10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching An Engineering Startup

This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links – at no extra cost for you. Please read my disclaimer here.

Launching a startup is no small feat. Regardless of industry, startups face a rough road to eventual success and encounter many disruptions, challenges, and obstacles along the way. 

The same is true for an engineering startup, but even more so, because they’re tasked with complicated product development along with normal business challenges.

Once success happens, business owners tend to look back on this period as paying their dues in the business world and a necessary part of the process. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be that hard.

Sure, all startups will face difficulties. While some are unavoidable, others can be anticipated. If you prepare for the mistakes and prevent them, you can have a smoother trip to the top. 

I’ve learned from my past mistakes, so here are the 10 things I wish I knew before launching an engineering startup.

1. The business always comes first

Most businesses are birthed of passion. A founder has a personal passion and decides to leverage that into a business, whether it’s starting a restaurant, creating a clothing line, launching a bare board PCB company, or opening an art studio. These business owners have a leg-up for success, since they generally know the industry inside and out.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching An Engineering Startup

Unfortunately, most business owners expect to “do what they love” for much of their day. In reality, the passion that fueled their business is only going to be a small amount of time. The rest is taken up by business operations, which are more or less the same across any business.

Marketing campaigns, business strategies, administrative work, customer engagement, and other day-to-day operations account for most of the time spent running a business. These typically aren’t the fun and passion that got it going in the first place, but they’re key to making it successful.

When you launch a startup, you have to wear many hats and learn your way around the new, complicated, and sometimes boring aspects of business operations. Go into it expecting this, rather than thinking you’ll get to have fun being an artist, musician, chef, or designer all day, every day.

2. It’s all about the customer

What’s the goal of a business? If you say profits, you’re missing the main goal – businesses exist to serve the customers’ needs, and the profits are the result of how well they do that. If you’re in business to make money, you’re unlikely to see much success.

reception

The biggest and most successful businesses got there because they created a product or service that customers want. The product solves a problem or fills a void in the market. Even non-essential products and services, such as movies and other forms of entertainment, satisfy a need – people want to be entertained.

The best business and the best product or service imaginable will fail if there’s no market for it. You need the customers to make the business run. When you plan your startup, think about the value your product or service can provide for the customer. 

If you have competitors already, does your product or service offer more than theirs? Does it satisfy a need that no one else has thought of? Or are you just saturating and already saturated market?

Remember that it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking – even a small feature or functionality that improves on an existing design can fill a market need. For example, you can find tons of two-layer circuit boards on the market, but many of them are lacking performance features and quality. 


A bare board pcb with superior heat resistance and conductivity can elevate the existing design and still differentiate itself from a crowded market. Deliver the product or service that adds value and elevates what’s already out there. To do that, you need to know what the customers’ pain points are, then design the product or service to help them.

3. You’ll probably fail

To be clear, “probably” is because the majority of startups don’t make it past the first year. It doesn’t mean you will fail, but simply that the odds are not in your favor. You need to be prepared to fail and have plans in place to dust yourself off and try again.

If you put everything into your startup, and it does fail, you can end up with significant debt, a lot of lost time, and no safety net. This can leave you in a bad position and make it more difficult to move on to your next endeavor, whether that’s another startup or not.

Launching a startup and keeping your current job is going to be stressful, overwhelming, and challenging at times, but it’s worth it for peace of mind. Keep your current job for steady income and build an emergency fund to prepare for any hiccups with your business.

You can use this time to refine aspects of your business and conduct market research, so you’re even more prepared when the time comes to launch.

The last thing you want to do is rush to market because you need the business to succeed for your survival. And when you take the time to learn and do it right, you know that even if you do fail, you’ll have a safety net and plenty of learning experiences to prepare for your next endeavor.

4. You only have yourself to count on

Throughout your career, you have a team of other people to provide support, guidance, help, instruction, etc. Managers, team leaders, coworkers, department heads, and company policies all offer a sense of support and community. If you run into problems, you can rely on the help of others and work through it together.

Established businesses have teams of people to run them. With your startup, it’s all up to you. You’re the final decision-maker and the one responsible for everything. Even if you have a team, you still have to make decisions that can make or break the business.

You only have yourself to answer to if you fail, but conversely, you also have yourself to thank for your success.

5. Your cash flow management is vital to your business

Managing cash flow is one of the most important aspects of a business, regardless of the industry. Businesses have expenses but need money coming in to operate, and if you don’t pay attention to the cash flow in and out, you could spend more than you’re making.

pííz

As a result, you could be in debt or without adequate funds to keep the business up and running.

If you have overhead and a team, the consequences can be more severe. You have payroll and money that needs to go out in order to bring money in. What happens if you don’t have the cash to spend, or the credit to count on?

No matter how fast your business grows – even if you become the mythical “overnight success” – don’t get too comfortable. Keep monitoring your cash flow and pay close attention to your budget. Make sure you’re not spending money on unnecessary expenses and work to build your emergency fund. 

Then, if you end up with an unexpected expense or major shift, you have the money to cushion you until things pick up again.

6. Keep Your part-time job for security

As mentioned, keeping your full-time job as long as possible gives you a steady flow of income to make sure your personal bills are paid. If your startup grows quickly and you have no time to manage your full-time job, don’t be so quick to quit. See if you can shift to part-time to keep that safety net and stability.

It takes time to build a business from the ground up, especially if you’re working toward long-term viability and future growth. You’re likely to encounter slow periods or times when you’re putting out more money than you’re bringing in, and that’s when things get really tough. 

In fact, before you’re established, you may find that you’re putting out a lot of cash and waiting weeks or months before it comes back – which is incredibly difficult if you don’t have money to fall back on.

So, hold onto your side gig, part-time job, freelancer position, and work as much as possible in your evenings, weekends, or whenever you’re not needed to run the business. It will be hard, but you’ll be thankful if you encounter unexpected obstacles or slow periods.

7. Don’t forget engagement

Modern consumers want to know the human behind the brand. They’re no longer content to buy from a faceless corporation and contribute to lining a CEO’s pockets. Now, consumers want to know the human side of the brand and its founder – they want a story they can get behind, and it’s up to you to show that to them.

Engagement is vital to business success, but many startup founders forget about it as they get caught up in the business operations or product development. Simple tasks, such as responding to comments on social media, reaching out to customers through email, or sharing short videos to talk about news and developments can go a long way.

Make sure you fit customer engagement into your schedule. Along with showing the human side of your brand, it can give you insights into what your customers are looking for from you and how you can provide a better product or service to them. It’s a small effort for a big payoff.

8. Relieve your burden with outsourcing

The go-getter attitude that fuels most startup founders can be their downfall. While that informs an entrepreneurial spirit, it can lead some to become micromanagers. Startup founders believe that they need to do everything on their own and leave themselves susceptible to burnout, errors, missed deadlines, and overflowing to-do lists.

outsource123

Aside from the time that it takes to do everything for your business by yourself, you’re also not necessarily the best person for the job. Your skill set and knowledge is in one area – likely the focus of the business – and not others.

Sure, you may have some accounting or marketing knowledge and skills, but they’re not your expertise. Instead of overloading your schedule and possibly making mistakes, outsource to the experts. You can outsource a great many things, including website design, content marketing, copywriting, accounting and payroll, human resources, and more, leaving you to focus on the tasks that only you can do.

If you don’t have the budget for a full-time employee, consider part-time or freelance employees and third-party outsourcing companies that offer work on an as-needed basis. You can also implement technology solutions that can automate some tasks, relieving the burden on both you and your team. Work smart, not hard.

9. Research your competitors

Your competition is important to your future success. Everything your competitors do, from the audience they target to their pricing strategy to their website design and customer sentiment, have an impact on your business. You need to know and prepare.

If you can, visit your competitors in person and check out their brick-and-mortar locations. If they’re online only, check out their website and social media pages to get a feel for their business. Read customer comments and reviews to see if they’re generally happy, what they’d like to see done differently, and the recommendations they have. 

The more you can learn about them and their customers, the more you can improve your own business.

10. Make time for fun

With the business launch and a full- or part-time job, finding time to relax and have fun can seem impossible. But you need to have fun and blow off some steam. Make sure you set aside time to have dinner or drinks with friends, go on a nature walk or hike, spend time with family, or enjoy your favorite hobby. Focusing only on work and the business is a quick path to burnout and resentment.

exhasted

This advice should help you navigate your startup launch and avoid some common pitfalls, but remember that you will still make mistakes and come up against challenges. Starting a business is never smooth sailing, and a lot of entrepreneurs have gotten where they are by making mistakes, failing, and learning from their experiences. 

You’ll never be perfect, but how you handle your mistakes and the disruptions can have a huge impact on your future success. 

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}