The Startup Corner: How to Bake Your Startup
For those of us who work with startups and small businesses-- and even mid-sized and larger businesses-- a common trait we see from the management teams and some employees is to push stones through cement walls. In other words, what seems impossible is often forced through instead of thought-through. If you hear the term "we'll make it work," chances are you are pushing a stone through a cement wall.
This happens a lot during the early stages of a start-up, and while there are times when you have to and should use force, the energy it takes and mess it often creates means it should be used as a last resort.
The key is to bake your ideas and then serve them in your startup in a way that engages people (and delights them, too).
And so, we offer you common baking tips to apply to your startup.
Baking Tip #1: Know what you are baking and pre-read the recipe
Biscuits or bread?
Sweet or savory cookies?
A dessert pie or a dinner pie?
Butter or oil?
Baking powder or Baking soda?
Baking is a science. When the right ingredients are mixed properly using certain techniques, and when the mixture is contained in the right manner and under the right heat settings, molecules react and you have your baked goods as a result.
It sounds simple, but if you don't know what you're baking and you do not pre-read the recipe, you will probably find that you aren't prepared for a step you thought would be really simple:
The butter needs to be room temperature and melting it will change everything
The flour, baking powder and salt should be sifted together
You need a French whisk and you only have a Balloon whisk (and you aren't quite sure of the difference)
The sugar needs to be melted to a specific temperature and you don't have a thermometer
If you realize you need these things mid-way through the build of what you are baking, it probably won't go well OR you will find yourself improvising and using more time than is needed for a simple recipe. The outcome will also be suboptimal.
By knowing what you are baking and pre-reading the recipe, you have the benefit of perspective (and knowledge!) before you even begin: pre-heating temperature, ingredients and amounts, techniques for building, timing for baking, and what to look for when it's ready to be brought out for others to eat.
In business terms this means understanding what you are doing, what you will need to do it, and what "pre-heating" is required to be efficient in achieving your outcomes.
Baking Tip Tip #2: Prepare Exact Measurements (which means you need to focus...)
Cooking gives us the wonder and freedom of improvising for taste and texture. If you like a certain spice-- go ahead, put it in! If you want a little "heat," get the powders out! Feel like caramelizing? Use some vinegar and maybe a pinch of sugar!
But baking is different. Again, it's a science. It requires exact measurements in order for the molecules to react as they should and for your baking good to be, well... good.
Not everyone enjoys baking because of this. The number of steps needed, the amount of measuring, the way in which you need to whip, beat or mix a batter or prepare mixtures for meats and vegetables for baking... let's face it, as with building or growing businesses, it isn't for everyone.
BUT! If you want to become a good baker, exact measurements and focus are essential:
Too much baking soda and you've got an awful bitter mix with a terrible after-taste
Too much sugar and you not only offset a light flavor, but also kill the texture
Not enough vegetables and without pre-salting your meat (meat pies), your meat will become tough and difficult to chew
One of the best ways to assure you are using exact measurements and will remain focused is to pre-measure your ingredients OR remove all distractions (or both, but there's no such thing as "no distractions" in business, so let's focus on pre-measuring ingredients).
There's nothing worse than putting the second cup of sugar into the bowl, answering a call, then not remembering if it was the second cup that just went in or the third... and with sugar it's not always obvious how much is in a bowl. (not that I've done that...)
When you have pre-read your recipe, you have perspective of what is required AND you apply what is required precisely, without distraction, you will have great outcomes.
In business terms this means that decisions are timely and clear, the team understands their roles and responsibilities, accountabilities are prepared and measured, and everyone is ready to move.
(by the way, that's a "balloon whisk" in the picture...)
Baking Tip #3: Strict rules generally apply, but substitutes are almost always possible...
Tips 1 and 2 are definitely good practices for good baking, but startups are usually lit up by a founder with excitement, ideas, liberated ways of thinking, and a contrarian view of traditional rules and boundaries. We know this. (we are like that, too)
But as I say in all my university lectures and with our Impono clients: business is a process. There are tried and true steps to take that will lead you to quicker and closer success rates, and that is a requirement when you are borrowing someone else's money in order to launch.
If you are building a company, you need to know what you are building, what you need in order to build it, various tools and techniques so you are efficient and confident, exact talent at the right time for the right things, exact monies at the right time for the right things, and the best possible environment in order to "bake" your business, take it out of the oven (launch), and let the world enjoy it. That's what we covered in Tips 1 and 2.
However, just like with baking, there are ways to make it your own and use different ingredients, tools, and techniques that either fit your personality better or simply make things a little easier for you and your team.
These "substitutions" give you a chance to personalize your business just as you would in a baking process:
Using a consultant instead of a full-time employee is like reducing the butter and oil by 2 tablespoons (it may change the texture, but rarely changes the taste)
Hiring a co-founding friend or family member with "most" of the expertise in the early stages (saving money before launch) is like reducing the sugar by 1/3 (saving calories)
Using a distributor or a bolt-on service to augment your produce or service may increase costs upfront, but also gives you instant expertise (like the time and energy of pre-cooking meat in order to speed up baking time)
Baking is a science, and there is always room for experimenting if you're willing to throw away some batches for the sake of learning and improving. The more you know about how baking works, the more you can begin to improvise and substitute ingredients, tools and techniques to fit your style and personality.
The same is true for business. If you don't like the minutiae of accounting, or feel that all customers should receive a personal call from you vs their account manager in the first 12 months of doing business, there are ways to do this ("substitutions")-- just be sure you understand how it impacts the rest of your recipe when you add that piece.
We know that launching a new or transforming an existing organization isn't simple, but it can be easier with the right advisors and doers. If you have additional questions about this topic or how it can impact your business, contact us. Let's see what we can do for you.
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