Here’s a four-week plan to kick start the New Year with a smarter startup

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By Terry Gold, managing director, Techstars Adelaide

In Australia, January tends to be a quiet month with a lot of people extending the holiday period. Most businesses move at a slower pace, or even close for a few weeks.

But as a startup founder, you can’t afford to take a month off. You need to use the time you have to further develop your business, increase your market share and take your product to the next level. Here’s a four-week plan to turn other people’s downtime to your advantage and start the year by getting ahead of the competition.

Week 1: Rest. Reflect. Reset.

While founders can’t afford to take an entire month off, it’s important to take some time to rest and reflect. Taking a break can help reignite your enthusiasm for your startup, and will give your brain space to bring up new ideas.

Reflecting on the past year will force you to think about the challenges you’ve overcome, and consider what you would have done differently. Whether it’s looking at implementing new processes, hiring more people, investing more in R&D for your product or taking a step back and re-evaluating how you manage your team.

Week 2: Connect with overseas markets

Don’t forget that the rest of the world goes back to work in full force in early January. This makes it a great time to jump back into work by making time zones work in your favour. Shift your hours so you can get some daytime on the beach with the family, but then use early mornings and evenings to connect with overseas customers. You too can enjoy the nice Australian summer, but also take this time when your competitors are relaxing to try to move your business forward.

There’s a time for planning, and there’s a time for getting out there and talking to customers. So start by speaking with potential/existing customers overseas, and then you’ll be in a better position to plan for the year ahead. It’s also a great way to get access to insights into international market trends without the distractions from local market issues.

Week 3: Investigate government support

There are a lot of government initiatives and grants available in Australia to help startups. However, it is surprising that in the 2016 Startup Muster annual survey, government grants were found to be largely unpopular, with ineligibility (38.7%) and time-consumption (27.8%) nominated as the biggest barriers for startups.

Make the most of the quiet month to get your head around all the government grants and initiatives that are made available for Australian startups and apply for relevant ones.

Some programmes on offer to startups include the Entrepreneurs’ Programme and the R&D tax incentive. If you’ve identified some key overseas market opportunities from your Week 2 conversations, see if there’s an Austrade Landing Pad in your city of choice. You may also be eligible for the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG).

Week 4: Start communicating

Spend a week updating your marketing and communications for 2018, so that when people do come back to work, you’re ready to go. Start putting the global insights you gained in week 2 to good use. Build a bank of blog posts and other content which will help get your brand out there in the coming months, and start to position your company as a credible business.

By week five, when people come back to work after Australia Day, your team, investors and customers will see that you’re already ahead of the game, and that you’re a startup with global aspirations. You’ve got a jump on those that took the month off, while still taking some time for yourself. Start 2018 by sprinting out of the block, and you’ll put your startup in a position to really succeed.

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