As I was sitting down thinking about what to write about that could help other would be entrepreneurs (you), what came to mind was the mistakes I’ve made trying to build businesses. And, since I’m still at it I can only really share what I’ve learned in the process. When I finally do succeed, then I’ll write another article.
The following are the mistakes I’ve made or spent too much time on when my focus should have been on other more important things. This is not new or groundbreaking adivce but, I figure that if you and others have or have not received it and see it consistently enough maybe it will sink in. Here’s my list of to do’s:
Get Customers 1st
I’ve worried about many other things but, you don’t need to worry about anything else but going out and getting a few customers first. You don’t need a logo, a website, brochure, LLC, etc., to do this depending on the business you are planning to build. You can put most of the other stuff aside until after you have committed people who have either written you a check, signed a contract or are ready to hand you a credit card for your product or service.
Even if your vision is to build a web application or service – you can find customers in your neighborhood or personal network that you can test your business idea/service/product on. If you can’t get money for what you’re trying to sell something’s wrong and I would highly advise following the customer development process. When you have positioned your product/service appropriately and have validated some initial assumptions, then, you can go get a DBA and open a bank account.
If what you’re offering is a high enough dollar amount then you can leverage the revenue to create a simple logo and website, etc., but it might not even be the right time to do that. If you need to show a prospect something in person, there are programs like Keynote, Pages, PowerPoint, etc., that you can use to create-mock ups. The process I first learned from my Bootstrap entrepreneur friend (Bijoy) was Demo – Sell – Build. Now, the more scientific process I’m really getting into is Customer Development which still encompasses Demo – Sell – Build but, there is more of a synthesized system and focus on measuring a hypothesis. All of this can be done with out spending any money and having a little creativity.
Find A Partner That Can Do Everything You Can’t
This has probably been my biggest hangup with 2 ventures that have failed because we did not have the right mix of talent on the team. Don’t get me wrong, the founders in these ventures were all very smart guys but, we had too many similar skill sets and needed much more diversity of talent. It’s great to start businesses with friends but even though they are friends their skills need to really fill the gaps where you cannot.
No matter what, if you have complimentary skill sets to your partner(s) I would highly advise that you have a couple of advisors that you can turn to when you as founders need help getting through tough decisions. It will happen no matter what. I would also highly advise that you read How To Pick A Co-Founder on Venture Hacks – it is one of the best articles I’ve read advising founding teams.
Focus, Focus, Focus
If you’re like me I see problems that need to be fixed daily and am always assessing potential opportunities. My problem, unfortunately, is I want to do so many things but you can only so much and you have to create enough momentum and climb many mountains to make things work. If you’re doing too many things – it’s difficult to do them all really well unless you are Richard Branson. Still Sir Richard, had to struggle early on and now he is able to build his enterprise through others.
Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
This was one of my biggest fears, “what will other people think”? Well, it does not matter what others think that’s important – what matters is what you learn. In fact, you need to fail as the title of this article suggests because failed attempts are hypothesis proven wrong. Find out how to fail faster earlier on so you know how to adapt quicker and don’t wind up pouring more energy into something that ultimately is not going to work. I’m personally enlightened by the process of what customer development can do for us as entrepreneurs. In fact, it is a process to mitigate your risk as an entrepreneur.
Well, that’s all I’ve got in me that I think is important for now. Stay in the game, think, listen and be determined – passion, purpose and determination are your greatest assets.
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