We’ve all said at one time or other “If I had only known…” and looking back on my own entrepreneurial journey it is something I have, over the years repeated all too often.
Many of us have spent our entire careers in the same industry. It’s what we know, it’s what we are good at and it’s where we feel safe. We spend a lot of our time talking to people who do the same things as us. The articles we read, the trade shows and the conferences we attend and the away days we suffer through are mostly related to the industry in which we work in. We seek to become experts in a bubble listening to other experts in a bubble.
When we do decide to follow the dream of starting our own business it is a whole new learning curve and the things we don’t know (which, all of a sudden, become many) can, and do, come back to bite us hard. Those crucial early stage knowledge gaps can be expensive, frustrating, time consuming and very painful. Sometimes they can even kill our dream before it begins.
You don’t know what you don’t know
Donald Rumsfeld (not a person I would normally quote or even listen to) said at a US Department of Defence news briefing back in 2002. According to slate.com
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know we don’t know.
No one ever claims that it is easy being an entrepreneur but, as I have said in previous posts and truly believe, the critical ingredient is getting off your behind and doing something.
“Watch, listen, and learn. You can’t know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity.”
18 things new entrepreneurs need to know:
- Seek good advice
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but don’t make the same one twice.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time. As Abraham Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
- No one cares about your company until you give them a reason to
- Stay self-funded for as long as possible. Don’t rush into raising funds
- Don’t hire too quickly. “If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” —Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
- Don’t wait for perfection
- Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, have confidence in your abilities and don’t let the bastards get you down.” —Michael Bloomberg
- Never let ego cloud your judgement.
- Chase the vision, not the money
- Don’t launch too early
- Don’t get disheartened
- Family and friends rarely make good business partners.
- Don’t over-analyze everything
- Start small but think big. “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”
- “Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.” — Ryan Freitas
- Employees will never care about the company as much as you do
- Once again, find your Yoda.
We all need mentors
Someone somewhere has already been on the journey you are about to take. That journey has given them knowledge, experience and valuable insight that will take you years to acquire on your own. Why repeat the mistakes of others when you can learn from them?
Don’t fool yourself into believing you don’t need mentors and that you can do this on your own. Arrogance has no place in your entrepreneurial toolbox – passion definitely, self belief most certainly and good advice absolutely.
Good advice can make the difference between success and costly failure.
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could” – Zig Ziglar
Many new entrepreneurs fail to recognise the importance and value of good advice and they avoid seeking out a mentor for various reasons, the most common being:
- They don’t know where to begin – finding a trusted and generous mentor can be difficult.
- They think it’s a complete waste of time.
- They feel too shy, awkward, afraid or proud to seek help.
You don’t need to seek out industry gurus. Good mentors are not trophies to be added to your website or sales pitch as a sign of how well connected you are. A good mentor is a source of guidance, they will have important skills and experience you have not. The best mentors offer honest, timely, hard-learned practical advice and can give you the confidence you need to act on it.
Years ago the only way to find a mentor was through a friend of a friend who knew someone, or by going to your local Chamber of Commerce networking events i.e breakfasts, seminars and conferences.
Today we have Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, specialist blogs, online webinars, entrepreneur podcasts and videos. Potential mentors are to be found at the click of a button. But, remember you are not looking for leading corporate CEO’s, but for someone who has started a business themselves and who has been down the path you are about to travel, someone who understands the problems you will face and has some of the answers.
Some of the world’s most successful people have had mentors at crucial points on their journey:
- Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
- Warren Buffet to Bill Gates
- Barbara Walters to Oprah Winfrey
- Sir Freddie Laker to Richard Branson for advice and guidance during the early days of getting Virgin Atlantic off the ground.
- Diana Vreeland (Legendary fashion editor) to Jackie Kennedy
- Justin Timberlake to Justin Bieber (I bet you’re glad you know that one now!)
- Christian Dior to Yves St Laurent
- Paul Gauguin to Van Gogh