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13 Things You Think Your Startup Needs But It Really Doesn’t

You can leave these nonessentials off your startup shopping list.

13 Things You Think Your Startup Needs But It Really Doesn’t
[Photo: Flickr user John Kraus]

There’s no such thing as one right way to do a startup. You just have to do it–to work as hard and smart as you can to take your company from concept to reality.

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It’s not easy, but it is possible. In order to make that startup a kick-ass success though, you may have to dispense with some cherished notions about what a startup really is. In today’s brutal startup world, the more crap you cut away, the higher you’ll fly.

Here are 13 of the things that you don’t need to waste your time on:

1. A location

You’re going to have to live somewhere and be somewhere to work, but that doesn’t mean that you need a swanky office with lots of glass, steel, desks, and an elevator. You’re better off spending those thousands of dollars on a better marketing plan or some higher-level talent.

Many startup-hungry entrepreneurs feel like they have to go to Silicon Valley to become part of the real startup culture. They’re mistaken. Location is way less of a thing now than it was 10 years ago. If you’re an information worker in the digital age, step back from your desire to have a location and feel the freedom.

You can startup from anywhere.

2. A CFO

For big corporations with lots of C-level execs, the CFO stands tall and powerful. He or she is a necessary part of the business.

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But for a startup? Not so much. I would even argue that the fewer chiefs you have in the organization, the more agile and powerful your company will become.

Keeping books and organizing finances is crucial to business success. That’s why you can hire a trusted accounting service to keep track of it on your behalf. A CFO? Don’t need ‘em.

3. A Receptionist

Once you get rid of a few unnecessary things, you can get rid of even more. If you don’t have an office, then you probably don’t need a receptionist. You can easily purchase phone services that will manage your calls for you.

4. An HR department

If you feel like you need an HR department, then I’m assuming that your startup already has 30 or more employees already. And if that’s the case, then good for you.

I would suggest, however, that for startups that need to focus on a lean operation and as few distractions as possible, all HR responsibilities be swiftly outsourced.

There may come a day when you’ll need your own in-house HR department. But right now, focus on what you’re good at and what you need to become better at.

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5. Employees

Are you surprised that I’m suggesting no employees?

You shouldn’t be. Contract workers are what most startups rely on in order to get off the ground. Hiring contractors removes a huge amount of complexity from a startup that simply needs to start getting stuff done. You’ll need to make sure you have your legal ducks in a row, but hiring contractors may be the best way to go from zero to success.

6. Lots Of Borrowed Money

To many aspiring entrepreneurs all they think they need is more funding.

Do you really, though? More and more entrepreneurs agree that funding can slow you down. Here’s why:

  • Funding wastes time. Without it, you can get straight into business.
  • You’re forced to rely on yourself to succeed.
  • You can grow at your own pace, not some forced rate demanded by investors.
  • You’re free to do what you think is best rather than answering to a board.
  • You figure out what really matters in a startup: not just revenue and growth rates, but your passion, your product, and your customers.

You may reach a point where you want to start a business that requires capital. Okay, so go ahead and seek funding. But first, give your startup a go on its own; whether you’re starting an e-commerce store, an SaaS, or an app, do as much as you can with as little funding as possible. It’ll teach you to creatively leverage your resources and make smarter decisions.

Maybe you’ll succeed without the baggage of borrowed money.

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7. A Board

Once you get rid of the investors, you get rid of one of the roadblocks that keeps you from succeeding: a board.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve served on boards and benefited from boards. I’ve been privileged to have access to some of the most experienced and wise board members on the planet.

At the same time, I recognize how a board can limit the growth and scalability of a startup. Startups need to make decisions fast–without too much questioning, deliberation, pros and cons, discussion, or objections.

8. Lots Of Meetings

The meeting-heavy culture is a vestige of a bygone era. I would venture to say that the average company can dispense with 90% of its meetings and do just fine.

In fact, companies that get rid of meetings will probably boost productivity, morale, and the overall direction of the company.

Early on in your startup, you’ll probably need to have a few meetings. Go ahead. But as things start humming along, try to run on as few meetings as possible.

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9. A Conference Room

If you’re not having lots of meetings, you don’t need a conference room. If you’re meeting with clients, take them to a coffeeshop or a bar. And if you must have a big room with a long table, any hotel will be glad to rent you theirs.

10. A Fax Machine

What’s a fax machine?

11. Policies For Everything

Policies are for centuries-old corporations that have defined their processes over multiple generations.

That’s not you. Your startup is free to do what it needs to do to succeed. Let the policy come later.

12. Market Research Overkill

I’m a major advocate of doing your market research before you go into business. You need to know whom you’re selling.

Once you figure it out, though, stop researching. It’s possible to go overboard with the whole market research thing. You begin to waste your time, second-guess yourself, and run yourself into the ground with more data, more metrics, more numbers, and more demographic insights.

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Stop researching. Make stuff, and sell it.

13. You

Eventually, your startup probably won’t need you. That’s okay. Sure, you should stick around for a while. Get the company going. Move it where it needs to be.

Then do something else. Start another company. Go do it again.

One mistake that many entrepreneurs make is investing themselves into the very DNA of the company. In its most innocuous forms, it makes everyone obsessively reliant on the CEO or founder for major decisions. The company stagnates.

In its more serious forms, it turns into founder worship, or it prevents the company from growing or changing at all.

Be willing to let go, to step back, and to hold the reins loosely. At some point, you’re going to want to retire anyway. Create a succession plan and hire capable managers to assist you.

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A startup actually needs very few things. Most of those needs are mental rather than physical. Cut away radically at your cherished ideas of what makes a startup, and go into your entrepreneurial journey with a passion.

You’ll probably discover that once you lose all that baggage, you’re a lot lighter.

What things do you think startups should do without?

Neil Patel is cofounder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, and Viacom grow their revenue.