No matter how great you know your tech startup could be, there’s always a little fear. Are you doing everything right? Are you missing anything? Are there some major pitfalls you’re falling victim to?
That’s because, despite your great idea, your funding, and your mission, you’re probably dealing with some blind spots. These are the kinds of things you just can’t see, despite your best intentions, that are holding you and your startup back all the same. (After all, if you could see them, you wouldn’t allow them to hold you back.)
Don’t worry, though. Today, we’re going to walk you through five common pitfalls we see among tech startups—and how to overcome them.
If you take an honest look at this list, we know you’ll glean some fresh ideas that will help you empower your team and overcome these obstacles to success.
As a communications company that partners with all kinds of businesses everyday, we’ve seen firsthand the importance of a strong vision when it comes to building a business. Today, we’re building on that idea to share these top pitfalls—so you can easily avoid them in the early stages of growing your startup.
Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll cover:
- Not having a digital strategy
- Ignoring company culture until your team is bigger
- Missing opportunities for remote work
- Not trusting your team
- Choosing tools that don’t scale
Avoiding these five things won’t guarantee your success—but it will keep you from making some simple mistakes that could have a major impact.
What are the 4 key components of a successful startup?
1. Not having a digital strategy
You’d think that every startup already has a digital strategy baked in nowadays, but you’d be surprised.
Having a digital strategy doesn’t just mean “Oh, we’ll be on X Y Z social media platform” or “We’ll use a CRM.”
It’s a little more involved than that.
Your digital strategy helps you outline everything you do, keeps everyone on the same page, and gets team members excited about the projects they’re working on.
That’s why it’s important not only to have a general idea of your digital strategy but to actually sit down, take notes, and create a polished version you can share.
To help get your ideas moving, think about:
- How is your team expected to communicate with each other? Do they prefer phone calls? Video conferencing?
- How do your customers or clients want to communicate with you? Are you in a client-based business that expects you to be on-call and responsive all the time?
- Who exactly is your customer and how do you help them through different channels, whether it’s social media or live chat or phone (or all three)?
- What’s your approach to using software? Will you try to have whatever is newest on the market, or will you be strategic about streamlining your tech stack? Caution: shameless plug incoming—we designed a product that’s meant to help businesses reduce the number of tools they have to pay for and manage. That’s why RingCentral’s desktop and mobile app comes with team messaging, video conferencing, and a phone system, all in one app:
- How many employees will you have in one year? Five years?
- Where do your team members work? Do you plan to have a fully distributed team? How will this impact your tools and how you market/sell?
Sure, your digital strategy may change over time, but getting clear on it at the beginning will give you a head-start in avoiding most of the other pitfalls on this list.
🤝 Is your tech startup’s team collaborating as effectively as it could be? What should you look out for before you start scaling in earnest?
2. Ignoring company culture until your team is bigger
Here’s the reality: if you put off defining your company culture until your team is bigger, it’ll be much harder to build a resilient startup that can withstand the (many) changes on the horizon as you grow.
By the time it’s too late, your company culture will be mostly a reflection of your personal work style as founder or CEO (if you make a habit of working late, your employees will think that’s the norm) combined with whatever habits employees have been able to get away with.
The time to define your company culture is when your business is small, so you can build a strong foundation that gets reinforced over time.
If it feels restrictive to define your company culture, remember that by setting clear boundaries and expectations, you’re actually creating peace of mind for your team.
And while it might seem silly when there’s just a few of you, embedding collaboration and communication into your daily processes from the beginning is key to ensuring your success in the long term.
Startups that have a culture of collaboration can count on:
- Employees feeling free to share big, bold, out-there new ideas—the kind of ideas that push the envelope and help your company innovate and grow.
- A freedom to critique and offer differing perspectives, helping your executive team find and address their own blind spots.
- Teamwork that combines the best of everyone’s skill sets to create the greatest possible outcome.
And those are all things startups really need.
In fact, this step is so crucial for tech startups that we made you a collaboration and communication checklist to simplify the process of building these pillars into your culture. Click here to download it now.
Yes, building your company culture is about writing down a clear (and, ideally, catchy) outline of what your ideal work environment is like. But be sure to put your money where your mouth is, too.
If you’re going to prioritize communication, for instance, be sure to invest in great chat and video conferencing tools, schedule regular opportunities for feedback, and create spaces where employees can feel connected to each other and the team as a whole.
3. Missing opportunities for remote work
Those opportunities for connection are especially important if your team works remotely—and, if you’re like most modern companies, that’s going to be your reality at least some of the time.
Especially in 2020, remote work has become so normalized that it’s more or less expected among job applicants. (Especially at hip new startups like yours.)
In fact, with so many startups having distributed teams, it wouldn’t be surprising if many don’t return to office life after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remote work also gives you the opportunity to recruit the very best talent, regardless of location—a great perk since every hire is a huge investment in the early days of a startup.
As you grow, go a step beyond simply offering remote work, and really optimize for it to work for your business. Offer diverse communication options for your team (video calls can build rapport just like in-person socializing) and encourage a healthy work-life balance even as team members sign on from home.
As you create the systems that support a remote work environment, you need to be a bit more intentional about fostering a connected culture. Depending on the position, it might not come as naturally to team members to stay in that collaborative flow state.
Be sure to build in lots of opportunities for connection, encouraging informal conversations, and, if possible, in-person team building a few times per year.
4. Not trusting your team
Don’t take this the wrong way, but founders can be a little controlling—it makes sense, since you’ve invested a lot in your startup. But you can’t do it all on your own forever.
Unless you’re willing to give up control and trust the people you hire, there’s no way for your business to grow. You’ll eventually hit the limit of what you can personally do—and you’ll be exhausted and overworked when you get there.
It’s hard to do, but it’s crucial to hire people you trust and then give them the freedom to do their jobs. Of course, that’s easier said than done, so it’s important to create a structure that gives you peace of mind in delegation:
1. Give time and energy to the interview process
It can be really hard to prioritize hiring when you have a million more pressing tasks on your to-do list. But neglecting the interview process will only lead to expensive hiring mistakes and ultimately, more tasks on your list as you train your new hire or find a better fit.
2. Share your vision
It’s easy to assume you’ve shared enough information about what has to get done, but try to dig a bit deeper. Unless your new hire understands the bigger vision of what you’re building, they won’t truly be empowered to work independently—or know how to deliver great results.
3. Create a framework for checking in
Hopefully, you have the type of culture where team members feel comfortable checking in with questions or roadblocks that come up. But creating a formal schedule for checking in with them—even if it’s just a reminder on your calendar—can ease your worries and keep you abreast of new developments.
5. Choosing tools that don’t scale
We get it—you want to get the functionality you need without adding a bunch of unnecessary expenses that bog you down as you’re trying to grow.
But by choosing the cheapest technology tools now, you might be compromising on your growth later and creating headaches for yourself and your team.
As your startup grows, you need to stay focused on the larger vision of success—not get hung up on little issues like mistakenly choosing disparate tools that don’t integrate with each other or keep everyone on the same page.
Sure, in the beginning, you might only need one phone number. But someday (hopefully) you’re going to need all sorts of communication tools—business phone lines, messaging apps, email automation. Think long-term with your startup tech solutions to avoid wasting time shopping around later.
We recommend getting versatile, all-in-one software like RingCentral from the beginning, with functionality that grows with you.
Right now, you can have a professional business phone number for each team member, even if you’re answering it on your cell phone. As your business scales, though, you’ll be able to add video meetings, team messaging, and even customer support features without any hiccups or headaches.
Avoiding early stage pitfalls to grow your startup
These are a few common pitfalls we’ve seen startups fall victim to, and now that you’re aware of them, you can avoid your company doing the same.
Plus, by addressing these issues early on, you’ll build a resilient startup that can withstand other challenges as they come up.
And don’t forget—if you’re ready to build a foundation for your startup to grow on, we’ve got the communication and collaboration checklist you need. Click here to download it now.
Originally published Nov 25, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022