Entrepreneurs jump into the formation of their startup businesses full of passion for their product or service. The energy and creativity of their dream is supported by their research, their expertise, and their carefully structured goals for business development. All of your preparation, education, and experience are incredibly valuable, but it is also important to recognize the areas where you need the help of others. There’s no reason for you to be an expert at everything, and trying to do so can take away from your focus on your core area of strength. To avoid unnecessary distraction from your mission, make sure that you’ve connected with experts in the six essential areas listed below. Your startup needs your undivided attention, and when you have these partners on your team (or at least in the bullpen), you avoid preventable problems and ensure that you’re operating from a position of full strength.
Startups need to have a lawyer to make sure that the crucial issues of ownership, control and intellectual property are completely formalized before the business gets started. Definitive agreements need to be written up early in order to make sure that items such as voting agreements, vesting schedules for equity, right of first refusal are addressed before an argument arises between cofounders. Also be sure you’ve registered your company with an Authorized Agent in the state where you will conduct business.
An attorney will help make sure that you own your intellectual property, particularly if your company is in the technology sector. If you were working for another company before setting out on your own you need to ensure that there are no invention assignment provisions working against you. Other important ownership issues can also be addressed, including invention assignment, confidentiality, and non-compete agreements. Finally, an attorney will be able to help you with the crucially important Non Disclosure Agreements that you will want to have when discussing your product with everybody from investors to clients.
Financial advisory and accounting services are essential for early stage ventures and small businesses. They can help to define growth strategies and secure funding, as well as to advise you as your financial picture changes. They will be able to provide you with perspective that is removed from the business’ day-to-day operations, keep your finances in order, track progress and perhaps most importantly, to structure you company in a way that protects your personal assets. An accountant or financial advisor will explain the various benefits of different corporate structures and help you set up all of your revenue and expense tracking so that you won’t be caught off guard when tax time rolls around.
Startups often rely on friends or former colleagues to staff their companies, yet that approach can hold many pitfalls. New ventures need to be ready for a variety of personnel issues that can occur, and having an experienced Human Resources professional available can help to not only anticipate these problems but to help to navigate them. A strong personnel professional will understand the constant ebb and flow that comes with a startup, and will be able to advise you on important issues such as social media management and confidentiality, government regulations, employee relations and interpersonal dynamics.
A good office manager is your startup’s traffic director. They enable you to remain focused on the task at hand without having to be distracted by the small but important tasks that keep a business running smoothly. When you have an experienced office manager attending to ordering and maintaining office equipment and supplies, scheduling various services and making sure that everything is being paid for and billed properly it frees you and other key personnel up to attend to your company’s mission and product. The expense is offset by the time that it gives you to do what you love to do.
All too frequently, startups choose to forego marketing services and then end up wondering where all the customers are. This is usually the result of entrepreneurs both overestimating their own marketing abilities and underestimating the amount of time or expertise that marketing a new business requires. Startup founders often make the mistake of deciding to hold off on marketing until they consider themselves ready, or think that they will wait until they start making more money before investing in advertising efforts. Finding a marketing company with experience in introducing new product lines or businesses to the market allows you to implement a solid, comprehensive marketing strategy that will establish a brand identity that will be sustainable and will grow along with your company.
Public relations professionals do far more than generate press for startup companies. They are experts at researching what works for specific industries and demographics and then creating insightful strategies. Their suggestions will be based upon both qualitative and quantitative data that incorporates influence, creativity and what has been successful for your competitors, so that your outreach is based upon the appropriate context. A public relations professional will know how to find the people who will be interested in your business and help you to engage with them.