I frequently consult young entrepreneurs seeking advice on establishing new business ventures.
Typically, they’re a group of close friends, former classmates or loose affiliates, galvanized by a strong central figure or idea that they collectively believe in.
Often this allegiance manifests itself in some form or other, that evidences the sincerity of their commitment and desire to bring their idea to fruition.
Sometimes this manifestation is a one-sheet or prospectus.
Other times, it’s the first draft of a business plan.
And still others, its a landing page or website.
Very rarely, though, I come across a young entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs, who have it all: business plan, marketing materials, financial projections, website and launch strategy.
I’m always excited when I encounter individuals like these, because it’s much easier to refine material that’s been primed, than trying to work the raw material itself.
Recently, I’ve been approached by an organization that seems to have the hallmarks of this rare breed of entrepreneur.
Since I’m bound by an NDA, I can’t talk about them or their project in any real detail.
But I can talk about what makes them exceptional, as a case study for other young entrepreneurs seeking to find success outside of a traditional 9 to 5.
So here are the five signs of a successful entrepreneur.
1. Planning makes perfect. One of the most important traits of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to plan. Success doesn’t ‘just happen’. It comes as the result of careful planning. I frequently refer to Sun Tzu, when I talk of planning, because it’s through planning that one defeats their enemy. Failure is the enemy. And as the saying goes, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I’ll take it one step further and say, “he who plans poorly, fails miserably.” To avoid the pitfalls of no/poor planning, I recommend the use of online project management and collaboration programs, like Basecamp, to take your planning to the next level.
2. Document everything. Having an idea of how you plan to get something done isn’t the same as documenting that plan. It’s important that your plans are memorialized in writing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it puts everyone on the same page (pun intended). If you’re concerned about maintaining documents in a usable and shareable way, Google Docs is an excellent tool for storing, sharing and editing documents online.
3. Scared money don’t make no money. A serious entrepreneur understands the importance of raising and spending money. The best ideas in the world go nowhere because they can’t get investment. I’m not talking IPO money or VC capital to build a prototype, hire staff and file patents. I’m talking basics: get a domain name, hire a web developer, get some business cards made. You’ve got to have a strategy for funding your company or idea, especially at its initial phases. Optimally, you can get your business up and running and generating revenue before you have to ask anyone (beyond friends and family) for money. Once you’ve got it going, you’ve got to have a strategy for sustaining and growing it. The presence/absence of a fundraising strategy is one of the key indicators of the viability of any business. Kickstarter is a great resource for jump starting York fundraising initiatives.
4. Get your tech on. In business nowadays, technology is the great equalizer. One trait that I find particularly intriguing about young entrepreneurs is their propensity to develop new platforms, and the fact that they understand the strategic importance of positioning technology in the marketplace. A good idea can become an overnight success through the effective utilization and implementation of technology. Whether its something as innovative as a new platform or as mundane as having a mobile website, integrating technology into your strategy is a sure means of differentiating you from your (potential) competitors.
5. Get sound advice. Have you ever drafted what you though was the perfect email? You labored over every word and read and re-read until you were certain it was just right. Then, satisfied, you press send. Of course, the minute it leaves your desktop you notice you’ve misspelled something. Or used “your” when you meant to use “you’re”. Or “there” instead of “their”. If only someone else had proofread it before it went out!
Starting a business venture is like preparing that email. Even when you think you’ve thought of everything, a more seasoned eye can spot things that you’ve missed. Having an experienced advisor, advisors or board of directors can be a valuable tool for not only launching your business, but growing and expanding your business as well.
If I had to give a formula for a successful entrepreneur: success = planning + execution.
Lots of people have good ideas.
What separates them from the guy sitting on his couch saying, “Hey! I thought of that years ago!” is that they got off their asses and did something about it.
Now get off your ass!
If you’re interested in getting some advice for your business idea, feel free to drop me a line.