Startup Advice: Top Ten Tips From 2021

If 2020 was defined by the global pandemic, 2021 was a year of resilience and change. Startup founders retooled their offerings to fit a vastly changed marketplace. They embraced new ways of collaborating with team members and clients. They tested their assumptions and re-evaluated company performance based on new norms.

In 2021, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs hosted a wide variety of experts, authors, and thinkers. They offered incredible advice on building an engaged audience, developing a winning culture, and working smartly. Here are the 10 best pieces of startup advice we heard throughout the year.

Use values to drive your culture

“The ideal culture is one where the values are so clearly laid out and actionable that you almost have a post-permission organization, where everyone knows what’s critical, everyone knows what the goals are, and everyone knows what’s right or wrong. Under that, everyone has permission to act on behalf of the company.” 

Yancey Strickler, Co-founder of Kickstarter

Evaluate career choices by defining success (and failure) at the outset

“Before you make a decision, ask yourself: ‘what would convince me this is not the right path?’ Doing that upfront keeps you honest with yourself as opposed to waiting until you have already executed on that decision and become biased and blinded to the alternative path. You don’t want to trust your gut. You test your gut to see if your intuition is reliable.”

Adam Grant, Wharton School Organizational Psychology Professor and Best-Selling Author of Think Again

Be authentic to build your audience

“It’s about owning your own story, owning your mistakes, your journey, your transitions, and being true and authentic as you grow.”

Whitney Headen, CEO of creative agency 19th & Park

Stop constantly checking your inbox

“It jumbles up your concentration, reduces your cognitive capacity, fatigues your brain, and makes you anxious. Continually checking inboxes is incredibly ill-suited for the way our brains function and makes us much worse at our jobs.”

Cal Newport, Best-Selling Author of “A World Without Email”

Be ready to spend time on tedious financial issues

“Any entrepreneur knows there are great days but also really hard days where you are trying to get a deal done, or you’re trying to close a sale. It requires long hours and being able to push through because you have the bigger picture vision in mind.”

Marguerite Pressley Davis, Founder & CEO of Finance Savvy CEO

Build up tolerance to rejection

“The more you expose yourself to that rejection, the easier it becomes over time. I found that time and again those are the founders who succeed and businesses that make it.”

Guy Raz, Creator & Host of How I Built This

Create wins — and momentum — by breaking complex assignments into site-sized tasks

“If you wake up in the morning with a to-do list with 30 things, you’re never doing that all in one day. Give yourself the space to say ‘what are the five things I need to be accountable to do today.’ You have to set yourself up for success.”

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder of BrainTrust

Become a trusted resource to clients to minimize rocky moments

“It’s not about avoiding tough conversations. If you are doing it right, you are going to have some bumps in the road. That’s just life. Delivery dates will be off; budgets will get blown up. It’s much easier to give bad news to people who like you.”

Bree Kellum Balogun, Senior Director of Account Management at REVOLT MEDIA & TV

Make founders the cornerstone of your brand story

“People want to know who is behind the things they are buying. If you’ve got a great dynamic founder who can be out there relating to your community and audience, that’s incredibly powerful, versus always having communication come from the corporation in a nameless, voiceless way.”

Emily Heyward, Co-founder and Chief Branding Officer of Red Antler

Seek the wisdom of experienced workers

“A young brain is focused, and that’s exceptional. An older brain tends to be more systematic and holistic in its thinking. It connects the dots.”

Chip Conley, Executive Mentor and Author of Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder

 


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