You can start being an entrepreneur right now if you want to.
As I’ve written about before, there’s way too many misconceptions that surround entrepreneurship, and most of them involve reasons timid and uninformed people made up for why they think you can’t be successful (think: “You have to be a programmer to do a startup!” ”You have to have lots of money & an Ivy League degree”….blah blah blah).
To help you comb through the bullshit and excuses, I’ve put together a nifty shortlist of 5 things you can do…starting RIGHT NOW…to get going on your entrepreneurial venture.
As you read these, notice what’s not here: stuff like “go get an LLC” or “go get business cards”, or the most repulsive, “go learn how to program” (I’m not against coding or coders, I’m just against you thinking the only way you’re going to succeed is if you know coding).
Notice also it doesn’t even start with having a great startup idea!
Focus on what matters, and the idea, the LLC, and the business cards come later, when they’re needed:
#1: Crank out a startup plan.
How many times have you thought “I’d like to be an entrepreneur, so I’ll go try and start a business / learn more about entrepreneurship”, only to forget about it and make zero progress?
How many times have you done the exact same thing with other parts of your life? (E.G. wanting to go to the gym but forgetting about in no time flat).
If so, congratulations, you’re being pwned by the #1 crusher of dreams and aspirations ever known to man.
The stupidest thing you can do–in life, and especially with business–is to not have a plan. No plan = doing a bunch of random shit that you don’t actually know will help you. Not having a plan was the way I almost sank all of my startup ventures. Correcting my ignorant self and getting a plan put everything squarely in place.
How many decisions you make are guided because you have goals and a plan for yourself? How many of them come from not knowing what to do next with your life, and just making random decisions based on what seems right at the time?
I’m harping on this not to make you feel bad, but I’d rather have you feel bad and change your ways than just sitting by quietly. This is important because, as you can imagine, business is a lot of time and complicated work, and you will get crushed–emotionally and monetarily–if you have no plan. Start off on the right foot by planning, have goals, and align your efforts accordingly.
A good plan has goals that are quantifiable. E.g. “Talk with 10 entrepreneurs by December 10th, 2012″. Goals that suck are too vague, like “Talk with some entrepreneurs soon”.
a. Learning Goals
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from people who have “been there, done that”.
Take an inventory of the things you know well (maybe starting a restaurant and you’re a great chef), and the things you suck at (you have no idea how to market a restaurant).
Then, set goals for thing like 1.) how many entrepreneurs or industry experts you want to talk to, 2.) how many books about startups you want to read, and the likes.
b. Execution Goals
As much I love you reading my blog, I guarantee you that if it’s the only thing you’re doing to start a business, you’re already heading down a 1-way path to nowhere, and you will be shunned by me.
More important than being theoretical is execution. Getting out there and getting ‘er done. And by setting goals, you know exactly what you need to do, as opposed to just randomly doing a bunch of stuff.
Examples of execution goals:
- How much time per week will I spend on my venture?
- When will my market research be finished by?
- When will I have raised enough money, have key employees, a programmer, etc?
- What specific steps will I take to market my startup?
If you have no specific goals, I guarantee you that you will get none of this done.
If you “think planning is too rigid” or that you’re “great at remembering everything”, please immediately leave this website and drown your laptop in a puddle of water. Planning is backbone of everything else, and without a plan, you’re toast.
#2: Read and learn from the startup greats.
Like I said, don’t reinvent the wheel. ”Learning from experience” works like crap if you’re clueless…and why the hell learn it the hard way when you could open up a book and read it there?
Specifically, I would recommend:
- Talk to 5 experts in entrepreneurship though your school, alumni association, work, etc.
- Read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis.
- Read The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank.
- Read every single blog article on Paul Graham’s blog.
- Attend a Startup Weekend.
Be a student of life. Seek things to read and learn.
#3: Go ask 10 people what their problem is.
After you have a plan and some more knowledge, you’re ready to come up with a startup idea.
If you actually read the things I talked about above, what I’m about to say will come to you as no surprise:
Coming up with your own startup idea is, more likely than not, stupid.
Your idea is not your baby. Why? Because you’re not the one who will be paying for the product you make.
It’s other people who are going to buy.
And you have to make something that they will like.
If I told you “I’d pay you $1,000 for X if you can design it”, you damn well better believe that spending your time developing X is better than wasting your time on ideas that no one wants.
#4: Build some entrepreneurial ideas around those problems.
So you listened to 10 people opine their woes, and you’ve got some pretty good ideas (if you actually do Step #3, I guarantee that you’ll have at least 5 potentially profitable startup ideas to toy around with).
Now, the question is: how do you turn those into a business? Where does the money come from? What’s the value the customer derives?
For example, with my startup Focosos, I started with the broad idea that there needs to be a better way to do academic research, and I validated that concept with potential customers. Then, I turned it into a business by figuring out 1.) when I could charge money, 2.) how much to charge, and 3.) who would buy it.
And don’t tell me you’re considering a “freemium” or “ad-based” model…I’ll get into that some other time, but if your long term strategy is to offer everything up for free, you are cruising for a buising.
#5: Go ask people if they like your startup solution, and if they would pay for it.
This is basically a repeat of Step 3, except that you are bringing something to the table.
“Hey Bob, last week you said that you had Y problem. I want to design Z that will get rid of your problem Y. Would you pay for it?”
Having a plan and a method takes the “mystery” out of entrepreneurship”, and turns it into a repeatable, learnable process that can be repeated time-and-time again.
Are you working on a startup and are stuck at one of these 5 steps?
Let me know about it in the comments below or by e-mailing me, firstname.lastname@example.org. @Everyone let’s see what we can do to help these folks overcome their barriers and succeed at their startup.
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