Common startup business failures…

7 01 2009

You might ask yourself, what does this have to do with Chopperpix? Well, it has everything to do with it! Just like any other business that started with the idea of “what if?” Chopperpix has had it’s ups and downs as well. Ever since the idea of Chopperpix was dreamed up, there have been struggles to keep it going. Here are a few of my experiences in the startup of this business. Be sure to read the follow up post where you’ll read a little about my personal experience in Chopperpix’s startup.

1. Aerial photography. Sounds interesting right? Sure, but it’s kind of plain – boring too. What any business needs to do is differentiate itself from the competition. Not just aerial photography, it’s low-level aerial photography, using low cost UAV helicopters! Now that sounds more interesting doesn’t it? As you get the grasp of where this lies in importance and the general business plan, you’ll understand why differentiation in a big pond is important.

2. The old saying is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” All too true, isn’t it? I had my own issues with this saying when I first started Chopperpix. My first goal was to buy, buy and buy more “stuff.” But I had no plan. I didn’t have a business plan, plans for how the machines would operate, and plans to market. Guess how much money I made? Not much, and wasted a lot of time spinning my wheels. All too often in internet forums catering to aerial photography you will see this same scenario repeated over and over.

3. This may sound silly, but brochures and business cards are pretty much worthless for a startup. Focus your time with one-one contact with your potential clients. When you have your game down – REALLY down – then start with that.

4. Advertising in the phone book? No way. First of all it’s a dying medium. If you’ve got a website, focus on proliferating it everywhere you can. This is your best calling card and way to be found. Print media will soon be such a small segment of how we find one another, and your internet presence is much more important. Focus on search engine optimization. Here’s a great link on how to do that – here

5. The website. Should you go plunk down $1000 for a domain name and website right off the bat? I say no. There are websites out there that will help you get on your way to designing your own website, and you can buy domains for ~$15/year. It is best to build from the basics and as income allows, expand it. You wouldn’t want to drop that money only to give up and lose it down the road. I personally build my own websites. For me the answer was simple, but not for everyone.

6. You stopped marketing? This truly could be the biggest failure point of any start-up. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t keep marketing. Repetition is the key. Just like in real estate (my primary profession), you MUST keep your name or product out there in peoples faces or your competition will get your cut.

7. When you tried, nothing happened, so you didn’t try again? One of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill – Never, Never, Never give up. No one likes a quitter. Have I thought I’d quite my dream of Chopperpix? Actually no, but I did get discouraged. If you make a mistake in your start-up, try again, and again. If you give up, you may never know the success that you could have possibly been.

8. You figured what worked for that company will work for yours. But for some reason it doesn’t. Just like in my experience with Chopperpix, there are many business who’ve tried to replicate another’s business model and failed. Why? Because they took a long time to get things figured out too. And tweaked it. More importantly, if you can focus on diversifying your business into a slightly different niche, you could capitalize on the customers that your competition isn’t. If you can make that work, then focus on the goals your competition is focusing on, and then you’ll leave the start-up phase behind in better shape and more successful.

What’s the bottom line here? Starting a business can be one of the hardest things to do. Uncertainty, lack of structure, and lack of your “safety zone” can leave you scratching your head and perhaps giving up. No one knows what tomorrow brings. No one knows if you’ll be successful. If you give up, you’ll never know. If you fail you can say you tried. If you succeed, you’ll rejoice in the fruit of your labors, knowing you achieved something that relatively few ever do. Just don’t give up.

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2 responses

7 01 2009
Patrick Egan

What are you going to do about impending regulation (FAA) that will put you out of business?

7 01 2009
David Sanner

Good question, Patrick. Currently there are few answers it seems as to what actually is coming. The aerial photography community is fractured as to how to deal with it too. One possible solution is RCAPA which has been working alongside those crafting the rules. There may be little time left to get things structured in a way favorable to us, but it is important that the relatively small number of r/c aerial photographers unite.

Not everyone will agree with everything, but it’s nearly impossible to please everyone all the time anyways. In the end, I know that “out-of-business” is not an option. We have every intention of complying with any rule structure, self-imposed by the community or directly by the FAA, in order to continue operations. We’ve already taken positive steps forward to help ensure our viability no matter the circumstances.

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