Monday, December 26, 2011

Stepping Back: 5 Questions To Yourself Ask Yourself About Your Startup

Every year (or quarter) it is worth taking a step back from the day to day emotional roller coaster that is a startup.  It is worth making the time to reset your directions and ask the "big picture" questions that can drive the success or failure of your business.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Do I Have The Right Team In Place?  
  • Your business has undoubtedly changed in 2012.  Are there holes in your team you should fill?  
  • What sort of org do you want in each quarter of 2012 and how do you proactively get there?  
  • Are there people on the team who are underperforming or a bad fit?  How do you remove these people from your team and when do you do it? (Hint: don't wait)

2. Do I Have The Capital I Need?
  • When do you run out of money?  Do you have at least 18 months of cash left?
  • Should you raise money in 2012?
    • What milestones do you need to reach in order to raise money (if that is your plan)?  
    • Who do you want to raise money from?  How do you build buzz and relationships with that person now?
  • Can you reach profitability in 2012?  What are the tradeoffs to doing so (e.g. shrink the team?  ramp sales?  roll out new pricing)?

3. What Should I Be Doing Less Of?  Or More Of?
  • What are things that you spend time on that did not help you in 2012?
    • Can you stop doing these things?  If not, can you outsource them?
  • Where did your team waste the most time in 2011?
    • How do you make sure they spend time effectively in 2012?
    • What was the biggest barrier to productivity for your team this past year?
  • In hindsight, what were the activities in 2011 that created the most value for your business?  
    • How do you make sure your team spends its time on the most important things? 

4. How Is My Product Doing?
  • What do users love about your product?  What are 1-2 things you can do to build on this momentum?
  • What do users hate about your product?  Do you need to fix these things?
  • How much traction does your product have?   Where does distribution come from?  
  • If you are early stage, are you working on the right product?  When do you decide the product is working/not working and what do you do about it?

5. What Can I Do To 10X My Business This Year?  
  • Is there a market shift happening that you can exploit in 2012? (e.g. Android penetration?  Rise of Pinterest for distribution to commerce sites?  Something else?)
  • How can you think bigger and bolder in 2012?  What are 1-2 big audacious product / partnership / other goals you should swing for?
  • How do you focus on the big swings despite everything else you are doing?  

Any other questions you think are worth asking?  Let me know in the comments section.

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