So, Why Become an Entrepreneur?
What? Start your own business? In THIS economy? Are you nuts!?Dear Entrepreneur!
I meet lots of would-be entrepreneurs who say just that, mainly because that’s what their friends and family say whenever they bring the subject up. Actually, this recovering economy may be the perfect platform from which to launch a new venture—there is a great public awakening to the fact strong small business growth is the main engine of a better and brighter economy. If you are on the fence, keep smart business practices and critical resources in mind as you prepare to launch your dream business and know it can be done!
The time to start is now—here are nine tips:
1. Join an entrepreneurial “hub/community”. If you can, launch (or re-launch) your new venture inside a professional business incubator. Forbes magazine calls them “business schools on steroids”, and they can massively reduce your start-up risks, increase your chances for success and accelerate your growth. Be part of something bigger than yourself!
2. Don’t do it alone. Unless you’re a confirmed lone wolf bootstrapper, you’re going to need help. No experience in management or running a business? According to one Harvard professor’s research, less than 20% of new entrepreneurs do. There are highly-qualified displaced executives and disengaged professionals just itching for an opportunity to be part of something big and significant. Surround yourself with people smarter than you to fill in your management team gaps.
3. Or, do do it alone. Many entrepreneurs started their company to free themselves from control by others. Some choose to grow slower, pass up opportunities, or self-fund themselves through reinvestment of cash flow rather than take someone else’s money with strings attached. Knowing what YOU want is most important. Don’t put your business in someone else’s hands when their only vested interest might be a “liquidity event” (unless this is what you want).
4. “Show me the money!” comes after “Show them the business model.” Need or want investors? Investors and Backers want to know who your customer is, and how you will make money. They expect you know this before you approach them. Also realize investors are not going to give you all the money at once; the reality is, Investors want you “hungry”. They want you to have substantial skin in the game and will want to see you successfully execute the components of your business model. They’ll demand milestones, and they’ll judge you by your actions, not your words.
5. Smart “bootstrapping” is a must. No one can predict how the marketplace will respond to your better mouse trap, so be smart with your money—especially your investors’ money. Gone are the days of “no strings attached” business loans, 0% credit card balance transfers with no fees, and borrowing against your home equity line. One of the benefits of launching from an incubator is starting off with the look, the resources, the community, and the networking that give investors (and customers!) confidence in your company, without blowing your whole investment to do it. Guy Kawasaki recently blogged, “the probability of an entrepreneur getting venture capital is the same as getting struck by lightning while standing at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. This may be too optimistic.” Business incubators will get you “more bang for your buck.”
6. Business Plans are DOA! Elaborate 50-page plans are obsolete the day you print them out. They’re dead-on-arrival to potential investors, who read your plan much the same way as a recruiter reads cover letters and resumes. With a 30-second scan, the investor has formed an opinion, and 99 out of 100 times it is not a favorable one. In today’s competitive market, you have to be a Seth Godin “purple cow”— simply remarkable, worth talking about, worth paying attention to, and standing out in a big way. Dump the elaborate business plan; concentrate instead on an easily understood, compelling elevator pitch, a minimum viable product, and a validated business model. Consider this— Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Sam Walton all started their business without a business plan.
7. Develop an MVP and LAUNCH! Most products never get out of the lab to the market because of feature creep or continual tinkering. Develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that is both cost effective and contains only the features that allow the product to be deployed and no more. Then get that puppy to market and do continual product iteration and refinement based on customer feedback. Long and costly product development cycles are out and MVP is in!
8. Learn to pivot. Market conditions change in a heartbeat; those flexible and agile enough to change with them will survive and prosper. Pivots are continuous mid-course adjustments based on real-time marketplace feedback. Successes innovate; failures stagnate. Pivot to find your venture’s better, faster, cheaper, or smarter solutions!
9. Get over the first hurdle—inaction. If you really think you want to start a business, don’t sit on the sidelines. Entrepreneurship can be learned. The raw materials are vision, passion, and drive coupled with accessing the resources, networking, and expertise to get you in on the ground floor. Get started today, it only takes one phone call to star the ball rolling.
Call Gulya Alexander at 260-407-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org to begin your future. Then decide. I think you’ll find there is simply no better time than now to become an entrepreneur and to connect with your local business incubator.
We look forward to working with you,
Karl R. LaPan
President and CEO