Startup Consulting and Coaching

Get Your Startup Off on the Right Foot

Business startup team in planning discussion

Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once said, "… there's no difference between a small business and a big business. A big business is merely a small business which did the right things the right way from the beginning and merely replicated them."

The goal of our LeaderPerfect® startup coaching and consulting is to help you do "the right things the right way" from the beginning.

The failure rate among startups — in both the for-profit and non-profit communities — is alarmingly high. We therefore design our services to steer you clear of fatal mistakes. We provide a framework for successfully executing every phase of your startup's development.

Over the past 20 years, we've aided startups in far-ranging fields, from online data search to high-tech product development to financial services. We structure startup coaching and consulting around the evolutionary process which every organization goes through as it moves from initial formation to recognition as an established and respected player in its field.

This process unfolds through four stages:

  • Stage One: Set Up
  • Stage Two: Stand Up
  • Stage Three: Build Out
  • Stage Four: Stretch Out

We can come alongside you at any point in this sequence and provide coaching and consulting to further this process. Here's a brief overview of each stage in the sequence.

Stage One: Set Up — End Goal: Ready to Launch

As its name implies, this stage encompasses all the essentials which must be in place before you're ready to "open your doors."

Business startup loan applicationDependent on the nature of your startup, the length of this phase can be relatively brief or quite extended. At base, every startup must

  • make appropriate filings with local, state, and Federal agencies
  • establish banking accounts
  • procure insurance coverage
  • register any trademarks
  • finalize lease agreements and licensing agreements, etc.

Most importantly, in this phase you are

  • defining a business plan
  • developing an initial budget
  • deciding on a marketing approach
  • and doing sufficient market research to know that your approach is realistic and holds promise.

In addition, you are wise to have at least a rudimentary website ready to deploy before launching your business.

If your startup is to offer only a limited range of services which you personally deliver (such as tutoring or consulting), this entire process can usually be completed in a matter of hours or days, at most.

On the other hand, if you cannot launch revenue-generating operations until complex software is in place or certain product prototypes are perfected, this initial phase can last for months. SLDI has consulted with business startups which were in the Set Up phase for two years before they were genuinely ready to market their product.

Stage Two: Stand Up — End Goal: Steady Stream of Revenue

Business startup opening for business

As soon as you open your doors for business or post notice that you're ready for clients, Stage Two is underway. The purpose of this phase is to confirm that people will purchase your product or service at a workable price for you.

If you are selling goods or services, Stage Two provides customer feedback which lets you determine where your price points need to be, how much inventory you need to maintain, and what constitutes an appropriate inventory balance. Here, too, you work to constrain costs by streamlining logistics arrangements on which your business depends.

In the case of a non-profit startup, Stage Two confirms that your support base is adequate to fund your cause. This phase is also a test-bed for crafting the best language to use in attracting supporters.

In all likelihood you will finance the earliest days of Stage Two with your own money, money from investors, or loans and lines of credit which you yourself guarantee.

Dependent on the nature of your startup, it may not turn a net profit by the end of the Stand Up stage. But it should be generating enough revenue to cover routine operational expenses. Well before the end of Stage Two, you should be able to make reasonable projections as to which revenue streams are reliable, the size of these streams, and the timing with which you can expect revenue from them.

It's not unusual for startups to stay in the Stand Up phase for a year or even two. Even at the end of Stage Two, you may still need to draw occasionally on personal resources or outside funding to purchase capital equipment or to make capital improvements. But so long as you or your investors are putting money into the startup to cover routine operational expenses, you are still in the Stand Up stage.

If you do not emerge from Stage Two within two years, you should ask whether the undertaking can ever become financially viable as currently configured. It may be time to completely revise your business model, your profile of services, your marketing system, or the customer base which you target.

Stage Three: Build Out — End Goal: Sustainable Financial Viability

By the end of Stage Three, your company is covering all operational expenses from its own revenue. It no longer relies on infusions of funds from you, from other founders, or from outside investors to meet ordinary expenses.

In Stage Three your startup's revenue should cover all operating expenses.

Included in these operational expenses are an equitable salary and benefits for any founder who continues to work regularly in the business. Also included are salaries for others (such as members of your family) who may have heretofore "volunteered" their services to get the startup on a sound footing.

In addition, during Stage Three, revenue should build to the point to adequately funds reserves which cushion periods of reduced cash flow or brief disruptions to the business. The revenue stream should also become sufficient to cover payment obligations incurred in the financing of capital equipment or improvements.

In sum, your business becomes financially self-sufficient during Stage Three. With that aim in mind, you should also focus in the Build UP Stage on standardizing policies, processes, systems, and procedures. The objective is to design them in such a way that your startup will not outgrow them as it enlarges success.

Stage Four: Spread Out — End Goal: A Replicable Business Model

While your startup is succesfully sustaining itself by the end of Stage Three, Stage Four brings it to a new level of proficiency and efficiency. A simple way to think of Stage Four is that it solidifies all the elements of your business which would be need to be in place if you were to franchise it.

Franchising may not be your intent, to be sure. But making your business "franchise ready" produces heftier bottomline results and enhances the market value of the business should you ever decide to sell it.

In Stage Three, you standardized essential policies, processes, and procedures. In Stage Four you professionalize them. You refine them. You document them. You create an established routine for periodically reviewing them and updating them.

On an on-going basis, you also identify other procedures and systems which need to be standardized and documented. Throughout Stage Four, you should aim at having such robust systems and structures in place that your business can run smoothly and efficiently, whether you are in the picture or not.

To that end, you also develop strong skills training for your team and for your managers. And if you've not previously done so, you establish a well-designed on-boarding process for new hires.

Have Questions? Want More Info?

Schedule a no-fee, no-obligation 30-minute phone or video consultation to discuss your startup concept and where you are in implementing it.