15 Warning Signs That Your Startup Is In Trouble

Jan 31, 2015

If you are a founder in the early stages (first 18-24 months) of running your startup then you should keep your eyes open for these 10 warning signs. Any one of them can eventually kill your company.

1. You work from 9 to 5.
If you think starting a company is similar to working for somebody else and you are only working 8 or 9 hours a day, then you will fail!

2. You haven’t left your day job.
You need to be 100% committed to even have a chance of making your business work. It is fine to work on a business idea along side work for the first weeks or sometimes even months but it won’t become successful until you make the commitment and start working 110% on your own business.

3. You don’t work over weekends.
Same as with number 1, if you think you can take weekends off then you will fail! You have to be willing to sacrifice other things for the first couple of years.

4. You’re not sure how to monetize your product.
It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how great your idea is, you have to figure out how to get income to justify working on that product.

5. The business isn’t scalable (or you don’t know what scalability means).
It is very common for first time entrepreneurs to not have a good enough understanding of how to make things scalable, if that is the case you have to start learning fast. To be scalable it has to be able to grow from 1 to a million customers easily.

6. Less than 2 or more than 3 cofounders.
The magic number seems to be 2-3 cofounders, anything more is complicated and anything less (solofounders) can be very difficult.
Disclaimer: I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this point because I myself am a solofounder, so it can be done but because I have gone through it I can tell you it is hard.

7. You’re too stubborn or not stubborn enough.
You have to be stubborn enough to keep going even if things are hard and nobody believes in you or your idea. But at the same time if you are too stubborn, you might not listen to what other people are telling you and you might continue going even if your going in the wrong direction. It is a fine line, but you need the right balance between no stubbornness and too much stubbornness.

8. Lack of the right knowledge
You need to possess the right knowledge or have somebody on your team that possess it. Often this is technology knowledge but it can also be knowledge on the industry you’re working in, the market area etc. Anything that is key to your success you want to keep inside the team if you can.

9. Lack of mentors
We all need people that we can get advice from and learn from. These can be peers or mentors, just somebody that can advice you and motivate you when things are hard.

10. You’re not stressed or you are too stressed.
If you aren’t stressed out, you’re obviously not working nearly hard enough. But if you’re too stressed out then you are doing something wrong and should be careful because too much stress can really damage your health. A few mental breakdowns will teach you the right balance, after that you should be able to find that balance.

11. You lack the ability to lead and motivate people.
You or one of your co-founders has to have the ability to motivate people and lead them in good times and bad. They have to be able to convince your employees to bet on you and your company and they have to be able to get the best out of their employees.

12. You’re waiting for somebody to give you money.
If you are waiting for somebody to walk up to you and give you money because your idea is so awesome then you are going to fail!

13. You’re not willing to move geographically to where you need to be.
You have to do everything you can to make sure your company survives and becomes succesful, in many cases that means you have to be willing to move to a new area or country to chase your customers, investors or other key factors in your business.

14. You’re working on more than one business/idea.
If you are working on more then one idea or more than one business it will never become anything more than a half baked business. Getting any business of the ground takes 2-3 years of 24-7 workdays. No matter who you are you can’t build up more than one real business at a time.

 15. You’re not willing to sacrifice.
You have to be willing to sacrifice for your business. If you expect to be able the same standard of living as when you were working a normal job then you will never be successful. You can’t expect to have the same salary, the same amount of time to spend with family and friends or the stability that comes with working for somebody else. You have to be willing to sacrifice some or all of those things if you want to succeed.

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