CEO Sundays: 6 Effective Ways to Run Your Startup Into the Ground

By December 14, 2014

Anyone can start a business. Find a name, fill out the articles of incorporation, pay a fee to file and publicize it as directed, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next Mark Cuban or Lori Greiner. It’s easy on paper.

The reality of being an entrepreneur, however, means enduring a turbulent, unavoidable mental and emotional roller coaster. It’s a hard ride to success.

But, if along the way you decide that success isn’t your thing, here are six calculated strategies that will lead to your startup’s ultimate demise (so you can get off the ride early):

1. Don’t Prepare for Slow Growth

Many startups fail because they simply run out of money. Why do they run out of money? They couldn’t get customers fast enough. When you get started building your startup, your projections for revenue growth might be up to six times the speed of reality. Reality is a bitch.

To ensure a quick exit: Quit your day job, and don’t bring in any investors who may provide the runway you need to prepare your startup for long-term success. You built an amazing widget, so you’ll be replacing your current salary in a month or two. Your savings account will be all you need to weather your ramp-up period.

2. Don’t Worry About Customer Churn

You’ve been landing new customers at a pretty good clip. Evidently, people are married to the idea that your product is going to meet their needs. But the honeymoon ends, and reality sets in. Customers are fighting with your product every day. Your product’s little quirks are getting annoying, and customers are starting to regret their decision to buy.

People don’t come with instruction manuals, so why should your product? Surely, all of your customers have read John Gray’s “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” so they’ll totally understand when your support team needs to go to their “cave” immediately following a new feature release. Your lack of support should ensure that your customer divorce rate exceeds the national average.

3. Ignore the Market

No matter how wonderful your product is, it will fail if it doesn’t solve a real problem in the marketplace. People don’t just throw money away; you have to satisfy a real need. If you’re not fulfilling a true need, you’re well on your way to killing your startup. Reaching in too many directions is another great way to add to the pain, as a one-size-fits-all startup typically fits none.

For those of you who didn’t assume a perfect fit right out of the gate, you may have stumbled upon a market fit, so you’ll need to take a page out of Blockbuster’s book to drive your business into the ground. Avoid pivoting your business in any way to react to — or, worse, proactively anticipate — market changes.

4. Under-budget and Overspend

Everything in business costs money. Mismanaging that money is essential to killing your startup. When planning projects and campaigns, underestimate how much money it’ll take to bring them to market. This is typically accomplished by utilizing textbooks rather than actual data analysis and research.

Under-budgeting in this manner will drain a large portion of your assets, but it’s possible you have venture capital money by now. Those investors expect you to spend all that money quickly, so you’ll definitely want to start pouring money into large, long-term expenses, like platinum conference sponsorships and five-year leases on swanky office space that you’ll definitely “grow into” someday. Once you’ve blown all that cash and have little to show for it, your down round will surely kill your startup’s buzz.

5. Stop Marketing

You need to drop out of the conversation. There’s a McDonald’s in nearly every city in the world, and it still pours money into market research. If McDonald’s needs to remind people it’s around, your enterprise startup certainly does. Luckily, if you kill the buzz early enough, you can avoid being resurrected by a rabid, loyal following.

Stop all sponsorships, remove paid advertisements, and avoid networking at business conferences and other industry events. These types of activities will lead to higher sales, better business relationships, and a stronger overall business. By halting marketing efforts, you can ensure your startup rests in peace.

6. Go Solo

When you started the business, you did it by yourself, and like the captain of a sinking ship, you probably don’t want others’ blood on your hands. Some entrepreneurs have it easy because they already assumed they were capable of accomplishing it alone, but others still have a healthy, autonomous business to dismantle.

By taking the load on yourself, you’re ensuring that your business will fail. Larger competitors working longer hours (some even working with your former staff) will outperform you on every level, and natural selection will implode your startup, leaving you free of responsibility and able to begin anew.

People kill their startups every day, so why can’t you? If you remove your nose from the grindstone and stop listening to what the market and your customers are telling you, you’ll be well on your way to joining them. You may end up in the same startup graveyard, but at least you’ll be one of the few who actually understands how you got there.