Many people start a business thinking that they will own it, but not many have what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
Some even go so far only to discover in a very short time that the business actually owns them. I would like to share my knowledge on new business ideas as an entrepreneur who has failed multiple times.
Anyone can start a business
It’s not like becoming a surgeon where 12 years of school are required before your first operation.
It would help if there was some sort of weed out system because not everyone should take their last 5 thousand dollars and 2 years of their lives to try.
Before you hop in, make sure you know what you are getting into. Talk to someone who has succeeded and DOES NOT say flowery things like, “go for it.”
Check out 6 Myths about Starting your Own Business for more information.
Define what it means to be an Entrepreneur
I want to clarify that by entrepreneur we typically mean a CEO.
It is unfortunate that we start with that assumption. I am an entrepreneur and I am not the CEO. I was a co-founder/COO who built a company with my brother and CEO and sold it.
Make sure you know what type of entrepreneur you are.
Hint: the CEO needs to have vision, love sales, want to do financial raises, and build teams.
Vision: Do not get a dream board and start to build a company.
You need to assess the market, find a real problem, and a determine what solutions you can offer. The key thing is if you can solve this.
Perhaps you need an advisory board with an expert. Industry expertise is really important. Our company had a medical advisor (my father) who could guide use through the realities of the healthcare world.
From the outside it looked easy, but it was far, far more complex that I would have known.
If you think you have isolated a problem and have a solution, hit up experts for a coffee and see what they say.
Talk about the problem everywhere and see if people light up or if they look confused or bored. Until you are able to crush an explanation of your vision in a sentence(elevator pitch), you aren’t ready.
If you’re looking for an example, look at Lessons to Learn from Steve Jobs for your Startup.
This one is essential. To grow a people-based business you will need some inherent leadership capability and passion.
On the basis that leadership literature abounds let me boil this down to some simple messages. Leadership involves some key qualities.
First, and foremost, integrity. No one follows anyone else – at least not anywhere particularly material – if they don’t believe that person is authentic.
Force multiplication – the ability to get out more from a team than the sum of its individual parts – is also about communication.
The ability to describe a vision, to instil a sense of collective purpose in others, to motivate in the moment. It is also about belief; in yourself fundamentally but also in others – trust first, without caveats, and you will be amazed how people rise to the opportunities you give them.
Finally, it is about a sense of humour and perspective.
Never trust anyone in power who doesn’t have this. One of our cultural mantras at Moorhouse was ‘to take your profession seriously but not yourself.’
This is an essential characteristic of a high-performing team and it has to be set from the top.
Become a Jack of All Trades
Building a services business requires some command – if not mastery – over a number of disciplines; from the technical specialism that you sell, through to strategy, marketing, selling, HR, Finance, IT, estate management etc.
Over time, you will potentially hire experts into each area; notwithstanding, as the leader, you will need to have a reasonable level of competence in each domain such that you facilitate progress across all of these disciplines.
You may come at this entrepreneurial adventure from deep inside one of these verticals.
If so, now is the time to broaden out – entrepreneurism requires plural interests and demands. In fact, many successful business leaders enjoy the role for the ‘mile wide, foot deep’ variety it brings.
Definitely one of the most important traits ever, for anyone, but especially important for entrepreneurs.
The day-to-day running a startup is all about adjusting, adapting, fixing, solving huge problems.
You cannot imagine the quantity of issues that appear every single day. Each issue is like “oh damn, if we don’t fix this, we won’t be able to make money, and we cannot pay salaries this month!”
You’re constantly dancing with your heart in your hands. And flexibility is absolutely crucial because the “by the book” procedures do NOT apply for the entrepreneurial reality, I’m afraid. So, you’re constantly looking for new ways to get things done.
A second trait is, obviously, humility.
Having the capability to embrace any challenge and learn with it. Being a forever student of life, businesses, and people.
If an entrepreneur lacks humility – as so many of us usually lack – they are obtuse and skewed toward their own reality, their own solution.
While some people say that typically entrepreneurs are those really stubborn guys, my humble opinion is that entrepreneurs are those who have the capability to LISTEN, to OBSERVE, and to LEARN.
And it requires humility. It requires having the capability to understand that we know absolutely nothing and that our most precious skill is learning with people that know more than us.
Finally, the cliché! Yes, there is nothing as important as having rock solid determination.
My friend, you have no idea how easy it is to just give up. And a lot of times, it will be very appealing for any entrepreneur. The daily obstacles are giant mountains that, a lot of times, you have no idea how to overcome.
Besides, there are a lot of times when you simply cannot sleep at night. You’re so concerned with your business, or with someone impacting your business, or with the results, or you’re just thinking about new actions to implement, that you won’t even be able to sleep.
And, then, you feel exhausted, burned out, destroyed. But still, you have to find the strength to keep going. And that only comes from determination.
Because as Mario Andretti once said:
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
I hope it was insightful to you. I’m sure these aren’t the only traits that people usually associate to successful entrepreneurs, but I found them to be the bottom line of the success mindset.
Anyway, if you want to dive in a little bit more, I could recommend you give a check on:
The key ingredient. The one thing that can make or break you.
You need to be the right person, at the right place, at the right time.
Luck is first among success factors; everything else you’re being told about why a certain product or person succeeded is an engineered narrative with the benefit of hindsight, with strong selection bias.
Of course all the winners are brilliant! But how many of the losers are, too?
You don’t even need to be a good enough entrepreneur to succeed. You don’t even need to be a good enough human being.
Sometimes, it seems like it would hinder your success since you will make ethical decisions that don’t make business sense.
If you feel this is a depressing answer, know that there are ways to help luck – the equivalent of walking around with a ten feet metal rod in a storm hoping to get struck by lightning; and those ways are the common wisdom about entrepreneurship, and product market fit, and others.
But only luck will get lightning to eventually hit in a big way.
How can I know if my startup idea is worth launching?
Ask yourself the following questions:
(1) Is there a (genuine) need for your product?
You will notice that I did NOT ask “Do people need your product?” It is often the case that most people do not even realize what they need until they have it.
Accordingly, the question is not whether people consciously recognize they need something, but whether there is a need generally, i.e. is there some problem that needs to be solved.)
(2) Will people be better off if you build your product?
Will your idea actually have some tangible benefit to your users?
Will the world be at least a slightly better place because of it? Will people, once they have it, not be able to imagine living without it?
(3) Do you genuinely believe in your product?
This isn’t just a question of “do you like your idea” or “are you determined to do it no matter what.”
The question is, can you genuinely look yourself in the mirror and answer the above two questions in the affirmative?
Do you truly — but not “passionately,” as passion implies an emotional bias, and this is not for you to give pause to reflect upon your “feelings” but rather your objective analysis of your idea.
Do you truly and rationally believe in your product to such a degree that you can make others around you believe in it too?
Which leads to Question 4.
(4) Do others want your product when you tell them about it?
This is sort of a trick question though.
The two extreme answers should be tossed out as outliers: both “Dude, that’s a GREAT idea!” and “Meh. It’s ok” don’t really mean much.
In the first, if it’s so obvious, it either has been tried and doesn’t work or is fatally flawed to such a degree that it doesn’t exist.
In the latter, your idea is actually worthless or they can’t be bothered to think about it. Either way, both extreme answers offer you little feedback.
The best answer is something that goes like this: a speechless, confused expression followed by doubt, some questions, some more doubt, perhaps even a moment or two of utter disbelief, at last concluded with a double-take followed by an “aha! eureka moment.
If you keep getting this sort of reaction, you probably have a pretty disruptive and useful idea: it’s hard to grasp initially, represents an unorthodox answer or complete paradigm change to a very obvious problem, and offers a remarkable solution that no one had considered before.
(5) How long have you been thinking about doing this?
If you’ve had your idea for a long time — years, perhaps — and rather than fading it only gets stronger and more pressing in your mind, it is probably something really special and worth pursuing.
We only get wiser and more experienced as time goes on, which is why most ideas fade into obsolescence with time.
Those ideas whose value increases over time must be something truly unique indeed.
And finally… the “obvious but still needs to be asked” question:
(6) Do YOU want your product? Would YOU use your product?
Seriously: is this a product that you couldn’t live without? Is this something that you want — and would — use all the time?
If you answered the above questions in the affirmative, stop reading Quora, stop doubting yourself, and go start building your new startup NOW.
And do as Nike says. Because after all, everything in life has a chance of failure, and it is far better to fail at something you love than to fail at something you don’t.