Tips for Your Startup
In the comments on my Startup Technology Stack post, Joe asked the following questions:
1. What are your top 5 tips for incorporation for someone who is new to the process?
2. What would be your top 10 “need to knows” or advice before starting your own company?
I tried to answer the first question here. This post will answer the second question. Let’s see if I can make it to 10:
1. Get started. What’s stopping you? There are business ideas that will require a lot of capital and all of your attention. If you don’t have the time or money to do one of those, do something else. I kept my full time job when I started Sharp Analytics and I worked nights and weekends until I felt like I could make the switch. There are a lot of investors who will tell you not to do this. I understand why they say it, but in most cases I don’t agree.
2. Your idea is less important than your execution. I discuss ideas vs. execution in this post and my thoughts on the subject haven’t changed much. This is important if you want to start a new business because a lot of entrepreneurs spend too much time fine tuning the idea and not enough time executing. A good idea with great execution has more value than a great idea with crappy execution.
3. It’s hard to fly solo. I like having a partner. There are a lot of drawbacks to having a partner too — for one, you can’t just do whatever you want. But that’s the point. A good partner will hold you accountable and help you see holes in your reasoning. And there’s a lot of work to do. It’s nice to have someone share the load and make up for your weaknesses.
4. Sell early. There are at least two schools of thought on this. I subscribe to the idea that you need to sell early and often. Entrepreneurs, especially technology entrepreneurs, tend to wait too long to sell. If you are a technology entrepreneur, take advantage of the iterative development processes that have replaced traditional systems development. Your iterations should be short and inexpensive. Start selling as soon as you have a prototype and then use the iterative development process to deliver value to your customers. I read a book recently called “Nail It Then Scale It” recently. It was written by a couple of smart people but they advocate that entrepreneurs should “stop selling” and spend time interviewing potential customers. There are two problems with this. The first is that you should never stop selling, the second is that customers see things as they are, not as they could be. Innovation requires you to see things as they could be and then you have to sell that to your customers. The Innovator’s Dilemma addresses this quite well. Read it.
5. Make sure your spouse is on board. On more than one occasion, I have had entrepreneurs ask me what they should do if their spouse isn’t sold on the idea of entrepreneurship. I tell them not to do it. It’s not worth it. I’m not saying it isn’t worth trying to persuade your spouse, but it isn’t worth doing unless you have your spouse’s full support. Entrepreneurship is very rewarding, but it’s also a challenge that affects your whole family. I absolutely love being a business owner but it really isn’t for everyone and if things get rough (which they will) you will want the full support of your family.
I’m not sure I’m going to make it to 10 tips tonight, but that’s a start. Here are a couple of posts from the archive that might be useful:
1. A post on uncertainty: http://www.crappytogood.com/2011/06/uncertainty/
2. A post about the difference between a good entrepreneur and a crappy one: http://www.crappytogood.com/2009/05/the-yo-yo-entrepreneur/