Out of the Incubator? Now What?

Completing a business incubator program often inspires conflicting feelings. On the one hand, your startup has proved its concept, gained valuable experience and expertise, and possibly even attracted some funding. The future looks full of opportunities that are all within reach as long as you think big and move fast. It’s thrilling.

On the other hand, you’re now operating outside the supportive space of the incubator for the first time and making complex decisions that will seal the fate of the startup. You quickly discover how much the incubator didn’t prepare you for. It’s terrifying.

If you can identify with this mixture of excitement and apprehension, you’re in familiar territory. Most founders (including many of the legends) felt similarly. More importantly, it’s a clear sign you’re on the right track because you’re balancing confidence and caution. Too much of either could sink the startup, but the right ratio forms the foundation of success. Now you just need to decide how to build on top of it.

Turning a Concept Into a Company

One of the hardest things about running a startup coming out of an incubator is deciding how to budget your time. Founders have endless decisions to make, conflicting choices to consider, and short and long-term priorities to balance – yet they only have 24 hours in a day. You may be able to work most (or sometimes all) those hours trying getting things done…but not for long.

Founders are often naturally inclined to be micromanagers. In the early days of the company, though, they need to direct all their time and energy to their core competencies and priorities. That means focusing on the product/service at the heart of the business, applying the founder’s specific skills and expertise, and advancing the growth strategy. This is what matters and where founders can have the biggest impact. Everything else is ancillary.

But not extraneous. Every business needs a structure to prop up the idea at its center. That structure includes things like accounting, human resources, marketing, and operations: each a complex and time-consuming challenge to tackle while also bootstrapping a business. Founders who do everything stretch themselves thin and risk burn out. Worse, their efforts yield poor results when a startup needs to avoid stumbles at all costs. As the saying goes – the jack of all trades becomes a master of none.

That’s why smart founders outsource what they don’t have the time or expertise to do themselves to professional service providers. In fact, the incubator may have recommended this strategy because it helps promising startups gain speed and strength immediately and often for less investment than trying to build an in-house department with the same capabilities.

What does your strategy look like after leaving an incubator? Do you have a plan for accounting and finance – a way to close the books, report on and manage your company’s performance, and meet dozens of other obligations? If not, Edward Thomas Associates can help you move out of the incubation phase and into a growth spurt.

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