Over my many years of mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and business professionals, I often hear a desire to start a new business, with a big hesitation while waiting for that perfect idea and perfect alignment of the stars. From my own experience and from the best entrepreneurs I know, I always offer some basic business realities, and assure you that conditions will never be perfect.
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Thus, I was happy to see my perspective solidified and detailed with real examples in a timely book, “Mission Possible: How to Build a Business for our Times,” by Alexandre Mars. He started an up and down career as an entrepreneur at an early age, and has since gathered experience and success in Europe and the USA on all sides of the business equation, including philanthropy.
Here is a sampling of his takeaways I support, with my insights added, that I recommend for every business professional thinking about career alternatives and opportunities:
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- There is no such thing as a “eureka moment.” In my experience, and the feedback from investors, most “new” ideas have been tried many times, and where they came from is not relevant. So don’t wait for that “idea of the century” that no one has ever thought of before. Just look for your advantage and passion, and put together a great plan to win.Another alternative to waiting for that magic idea is to go find it, through “brainstorming.” You may find that a collaboration of your most creative friends, with your guidance and enthusiasm, can identify more innovative ideas than you can wake up with in a lifetime.
- Success requires a great amount of hard work. I believe in the “10,000 hour rule,” which postulates that the best entrepreneurs put in more hours of relevant work on an idea and starting a business than the rest of us, counting all efforts and restarts. Your time is precious, so don’t waste a minute of it on useless activities or dreaming.For example, most people believe that Bill Gates started with a simple purchase of a base operating system leading to MS-DOS and Microsoft, but Mars points out that Bill spent thousands of hours in some computer rooms working on software day and night.
- Know yourself and find help to fill in the gaps. None of us has the skills and interests for all aspects of developing an idea, as well as growing a new business. I recommend a personal SWOT analysis first – find your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then pursue the people and education you need to build a winning business.In my own experience with technical startup founders, I still find it hard to name one who was also good, or even interested in financials or business operations. However, by finding a partner with complementary skills, the potential was always greater than “1+1.”
- You need a team and relationships to run a business. Not a single one of us has the bandwidth to build a solution and a business alone. You need a dedicated team, gleaned from your network of informal connections between family members, friends, and individual relationships with other professionals. Start today building a bigger network.A mistake often made by new business owners due to the unfamiliar new workload is to ignore and lose existing relationships with outside advisors as well as team members. I advise that you block out time at least weekly for nurturing new and existing relationships.
- Finding the right investors can make or break you. Most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have the resources alone to “bootstrap” or fund their new business alone. Finding investors requires that you start early in finding the right people, building a relationship with them before you need money, and nurturing their trust and advisory efforts to help.When you do find potential investors, be sure to take the time to do reverse due diligence on them, as they are doing due diligence on you and your team. I find too many entrepreneurs are surprised later by onerous investor expectations and hidden terms.
- Chasing and capitalizing on luck brings resilience. No matter what anyone says, I believe that luck is a factor in every new business. Even bad luck, such as unanticipated economy changes or major new competitors, will build resilience and enhance learning for future challenges. I’m also a believer that a positive attitude can make your own luck.
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Don’t let any of these realities destroy your dream of moving forward on an idea that can change the world, put you in control of your own destiny, or take away the satisfaction of doing what you love. My intent here is only to let you be forewarned, as well as help you be forearmed. You too can be part of the evidence that business owners are more satisfied than other professionals.