Startups suck

The whiteboard of a startup business with planning and sticky notes

That sounds harsh. Here’s what I mean.

When I visited my friends in Philly this January, I walked one of them to the train station. We were chatting in the freezing cold about the next steps for my business.

I mentioned I wanted to help startups. I had always been fascinated by them from afar but have had no interest in creating one myself.

What she said struck me.

“I mean, you do run a startup,” she said. “You manage a profitable business. You provide a service that other people pay for all on your own.”

Whoa, I thought. “I suppose that’s true,” I replied.

She reminded me that we seem to have unhealthy images of what startups actually are. Millions of dollars of venture capital. Software as a service. Founders who work 10-hour days and neglect their health.

I don’t want to do any of that. And I don’t have to.

I’m rereading Rework by Jason Fried. It’s a business book on how to optimize for fulfillment, not profit or growth.

In it, he argues that when starting a business, we don’t need business plans, we don’t need to grow if we don’t want, and we don’t need a big team. All we need is to sell a product or service to people willing to pay for it. Then, we need to make sure our revenue is higher than our expenses.

That’s it.

Jason also suggests not using the word “startup.” Just say business.

Before starting my coaching practice, I saw the “world of business” as this intimidating, unwelcoming entity. But there really isn’t a “business world.”

There’s just the world. It’s made up of human beings. They make decisions. They buy stuff. I had this idea in my head that startups were these mystical and magical creatures. They’re not.

In starting a business, all we need are three things:

  1. A product/service
  2. People willing to buy it
  3. A way to take their payments

If we can’t define these three things first, there’s no business. There’s just an idea.

That conversation with my friend a few months ago was short and simple. And it uplifted my spirits moving forward. As I continue to meet startup founders and learn about what they do, I’m not thinking, OMG I’m talking to a startup founder right now. I’m thinking, Wow, this person is really interesting. I’d love to learn more about what they’re going through.

As always, things are much simpler than we think.