Running a startup business is one of the more testing things you’re likely to ever do. While on the one hand you have the innate desire to make something work and the idea to make it happen, on the other you’re always taking a step into the unknown. This is particularly true if the business is your first attempt – it’s hard to make a business take off even if you’ve done so before, but when you’re on your first go, there are so many firsts ahead of you that it feels like every day is a fresh challenge.
One of the repetitive barriers that you’ll run up against in a startup is being short of equipment to perform specific tasks. If you’ve dabbled in business from home, it’s easy to think you can run a viable business with whatever you have to hand, but a dedicated startup – especially one which seeks to attract investment and to grow – needs to be properly equipped. You often won’t be told this until after it would have been useful, but there are certain standard pieces of equipment that you will simply be expected to know you should have.
Unless you have the following items – or a persuasive reason you don’t need them – it’s unwise to start a dedicated business.
A business telephone line (and possibly an entire system)
There are circumstances in which you can get away with having a business cell phone and a personal cell. If most of your business day involves you sitting at a laptop working, then you’ll generally be free and relaxed to answer the relevant phone when it rings. But this is a bare minimum – don’t be taking business calls on your personal cell, or vice versa. You should be answering your business phone with a businesslike manner, and personal calls however you please. Unless you keep the two separate, you’re inevitably going to have issues with phone manner.
Ideally, you will have a landline setup for your business, and some means of answering it when you’re not available. Whether that is a dedicated receptionist/secretary or a telephone valet service is up to you, but there will be times when you can’t or shouldn’t answer the phone – and having a live human voice on the receiving end to speak to your callers is invaluable. In extremis, this phone line can be a VoIP service, but the more stable the line is, the better. Being a startup means you’ll be expected to be agile and somewhat innovative, but this can’t come at the expense of professionalism.
A dedicated, powerful computer
We all know a few stories of how people started a business with nothing more than their cell phone, a laptop and a dream, but if you want to have a fighting chance of survival and then success, you can’t expect to get far without dedicated hardware. Your personal laptop may work fine for the purposes you initially had in mind, but a dedicated business needs a dedicated laptop, and the more powerful it is, the better.
Some of the stronger laptops on the market may be a stretch for your startup budget, and you can always consider business laptop rental to begin with. Bear in mind that this laptop will need to run multiple programs all at the same time without lagging. That could include having spreadsheets open, running Zoom calls, Slack channels, Skype chats and an open email client all at once. It will also need a strong, hi-definition webcam and inbuilt microphone, and ideally a durable battery so you can work on the move. If you use the same laptop for all of this during the week, and also for watching Netflix and for gaming in your downtime, it will demand a lot of memory, which will cause a conventional laptop to lag.
As a startup, you’re going to face a lot of questions from potential partners, investors and even people you plan to bring on board to work for you. You will usually want to be able to answer those questions with a breezy “Yes”, because a “No” is likely to make you look unprepared and unprofessional. Say, for example, you have a document or an article that you need someone to see, but because of time factors you only have a hard copy. This will lead to the question “Okay, do you have a scanner?” – and you’ll want to be able to say “Yes”, so you will want to have a scanner.
A reliable printer (which is harder to find than a lot of people realize) is also likely to be necessary, as it will allow you to print off important documents for storage and sending, as well as making information sheets which will be easy to distribute in meetings, and allow potential partners to connect more fully to your ideas. Finally, like any office, you’ll need stationery – you have to always know where you’ll find a pen in case you need to write something down, and headed paper so you can send official-looking business communications.
In your early days, one of the most valuable commodities you can have is knowledge, but you won’t start out knowing everything there is to know within your industry. Any business sector will have its essential texts – these can be catalogs, road atlases, manuals or any of a plethora of other documents. You should make sure you have ready access to these texts, even if the same information is readily available online. It’s beneficial to be able to say to someone on the other end of the phone “if you look on page 34, a few lines from the bottom” and have them instantly know what you’re pointing out.
Books and foundational documents provide an element of authority which can be hard to find naturally as a startup. As you gain in success and reputation, your own personal knowledge may mean that these documents are less essential to your running of the business, but it is certainly useful to have them in the beginning.