burn). One-time marketing campaigns rarely do much for a new brand with 0 paying customers and it won’t do everything that you need it to do to establish a sizable audience. Save the big marketing campaigns for when the brand is more established and can execute it more strategically, with measurable ROI.

Do This Instead: You should be pacing out your spending throughout the year, strategizing the monthly objectives your company will have to complete to build an audience, and then executing on the task of getting that audience to actually buy from you. This is a marathon-esque job that will take consistent month-to-month effort beyond a one-time campaign or event. Marketing is its own department and budget line for a reason!

Skip: Conference Hopping

Conferences at the beginning of my startup career were great — I learned a lot in a short amount of time and met a lot of great people that I’m still friends with. Over time, however, conferences became a bell curve for me where I hit a peak very quickly and free fell rapidly. I increasingly became frustrated in the quality of content I received, moderation style, and often left mad at myself for spending a whole day at a conference. The truth was, I had outgrown conference hopping, but didn’t realize it.

As entrepreneurs, we are sold on the immense value of conferences and networking at them, but not told that we can outgrow them — and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just because you’re not an entrepreneur constantly conference hopping and networking, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your growth. 

You can still learn and meet new contacts in different modalities that don’t involve buying a plane ticket and fighting boredom during panel discussions where the moderator is asking answers to questions that you can Google.

Do This Instead: After gaining some years in the conference circuit, I’ve become increasingly clear in what I like and extract value from. For me, that has been boot camps, retreats, and other small-group events where the focus of the “conference” is on you, engaging with 10 people instead of 10,000, and a sprinkle of expert guidance and talks. These types of events are where I truly walk away a smarter, more inspired person than when I walked in.

What does this “conference” look like for you? Is it small-group events? Deep dive coffee meetings? Figure out how you learn and gain inspiration and find the event type that best fits your criteria.

Skip: Bells and Whistles

Question everything.

If someone tells you that you have to do sign up for this platform for project management, use this platform for emails, subscribe to that service for accounting, sign up for this coworking space to work, question its utility to you and if you actually need it. Our society pushes an image to us of what a “successful” entrepreneur looks like, instilling the belief that we’re not a real entrepreneur unless we take the steps to be official in others’ eyes.

Do This Instead: I often have to check-in with myself when making specific purchases as to whether the decision came from my true needs, or if it was embedded in me by an ad or image I saw of what an entrepreneur should look like. I believe that I’m a smart person, but have found that I’ve tricked myself many times into believing that I needed something when it actually was an ego-driven purchase.

Check-in with yourself and align your purchases with true needs. Identify your weaknesses and understand where you truly need help through additional software and support, rather than responding to what others tell you that you need to be successful. 

If you found this helpful, I send weekly action plans every Friday to help startups like yours grow their business. Sign up here if that’s your jam.

Sophia Sunwoo