We’ve heard about the pitfalls unsuccessful entrepreneurs fall into, and how they could have been successful “if only.”
There are a lot of things too, that seem to fly under the radar — that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as I’m launching a new third business.
Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Making Money Isn’t as Simple as it Sounds: While quite counter-intuitive, the fact is that most companies struggle with the ability to create income effectively — that’s why most go out of business.
I think most of us are too rigid and narrow-minded, only resorting to the obvious ways to make money (a company’s primary revenue stream), but now more than ever, competition is banging on our customer’s doors.
Instead of trying to compete on price, a game you’ll lose sooner or later, I think the real way to win if you’re just starting out, is by first, creating a unique and original product or service.Once you have such an offering, then you need to figure out how to most effectively meet the needs of your ideal customer. If I’m a restaurant, am I only offering lunch and dinner, or should I expand into brunch? Catering?
Maybe it’s looking into purchasing a food truck, creating an on-premise mini-market, or offering on-line purchases. What type of transaction will most conveniently fit the needs of the customer, and the answer isn’t always the most obvious or top of mind. Regardless, the company that figures this out wins — end of story.
Different is Better Than Better: So many people and companies set out to be the best, which, don’t get me wrong, is certainly something worth striving for. The problem with ‘the best,’ though, is that the way in which we define the best is quite clear, and subjective.
Most industries have a handful of leaders that offer competing products, with a few minor differences that can be measured, but still leave the consumer undecided as a clear favorite — but why?
On the other hand, different is hard to measure — the most concrete thing about different, is that you know when it’s there. A prime example of this is with smart phones — iPhone vs. Samsung’s S series. The products are comparable, market leading and priced similarly, but if most of us had a choice, we’d choose the iPhone — why? Apple, they are different, we can see that, and even if we can’t clearly articulate or value that difference, it’s enough to separate them from the herd. If you were to decide on one of your two best friends to spend the weekend with in Vegas, and they are quite similar to one another, except one is a bit more spontaneous and full of life — who would you pick?
We value ‘different’ more than ‘better,’ even if we don’t always realize that.
It Might Be Your Baby, But... : This is your baby — it’s not your dad’s, your friend’s, or the VCs that you’ve been pitching. We tend to think that our friends really want to hear all about our kids, and want to believe that they are actually paying attention to the long, drawn out story from last weekend yet was so funny to you, but it’s important to understand that the things that happen to you or are a part of who you are, are area lot more interesting to you, because, well, it’s just that — a part of you.
We all have too much going on to invest inordinate amount of times on things, unless we are able to see some sort of pay-off in the not-too-distant future.
So, when it’s harder than you initially thought it would to get funding, or even just interest in general — don’t take it personally.Just keep hustling — keep banging on doors, one is bound to open.
Our Corner is Better Than Your Corner: If you trying to start and build a business, you can’t do it alone. You’re not a freelancer or consultant where revenue is dependant on one person’s ability to perform.
You’re a business, and a business is more than you.
The way I see it, as someone starting a business — the more people I have in my corner, the better chances I have of succeeding. I’ll have support in making tough decisions, and people there to work through the night with on important projects, and as a whole, a wider perspective and way of looking at things that affect the business.
Enlist and empower help — trust the people around you and their intentions, or you’ll never grow or scale as a company.
Juggling - Master the Craft: Even if you have folks in your corner, you’re going to need to need to become a damn good juggler. Truth be told, I’ve never been very good at juggling — in real life that is. I can’t seem to detract my eyes from the ball leaving my hand fast enough to focus on the one approaching that needs to be caught. It’s not a hand-eye coordination thing, and it’s not an athletic thing — I’m just not good at it.
I think this is how a lot of people are in business — they get fixated on a few pieces of the puzzle, while neglecting certain pieces that are critical for the company’s success. It takes a combination of things, including self-awareness (knowing one’s strengths), delegation (handing tasks off when the company is better served by someone else’s handling of tasks) and organization.
Juggle what you can, and pass things off to team member, when your time is better spent doing something else.
The Art of Adjustment: Almost never do things go exactly as planned.
Naturally, we have a vision of the way our business (product or service) exists in the marketplace, but rarely does that actually happen. Sometimes it’s a funding issue, other times it is unrealistic expectations, or the inability to accurately convey one’s vision to those that are able to execute it, i.e. designers, coders, interior designers and architects.
The important thing to acknowledge is that this is perfectly normal. It’s like getting up the nerve to ask that guy or girl out for dinner — the one you’ve been eyeing for quite a while, and when they say yes, you’re pumped. The time leading up to the big night gives you more than enough time to daydream about how incredible it’s going to be, and you’ve already lived the night in your head enough times to set yourself up for disappointment by the time the real night comes around.
We’re really good at wanting things to be a certain way, and we’re not nearly as good as accepting when things don’t go quite as planned.Know things aren’t going to go as planned — realize this, choose to learn from this, and you’ll be ready to adjust when the time comes.
Cutting the Pie: A difficult, but vastly important conversation to have among stakeholders is that which determines how much equity each stakeholder has in the business.Sometimes it’s cut and dry, and sometimes it’s a little more vague — the premise is, how much value is each entity bringing to the table, in terms of sweat (equity), financial capital, or perhaps the company (as a brand) is positioned better with a certain partner’s involvement and support of the startup — how much are they worth?
There’s no right answer, but I think it goes back to having support, offering support, and knowing that to be successful as an entrepreneur, I need other people in my corner. The question is, how can I balance the equation so that it works for all involved? What are the terms that make the other stakeholders proud and excited to be a part of what it is we are creating ?
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