If you Google “entrepreneur” you get a lot of mindless cliches like “Think Big!” For me, being an “entrepreneur” doesn’t mean starting the next “Facebook”. Or even starting any business at all.
It means finding the challenges you have in your life, and determining creative ways to overcome those challenges…
As an ex slave for the wage- the best thing I ever did, was starting my own company, then helping others start theres.
I believe that creating multiple income streams is important for everyone. However, in this post I focus mostly on the issues that come up when you first start an actual company.
These rules also apply if you are taking an entrepreneurial stance within a much larger company (which all employees should do).
Just as good to be an “entreployee” as an “entrepreneur”. Either one will help you survive this world of increased economic uncertainty.
For me, I’ve started several businesses. Maybe 17 have failed out of 20. The best advice I ever received was that you were guaranteed to fail but to always, “fail quickly and fail frequently”.
“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”
Entrepreneurship is a sentence of failures punctuated by brief success.
I’m invested in many private companies. I’ve advised probably another 70 private companies thus far and 20- 37 are in Events and Hospitality.
I’m also on the board of several private companies.
Many of these companies are completely different in client avatar and even more different in profile however many of the following rules are exactly the same for all eventrepreneurs and entrepreneurs alike.
Enough Prattle, let us get to the RULES:
1)It is not fun. Everyone will say it is, but they lie! And I am not going to explain why it’s not fun. These are rules. Not theories. I don’t need to prove them.
But there’s a strong chance you can hate yourself throughout the process of being an entrepreneur. Keep sharp objects and pills away during your worst moments. And you will have them. If you are an entrepreneur and agree with me, please note this in the comments below.
2) Try not to hire people. You’ll have to hire people to expand your business. But it’s a good discipline to really question if you need each and every hire. I have several companies and only a VA, yes, she is a great one but it is all I need.
“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” —Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO
3) Get a customer. This seems obvious. But it’s not. Get a customer before you start your business, if you can.
So many people say to me, “I have an idea. Can you introduce me to VCs?”
There is a HUGE gap between “idea” and “professional venture capital”.
In the middle of that gap is “customer”.
4) If you are offering a service, call it a product.
Oracle did it. They claimed they had a database. But if you “bought” their database they would send in a team of consultants to help you “install” the database to fit your needs.
In other words, for the first several years of their existence, they claimed to have a product but they really were a consulting company. Don’t forget this story. Products are valued higher than services.
And almost EVERY major software product company was a service company in the beginning. Don’t forget that.
5) It’s OK to fail. Start over. Hopefully before you run out of money. Hopefully before you take in investor money. Or, don’t worry about it. Come up with new ideas. Start over.
6) Be profitable. Try to be profitable immediately. This seems obvious but it isn’t. Try not to raise money. Try not to loan money. That money is expensive.
7) When raising money: if it’s not easy then your idea is probably incapable of raising money. If its easy, then take as much as possible. If its TOO easy, then sell your company (unless you are FACEBOOK, etc).
*(if its too easy, sell your company, I once started and sold my company in 90days for 100x what I thought it could be worth). See *EcoDisco*
8) Competition is good. It turns you into a hustler. It helps you judge progress. It shows that other people value the space you are in. Your competitors are also your potential acquirers.
9) Don’t use a PR firm. Sorry SIMON BURTON and ANDREW WHITE – Except maybe as a secretary. You are the PR for your company. You are your company’s brand.
10) Communicate with everyone. Employees. Customers. Investors. All the time. Every day.
Employees want to know what to do. And they want to know you are thinking of their overall career.
Customers want to know how to keep their bosses calm.
Investors want to be your friend and want to know they can count on you when time’s are tough.
Do everything for your customers. This is very important.
Get them girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Visit their parents when they need you to. Help them find other venues or clients or consultants to meet their needs. Even introduce them to your competitors if you think a competitor can help them or if you think you are about to be fired. Always think first, “What’s going to make my customer happy?”
Note: EVEN if that means introduce them to a competitor. If you are the SOURCE, then everybody comes back to the source.
11) Your customer is not a company. There’s a human there. What will make my human customer happy? Make her laugh. You want your customer to be happy.
12) Show up. Go to breakfast/lunch/dinner with customers. Treat.
13) History. Know the history of your customers in every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history, investing history, etc. Everyone moans to me about how hard it is to get a meeting with a client but then when they don’t convert meeting to client, they seem disappointed however they have gone to see the client with nothing but information about themselves no client knowledge.
14) Micro-manage software development. Nobody knows your product better than you do. Or in my case, my partner, *Nigel Carlos, If you aren’t a technical person, learn how to be very specific in your product specification so that your programmers can’t say: “well you didn’t say that!” *he tells me.
15) Hire local. You need to be able to see and talk to your programmers.
16) Sleep. Don’t buy into the 20 hours a day entrepreneur myth. You need to sleep 8 hours a day to have a focused mind or at least 6hours. No amount of success or wealth can make it up if you lose your health. This is a fact, trust me.
If you are working 16 hours a day, then that means you have flaws in how you are managing your time.
You can argue about this but it’s true.
17) Exercise. Same as above. If you are unhealthy, your product will be unhealthy.
18)EQ Fit. DON’T have dating problems and software development problems at the same time. VCs can sense this all over you.
19) BE GRATEFUL. You need to. Be grateful where you are. And SPEAK TO YOURSELF ABOUT THE SUCCESS YOU WILL RECEIVE.
PRAY TO THE UNIVERSE/Energy/Your G_d for the success of your customers. Heck, pray for the success of your competitors. The better they do, it means the market is getting bigger. And if one of them breaks out, they can buy you.
20) Buy your employees gifts. Massages. Tickets. Whatever. I always imagined that at the end of each day my young, employees would be calling their parents and their mom and dad would ask them: “Hi honey! How was your day today?” And I wanted them to be able to say: “It was the best!” Invite customers to masseuse day.
21) Treat your employees like they are your children. They need boundaries. They need to be told “no!” sometimes. And sometimes you need to hit them in the face (ha ha, just kidding). But within boundaries, let them play. I learned this from seeing *Michael Acton Smith OBE’s office. ( *Moshi Monster Creator)
22)Don’t be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good and you price it cheap, people will buy. Then you can price upgrades, future products, and future services more expensive. Which goes along with the next rule.
23)Distribution is everything. Branding is everything. Get your name out there, whatever it takes. The best distribution is of course word of mouth, which is why your initial pricing doesn’t matter.
Write a blog about your industry and be very honest about all the flaws (even your own) that is currently in your industry. I am still working on this one.
24)Don’t kill yourself. It’s not worth it. Your employees need you.
Your children or future children need you. It seems odd to include this in a post about entrepreneurship but we’re also taking about keeping it real.
Most books or “rules” for entrepreneurs talk about things like “think big”, “go after your dreams”. But often dreams turn into nightmares. I’ll repeat it again. Don’t kill yourself. Tweet me if things get too stressful. Or more importantly, make sure you take proper medication and eat well, sleep and exercise.
25) Give your employees structure. Let each employee know how his or her path to success can be achieved. All of them will either leave you or replace you eventually. That’s OK. Give them the guidelines how that might happen. Tell them how they can get rich by working for you.
26) Fire employees immediately. If an employee gets “the disease” he needs to be fired. If they ask for more money all the time. If they bad mouth you to other employees. If you even think they are talking behind your back, fire them.
The disease has no cure. And it’s very contagious. Show no mercy. Show the employee the door. There are no second chances because the disease is incurable.
I don’t say this because I want anyone to be hurt. But if you’ve followed the rules above then you are treating employees well already. NOBODY should spread the disease and badmouth you or your customers.
27) Make friends with your landlord. If you ever have to sell your company, believe it or not, you are going to need his signature (because there’s going to be a new lease owner). I only recently learned this one. ) Only move offices if you are so packed in that employees are sharing desks and there’s no room for people to walk.
28) Have killer parties. But use your personal money. Not company money. Invite employees, customers, and investors. Yes, this is easy for me as I am in the “party planning” business but if you can’t do this, hire someone who can.
29)If an employee comes to you crying, close the door or take him or her out of the building. Sit with hi/her until it stops. Listen to what he/she has to say. If someone is crying then there’s been a major communication breakdown somewhere in the company. Listen to what it is and fix it. Don’t get angry at the culprit’s.
Just fix the problem.
30) At Christmas, donate money to every customer’s favorite charity. But not for investors or employees.
31)Have lunch with your competitors. Listen and try not to talk. One competitor once told me a story about how the CEO of a major FTSE 500 returned his call. He was telling me this because I never returned calls. Ok, lesson noted.
32)Ask advice a lot. Ask your customers advice on how you can be introduced into other parts of their company. Then they will help you. Because of the next rule…
33)Hire your customers. Or not. But always leave open the possibility. Let it always dangle in the air between you and them. They can get rich with you. Maybe. Possibly. If they play along. So play.
34) On any demo or event, do one extra surprise thing that was not expected. Always add bells and whistles that the customer didn’t pay for.
This is such an easy way to over deliver I’m surprised people don’t do it 100% of the time. They do it maybe 1% of the time. So this is an easy way to compete and surprise and delight.
35) Understand the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where are marketing money flowing and can you be in the middle. What services do aging baby boomers need?Are newspapers going to survive? Etc. Etc. Read every day to understand what is going on.
36) Don’t go to a lot of parties or “meetups” with other entrepreneurs. Work instead while they are partying. THIS IS A HARD ONE!!
37) But, going along with the above rule, don’t listen to the doom and gloomers that are hogging the TV screen and cover of the papers are trying to tell you the world is over. They just want you to be scared so they can scoop up all the money.
38) You have no more free time. In your free time you are thinking of new ideas for customers, new ideas for services to offer, new products. In your free time, think of ideas for potential customers. Then send them emails: “I have 10 ideas for you. Would really like to show them to you. I think you will be blown away. Here’s five of them right now.”
39) Depressions, recessions, don’t matter. There’s trillions in the economy. You’re allowed a piece of it:
FedEx, Microsoft, HewlettPackard, and many huge companies were started in recessions or depressions. Leave economics to the academics while they leave good business to you.
40)Talk. Tell everyone you ever knew what your company does. Your friends will help you find clients. MASTER YOUR PITCH>
41) Always take someone with you to a meeting. You’re bad at following up. Because you have no free time. So, if you have another employee. Let them follow up. Plus, they will like to spend time with the boss.
You’re going to be a mentor.
42)If you are consumer focused: your advertisers are your customers. But always be thinking of new services for your consumers. Each new service has to make their life better. People’s lives are better if: they become healthier, richer, or have more sex. “Health” can be broadly defined.
43)If your customers are advertisers: find sponsorship opportunities for them that drive customers straight into their arms. These are the most lucrative ad deals (see rule above). Ad inventory is a horrible business model. Sponsorships are better.
Then you are talking to your customer.
44) No friction. The harder it is for a consumer to sign up, the less consumers you will have. No confirmation emails, sign up forms, etc. The easier the better. If you are making a website, have as much content as you can on the front page. You don’t want people to have to click to a second or third page if you can avoid it. Stuff that first page with content.
You are not Google. You do not have to be.
Say “yes” to any opportunity that gets you in a room with a big decision maker. Doesn’t matter if it costs you money. I flew to Bangkok for a day, just to catch a client for 45min in the reception of the hotel lobby as he checked in. Was it worth it, yes…I signed a 90day deal that paid for my wedding.
Fail quickly. Good ideas are HARD. It’s execution that is a dime a dozen.
“Don’t worry about people stealing your design work. Worry about the day they stop.”
Set up a blog. Tell your personal stories, no matter how hard it is to do.Let the customer know you are human, approachable, and have a real vision as to why they need to use you. Become the voice for your industry, the advocate for your products. If you consult for events ( talk events) if you are a financial consultant write and share content on finance, tell your customers every day how they can be even more wealthy than they currently are.
Blog your way to PR success….I am still trying to master this, bear with me.
45) Frame the first check. I’m staring at mine right now. Sadly I should have copied it and then banked it ( Thank you John Kelly for explaining this to me) as now it sits in a frame but I did not earn a dime from it.
Yes, the biggest client complaint about me ( and friend complaint and wife complaint) is that I have no free time. I can live with that.
Pick a random customer. Find five ideas for them that have nothing to do with your business. Call them and say, “I’ve been thinking about you. Have you tried this?”
46)Your lawyer or accountant is not going to introduce you to any of their other clients. Those meetings are always a waste of time. Sorry Bob, you know I love you as my accountant.
47) Celebrate every success. Your employees need it. They need a massage also. Get a professional masseuse in every Friday afternoon. Nobody leaves a job where there is a masseuse. Ha ha ..this is not a fact..but I bet it is.
48) Sell your first company. I have to repeat this. Don’t take any chances. You don’t need to be Mark Zuckerberg. Sell your first company as quick as you can. You now have money in the bank and a notch on your belt. Make a billion on your next company. I am aiming for 110 million, thank you Felix Dennis for this number.
Note Mark Cuban’s story. Before he started Broadcast.com and rode it to a few billion, he sold his first software company for ten million. Respect you Mark Cuban, and your brother Brian is my hero.
49)Pay your employees before you pay yourself.
Don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. Ideas are worthless anyway. It’s OK to steal something that’s worthless.
50) Follow me on twitter.
I hope you succeed. Everyone of you because…..
“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” —Seth Godin, Squidoo founder, author and blogger