I have had the good fortune of being invited frequently to speak to groups of students (Undergrads and MBAs), and at various trade and industry forums throughout the USA, and even throughout China and in Dubai. I always end my talks with a slide entitled Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.
It’s my small way of evangelizing entrepreneurship and giving a nudge to those who are trying to muster the courage to start their own businesses. The slide contains 9 bullets of advice. Here are the first 5:
Integrity – What do you have if you don’t have integrity? Say what you do and do what you say. Do the right thing. Integrity is the basis of trust which is the basis of all relationships, business and otherwise. It can’t be faked. And, at the end of the day, you want to be able to sleep soundly at night. Everyone wants to work with high integrity people, so always operate with the highest degree of integrity.
Do It Now – So many aspiring entrepreneurs are waiting for the exact “right moment” to start their business. Well, I’ve got news for you. The “right moment” is NOW. Why wait? When you think about it, the worst thing that can happen is you fail, and you go back and get a job. But the learnings you will have amassed are priceless. With the economy and markets flat these days, a resourceful entrepreneur with a great idea and execution capability can be very successful. Competitors and established players are in disarray and “playing defense.” They are cutting costs, and trying to figure out their next pivot while you can start with a blank slate and make a market. Go for it!
Great People – You can’t win without having a great team around you. That goes for business, as well as sports, war, etc. Surround yourself with the very best talent you can recruit for your crusade. Great people are worth multiples of what you pay them, so take your time and find excellent associates who know how to deliver and who share your passion and values.
Focus on Your Customer – Too many entrepreneurs get enamored with their product or invention, or processes and trivia which have little impact on their startup. Not to pick on them, but I see this with a lot of engineers and techie entrepreneurs. You may have the best product, the coolest logo, and the most high powered investors and advisors, BUT without a customer, you do not have a business. The most important thing entrepreneurs need to focus on is their customers, who they are, what they want or need, and how you can help them. Thrill them and you will be successful. This needs to be your #1 focus at the beginning, and throughout the life of your company.
Be Flexible – Business plans are awesome. I have seen many dozens of good ones. I am a big proponent of planning, because the very act of planning helps you and your team think through challenges and scenarios, etc. and you learn tons through the process. But one thing is certain: nothing ever turns out as planned. Because of this, an entrepreneur needs to be flexible. This could mean changing your solution, modifying your product, selling into a different market segment, etc. The alternative, being inflexible, could be deadly to a startup.
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Featured image courtesy of dierken licensed via creative commons.