Earlier this week my New Venture Management professor, Dr. Jeff Lewis, shared 10 things he has learned through his personal entrepreneurial experiences.
He has invented products that are being sold nationwide at major retailers, has managed a real estate finance business and worked as a church administrator and pastor. Needless to say, my professor has some good advice.
10. Build and listen to a Board of Advisors.
A board of advisors is a less formal alternative to a board of directors, most commonly used by small companies. Entrepreneurs tend to think every idea they have is worth a million dollars, if not more. By having a close group of people who you can talk to about your idea, you’ll receive more subjective viewpoints and uncover problems that most entrepreneurs are too stubborn to notice.
9. Use customer feedback but don’t try and be all things to all people.
Always making your customers happy is a good way to run a business, but it’s impossible. Most customers will expect different things from your business, and there is no way to satisfy everyone. Your time is much better spent focusing on the aspects of your business that make most of your customers happy.
8. Build relationships and don’t burn your bridges.
Cliché alert! It’s not what you know but who you know. Make sure you get to know the people you meet (especially the ones you who can help you and your business) and thank those people for their help. More importantly, stay in touch with everyone who has helped you because you never know when they can help you again.
7. It’s only real when people open their wallets.
You could have a million-dollar idea and never make a dime unless you offer something people want. Additionally, someone may say they would pay for your products or services, but that doesn’t matter until they do.
6. It’s ok to go slow.
When first starting a business, make sure to take your time and think things through. Entrepreneurs waste a lot of time and money on bad ideas. Also, don’t worry too much about someone beating you to the punch. If your idea is truly innovative, then the likelihood of someone else having the same idea at the same time is really slim.
5. Build a qualified and motivated team with equity equivalent to contribution.
One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is convincing other people to be passionate about your idea. If you do manage to motivate other people to work on your idea, make sure they receive ownership of your business that is equal to how much effort they put into it.
4. Make changes in the team before things go bad.
Stop the bleeding before you lose too much blood. If a member of your team isn’t contributing as much or is doing something you disapprove of, talk to them about it. If they aren’t willing to change, then maybe your team is better off without that member.
3. Share equity.
It’s better to own a small piece of a big pie than an entire small pie. When there are lots of people investing both time and money into your business, it has a much higher chance of being successful. Most importantly, when your business is successful, it’ll make you proud.
2. Use other people’s money.
One thing that entrepreneurs must be good at is selling their idea to other people. When you do this well, people and investors will give you money towards starting your business. There’s less personal risk when you fund your business with someone else’s money but it also provides someone for you to be accountable to with your business.
1. Invest time before money.
Time is free and you likely have more of it than you think. Money, on the other hand, tends to be limited. One of the coolest things about being an entrepreneur is the process turning an idea into a business with few if any resources. Additionally, when you have a lot of time invested in your business, you feel an incredible sense of personal achievement when it’s successful. Plus, you’ll only lose time if it fails.
Photo by: Caucus’