This is a seemingly simple piece of advice, however it is extremely powerful and can save you copious amounts of time and money.
Enter The Tippy Top – your one-stop resource for everything business, career and finance.
Many entrepreneurship articles focus on leadership, motivation and inspiration which is great but sometimes you want to know what to actually do. So I have tried to make this post as pragmatic as possible while still offering a few pearls of intangible wisdom.
Before you Start Your Business
Talk to knowledgeable industry folks upfront
You can avoid many pitfalls by learning vicariously so invest the time here and listen attentively. If you learn about the 100 ways to do it wrong, you will be that much closer to doing it right. Ask questions and more questions.
Read every day and learn as much as you can
Recent studies show that the higher the level of education of an individual, the higher the probability that the start-up will succeed. In fact the success rate is exponential. Yes, there are one or two high-school dropouts that have made it big but I bet that most of the others failed hard. Furthermore, I bet that most business school graduates are pretty successful at starting businesses. I actually heard the other day that the revenue of businesses started by Harvard graduates is greater than the GDP of Germany, which is quite something.
All new ventures take longer and cost more than you think
For some reason, customers don’t adopt things as quickly as you think they should. It doesn’t make sense until you analyse your behaviours when it comes to purchasing things. This is true even if your product / service is amazingly good. I think I went on about five (5) Uber rides before signing up and I like to think of myself as fairly progressive!
We all admire ambitious growth projections but try be realistic with your planning otherwise you will likely miss deadlines and run out of cash. If you have investors, you will do a poor job of managing expectations and the relationship will quickly deteriorate.
When You're Ready to Launch Your Business!
Start small, start simple
Always remember to follow the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) rule. My engineering Professors taught me to follow this methodology because invariably it produces a better end result than complexity. Don’t try be smart, focus on building something simple and robust.
Nothing will happen unless you make it happen
You are not a CEO who goes to meetings, makes big decisions and signs important documents. You are an entrepreneur, a hustler, a doer, a busy body, an unrelenting force that loses out on sleep, parties and holidays. Don’t try be cool, just work hard and keep focus. If you end up employing 300 people, making customers happy and buying a yacht, then you’ll be cool.
Use your network ruthlessly and ask for lots of introductions
Success cannot be achieved in isolation so ask for help. As mentioned in my prior blog posts, business school students owe much of their subsequent success to the people they meet during their studies.
Financial markets, consumer markets and team dynamics quickly change. You can claim “First Mover Advantage” if you are one of the first businesses to disrupt a market. However, you also get a “Fast Follower” strategy which is just as formidable as these people can learn from your mistakes (read: wasted cash) and start at an accelerated pace. My brother and I started a business like this and literally copied the competition for the first 6 months and then innovated and squeezed him out of the market. My favourite saying here is: “We’ll take it from here thanks.”
When Your Business is Firing on all Cylinders
Work on your business, not in your business
It is important to keep a high-level perspective so that you can steer your business in the right direction. Your value as the entrepreneur is in:
- Setting the strategy;
- Finding the financing (from customers or investors); and
- Discovering new market trends.
It is of course a great idea to initially work in your business to understand it properly and streamline everything, but you must quickly delegate these tasks (and empower your employees) and focus on the bigger picture.
Don’t be possessive about your original idea, be ready to change it
You don’t know what your customers want despite maybe thinking you have a brilliant idea, so listen to them and give them what they ask for. This may mean that you change your company name, your strategy, your technology or your target market – you get the idea. Rather accept the change early and save yourself loads of time and money. Good entrepreneurial businesses constantly innovate (pivot) and this nimbleness is what keeps you alive.
If you provide a good service or have a good product then you’ll make money
At its core, business is really not complicated. You are solving someone’s problem / need for which they will pay you. Everything else is secondary to this simple fact.
Ruthlessly prioritise tasks otherwise you'll just do the easy stuff
There are not enough hours in the day to do everything so never complain about lack of time. Life is all about prioritisation. The chart below helps you prioritise tasks according to their difficulty and impact on your business.
The chart is fairly self-explanatory but this is the basic thinking behind it. I have also added guidelines on the percentage of time to spend on each segment:
- Low Priority (5%) – Only do these if you have some spare time on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
- Avoid (0%) – If you get stuck doing these tasks, you will probably not succeed.
- Start Now (25%) – These tasks build you a robust business so start these early in parallel to other tasks.
- Do Now (70%) – Focus on these and you’ll be amazed how much you accomplish.
In a nutshell this is the 80-20 rule in a graph – for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, do the tasks that take 20% of the time yet produce 80% of the results. Interestingly most people have heard of the rule but very few actually follow it.
Now I’m sure you can appreciate that this list of start-up advice could be infinitely long so I have tried to focus on the things that I think are most valuable. Please let me know if you think I have missed anything really important. Either way, I’ll probably keep adding to this blog post so please do visit it again.
Starting a business is the beginning of a wonderful journey of self-discovery and adrenaline-filled adventure. Remember that you are going to live and breathe your company almost every waking moment so make sure you have fun and take time to enjoy the journey.
Wishing you the very best of success!