This is a big question with many moving parts and hundreds of things to get right that come from experience and art, not just black and white answers. However, there are many things that can be easily agreed on that will go a long way to getting you there. First lets talk about the stages, because it is clear that there are very different skill sets and modes of operation at different stages of the company's development. Lets call these stages Raw Startup, Early Revenue and Established. Raw Startup is the idea development stage, working out of the home or "garage" without a significant burn rate. Generally you are spending most of your time developing your plans, researching the market and customers and defining the product. You may also develop the actual product, or need to raise funding to accomplish this. Early Revenue is when you have a product or service to sell. It might even not be the "real" product, or may be a service that gets cash flow going and builds the team and customer relationship that meet milestones to the real product. Established is a company that has customers and a revenue stream, maybe not any profit, but it is getting real close to REALLY understanding the market. You can only really understand the market by being in the market and having constant customer feedback on a real product. Until that happens everything is theory and what people say they will do.
I recently heard that a company interviewed people going into a store about what they were planning on buying there, and then checked what they actually bought on the way out. In FACT people did NOT buy what they said they would 70% of the time. A cold hard reality, and why investors want to see real customers that are paying cash, not just saying nice things about your company.
First off let's start with the initial steps of a Raw Startup. All of these steps are while you are working out of your home and pulling the business plan together. You are avoiding expenses like the plague and trying to get up to speed on your business, product and market. This is something the entrepreneur must understand fully themselves, and can not hire people to understand for them.
Step #1 - Idea - This is actually the easy part. Due to the constant march of technology new opportunities are always emerging. You must have an idea that will solve a painful problem and do it at an order of magnitude cheaper, or better, than anything else out there. This is the "Better, faster, cheaper" approach and in technology products is generally the way to go. Alternatively a paradigm shift product is much more expensive to launch, as change takes more time and money. So you need to leap frog the competition by a wide margin, but in an evolutionary way, not a revolutionary way, which will require lots of capital probably. The margin must be so wide that companies have no choice but to listen to you, and try your product or service. Sounds hard, and it is, but if you can't say this about your product, then it will be a difficult and slow process to get anyone to take the risk of working with a new company. They will simply wait for the next generation from their current vendors who will be happy to tell them it is coming soon.
Step #2 - Team - Begin to develop your team with the correct skill sets that hammers all the major risks, and there are many, with the right domain experience, the right level experience at other companies (solution ideas, lead, manage, or do) AND working in the right stage company.
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Other Articles On Executive Management and Organizational Development (printable PDF Files):
The 11 Required Elements of a Successful Vision - What is a "Vision" and How to Develop and Use It - (1.3 Meg. PDF File)
Modes of Management - Shifting Management Gears As Your Company's Stage of Development Evolves
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