Many dream of owning their own business, but the road to the top is difficult – and the market is full of competition.
I have observed and accompanied many start-ups in the past. Some have had huge success, others failed immediately; and many have simply managed to get through the early days on a solid footing and thus succeed.

The decision to found and build a company is often made quickly. For many, it is important to be able to develop their ideas in their own company in order to realise their own vision. They want to be able to decide for themselves where the journey will take them and what challenges they want to face. From the very beginning, the focus is on innovative ideas that fascinate, are fun and with which other users can be inspired.

However, essential aspects are often forgotten or simply not taken into account because the concepts of “success” and “money” are in the foreground. But beware: first the work, then the pleasure. Or, as sales expert Martin Limbeck puts it so well: “First shovel, then rake.”

business ideas

So what exactly determines the success or failure of a start-up? Often it’s details.

I was at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose last year, and combined my visit there with a bit of sightseeing. On a trip to San Francisco, I stood in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. When I looked at it like that, associations with start-ups immediately came to mind.

It’s not just the outside that counts. A solid foundation is even more important.
Photo: FoapAB –
The builders of the bridge certainly once thought very carefully about which building materials they wanted to use, what the statics would be like, which construction company they wanted to hire for it – and last but not least, what the bridge should look like in the first place. So it is not only the “exterior” that matters, but it is extremely important that there is a certain stability, robustness and usefulness in every start-up. So the questions are first:

What is the best way to secure myself?

What skills do I need in my start-up?

Only then come the aesthetics, such as the logo or the name of the company. So never forget to lay the foundation first before designing the fa├žade.

I have met many different founders who all had one thing in common: they were convinced, motivated and enthusiastic about their idea. But the “real” work only starts when the product is ready for the market. The competition is enormous. To be successful, you need more than just a good product.

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Beginners in particular should not underestimate a start-up. There are many start-ups that had a great idea and created an extremely good product. But then they failed to conquer the market. The market is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

You have to face the market and the competition, you need good marketing strategies, the right people in the right roles – and the right aggressiveness to show the competition that you exist and are fighting. And, very important: good contacts, they will help in the tough market.

It is not always important who has done what exactly, and whether one works more than the other. The only important thing is that you are perceived as a team. Each person must be treated as an equal, so that each founder is perceived as an equal from the outside.

Egoism leads nowhere in the early stages of a start-up:Teamwork is the wrench to success.
Photo: Julia Tim –
So you don’t communicate who exactly did what, but that you did it as a team. Imagine you are sitting in a meeting with a potential client. Sitting opposite you is a person who decides on the commitment and the budget. There are other people sitting next to her. Who would you approach? Who do you want to negotiate with? Who do you listen to attentively?

Don’t let that happen. In your start-up, no one should feel like an unimportant assistant. In your start-up, people work as equals, your start-up is a team.

I keep hearing the saying: “The start-up must be your life.” Sometimes I can say yes to that, but not always. Because we don’t live to work, we work to live. Of course, you should put a lot of energy and time into the start-up so that it can be successful. But one should not forget one’s own life in the process. So if the start-up is not life, what is it? It is a kind of family. It is extremely important that there is a close relationship between the founders or even the employees.

Let’s say you work with a person you really appreciate, with whom you enjoy working and with whom you can also talk about personal things. Together you are working on a product that you want to bring successfully to the market. Do you then work with this person because of the product or because of the person? I say that you work on the product primarily because of the person and not vice versa. If you were to replace the product with another product, you would continue to work on it because you want to work with that very person.

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Openness and a healthy working atmosphere in the company are essential: everyone should feel comfortable in the company, on business trips, with colleagues, at events. This is an extremely important point: think of your start-up as a family.

Another important point is: you should always ask yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. Self-awareness is the first way to improve your own performance. When you recognise your own strengths, you also know exactly which role or tasks you are best suited to; where you feel comfortable and also enjoy doing something.

It is important to keep the following in mind: If you reveal your own weaknesses, the other person knows where you are vulnerable. If you recognise the other person’s weaknesses and at the same time know your own strengths, you don’t need to worry about the outcome.

Don’t doubt yourself – just do it! Nevertheless, one must not forget to think about a plan and a strategy in advance, to stay focused and never lose sight of the goal. The important thing is to stick to the goal and keep working hard even after setbacks. Always remember to take something positive from mistakes: They make you stronger and more successful. A quote from Goethe fits perfectly: “SUCCESS has three letters: DO”.

If you don’t believe in yourself and your idea, who will? Perseverance and patience are extremely important when founding a start-up. These two points are the main reasons why many start-ups fail: In the final spurt, stamina and patience have suddenly waned. Keep at it, stick to your goal – and your belief in it. It will work out, just be patient!

There is strength in calm – don’t despair of yourself!
Photo: fizkes –
“The early bird catches the worm – but only the second mouse gets the cheese!” Have you ever experienced important contracts or decisions being made early in the morning? I have never made important contracts early in the morning – except in another time zone.

If you have to make a decision all by yourself, that’s different – then maybe an early morning jog will help. But whatever the decision to be made, what matters is not when a decision is made – but that the right decision is made.

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So, forget the early bird and make time for your worm, even if it’s late at night.

In many companies, the issue of communication is lost. If you look at other people in conversations or seminars, you will notice that many often pick up their mobile phones. But this is not how attention is paid to the other people present.

Other examples: You enter a colleague’s office to discuss something and he continues to look into his monitor during the conversation. Or in Skype meetings, people are doing something else on the side. That is impolite. It is always important to show respect and listen to the people present. So you close your laptop and put your mobile phone away. And then you listen carefully and devote your full attention to the other person. Or there really is something more important at the moment, in which case you have to say so and postpone the conversation until a later time. This is the only way to be appreciated and respected.

A rule of thumb also says that in customer conversations, the customer should speak for the most part, and the provider should listen to the customer and ask questions. Listening is extremely important. Also, try to just talk to the participants before a meeting starts – instead of staring at your mobile phone. This is how you build or further develop relationships: in attentive conversation.

Many people react emotionally to negative news. Why? Because they feel attacked by it and possibly hurt in their honour. Showing emotions is a good thing – but not in every situation. I have often seen people act directly out of emotion after receiving negative news and make serious mistakes. But especially in such situations it is important not to react out of emotions, but with the mind.

You need a clear head to be able to consider exactly how to act now. So take your time, put your emotions aside, take a deep breath – and switch on your mind. It will help.

Plus point: Health

I would like to give you one extra point – take care of yourself! Do some sport now and then, eat something good, have fun! Take time out every now and then to recharge your batteries and develop new ideas. Your health will thank you for it.