Running a Successful Startup: Lessons from AIR (en-Japan)



Successfully running a startup is no easy feat. You need to roll up your sleeves and work hard for its success.If you fail to commit yourself to the growth of your startup, you may fail to see its third birthday—just like 90% of startups which fail within three years after establishment.So, what can make your startup successful?Here are some five important lessons from Fred Peyrot, COO of AIR, a “startup” within en-Japan.

  1. Embrace a startup culture

Startups have several inherent advantages you can capitalize on to escalate their growth. Instead of acting as if they were already big businesses, startups should eat the humble pie and behave just like startups, and avoid squandering their natural advantages. Fred said, “Although we are part of a larger company, we try to operate like a startup”.

  • Recognize the unique startup capabilities

Startups differ from big corporations in several ways, which give them the advantages. To start with, corporations are big, risk-averse, and are frequently limited by their short-term objectives. Additionally, because corporations are normally constrained by heavy processes, lots of rules, and the traditional vertical hierarchy model, they tend to move slowly.Startups, on the other hand, are small, embrace risk, and are inspired by their long-term objectives. More so, since startups are freed by their ability to break rules and rely on a flat hierarchy for quick decision-making, they tend to move quickly. Fred mentioned, “In startups, it's all about speed. That's our biggest's all about taking risk.”That speed is especially relevant in decision-making processes. For example, by giving the entire team direct access to the CEO, successful startups can make big decisions in as little as a day, enabling them outmaneuver bigger companies.“We have direct access to the CEO, which was not the case before...anything we need, anything we want, we can just go one floor up and ask the guy,” Fred emphasized. This flexibility and freedom is one of the biggest advantages in a startup.Importantly, those are huge differences, and failing to recognize them can make the difference between success and failure for your startup.

  • Capitalize on startup advantages

Furthermore, startups work best when they assert their independence, accept that failure is part of the game, and take advantage of their ability to break free from the traditional corporate structure.That same freedom, flexibility, and ability to move quickly extends to financial decisions. As a small company, you don't have to do things the way larger corporations do, and that allows you to work more quickly, more efficiently, and at a lower cost. That, too, is a huge advantage – one that Fred believes in a great deal.“When you're poor,” he says, “you usually make wiser decisions. When you're spend it because it's there.” Being lean and efficient is a huge advantage to you as a smart startup, and Fred argues that it's one you should try to take advantage of.“We try to behave as a poor company. That's something I try to instill inside the company and in all spending, we try to be very, very careful, especially if there is a better or cheaper solution.”

2. Embrace a multicultural approach

With a multicultural mindset, you can effectively develop unique and competitive strategies to ensure your startup survives the first troublesome three years.Fred said, “We’re pretty diverse, close to 15 people, I think over 10 nationalities.” Embracing multiculturalism has enabled AIR to benefit from greater outside-the-box thinking, and a wider range of fresh perspectives, all of which are important for a successful startup.Furthermore, integrating multiculturalism in a team can give your startup the flexibility and freedom that a homogeneous team may lack. Ultimately, you can have a diverse workforce with varied experiences and expectations, which are essential for the success of startups.

3. Communicate effectively

Along with too narrow focus and too inflexible team structures, one of the biggest reasons startups fail is failure to adequately communicate.When startups lose sight of the communication advantages they inherently possess because of their smaller size, they open their doors for abject failure.Naturally, startups have less-rigid communication structures compared to big corporations. Therefore, failure to adequately convey their values and establish clear communication channels within their teams is likely to spell doom for them.“I think that’s really important startups embrace their values, and also properly communicate them to the rest of the team”, Fred emphasized.

4. Hire effectively

Hiring effectively is integral for the long-term success of your startup. If you fail to hire the right employees, meeting your startup objectives will be difficult and far-fetched.

  • Have clear job descriptions

By effectively listing positions, you're more likely to find the talent you want. When job descriptions are clear and concise, better qualified candidates are likely to make their applications. “So, try to be as precise as possible on the job description”, Fred asserted.

  • Avoid using generic templates

As a startup, you have all the freedom – you don't have to use a generic template when hiring. Take advantage of that freedom, and as you evaluate candidates, use a systematic assessment tool, such as a Google Form where you score candidates’ qualifications.

  • Go for the best

And, don't settle for less than the best – if a candidate is unfocused and unmotivated, consider them as a no. When you're small and lean, you can't carry extra fat – and when you hire the wrong candidates, that's exactly what you're doing. “We have so much time to assess candidates, so we really have to make the best out of it”, he remarked.

5. Practice proper team management

Lastly, another key for running a successful startup is practicing effective team management. Importantly, ensuring the morale of team members is optimal will improve their productivity and motivation to achieve startup objectives.Most startups rely on surveys, polls, and one-on-one interactions to measure team morale and effectiveness. Unfortunately, those aren't very good tools, as they are “difficult to measure, time-consuming, and hard to take immediate action,” Fred asserted.Instead, Fred relies on Vibe in conjunction with the team's Slack channels. Vibe is a tool that measures emotional connectivity and responses to workplace projects and issues, allowing the team to get a better idea of the feelings in the workplace. With Vibe, the team members are also able to adjust and respond quickly, while taking advantage of the speed and agility that a startup offers.Therefore, to be a successful startup, you need to include innovative solutions, such as Vibe, to better manage your team.ConclusionStartup is the most critical phase in your business that can make it or break it. The way day-to-day operations are handled and business decisions are taken build the foundation for long-term success or failure.Therefore, you can safeguard your startup with the above strategies, and ensure you are on the road for long-term success.