3 tips for transforming your start-up into a smart-up

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

1. Distrust guys in ties. As a kid, I was taught not to accept anything from strangers. If you have a company, you’ve probably come across the situation of needing more money that you have saved. If you need a little money and a bit of luck, maybe you can get a loan. If you need a lot of money and a lot of luck, maybe you can attract the attention of an investor. I say maybe, because when it comes down to it, I’m still that insecure kid. Accepting money from an external investor is dangerous business. And it’s a sure way of going from an entrepreneur to an employee. Because an entrepreneur doesn’t have a minute to spare in giving explanations of everything he or she does: they’ve simply got do it, guided by their talent and intuition. There are a great many resources before asking for a loan or going to a bank. If you need money to hire a talented programmer, look around you: you may already know them and you can get them in on the project in exchange for a small part of it. And if you can’t pay with a lot of money, pay with ego. The case of Steve Jobs is well known: to hire the then chairman of Pepsi, John Sculley, he put it to him simply, “you can spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or you can change the world with us”. Also consider crowdfunding and webs like Kickstarter: if you need money to produce a film, thousands of internet users could make small donations in exchange for feeling co-producers.

2. Don’t have more than you need. It seems obvious. And it is. But how many companies have lived beyond their possibilities? How many have died of success, burdening themselves unnecessarily with fixed costs in times of prosperity without considering what will happen when income falls? Think about what your company really needs, no reserves. Re-think even the most usual cost. Need an office or could you work in a co-working space? Need a secretary or have you already learnt to synchronize your appointments with your cell? Think about the environment. In the Cloud era where you can access any document from any device, not having a printer is a great idea for saving money and paper.

3. Don’t produce anything that can be “Chinesed”. I heard this expression at a congress and it stuck with me. It summed up an approach where a company dedicates 100% of its work to the area that offers the greatest added value. Covering more means specializing less. There are two ways to compete: by value and by price. If the best thing about your product is that it’s cheap, rest assured, soon there’ll be someone who can do it for cheaper. Apple showed us the way when in all of its products, they started to put ‘designed in California, assembled in China’. Externalize all those processes that don’t bring value to what you do and focus on the essentials. On what you do best. On what you enjoy most. On the reason why you really set up your company. The truth is plain to see: you can’t be the best at something you don’t enjoy.

Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko (Spanish)  and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design. Yet again he wants to share his thoughts about the new company and office models with us.

Check out his previous posts!