I am fascinated with business, especially start-ups—the unlimited potential, the excitement of ideas and possibilities, the challenge, and all the learning. The risks, I am not as crazy about and the wild ride of emotions can get wearing at times—but there is something magical about innovation, the starting of something new and the opportunity to feel creative and make a difference in the world.
Thinking over the past 10 years, I have learned an amazing amount about business and myself. These are some of the things I wish I had known 10 years ago:
- A great idea is only the beginning and the road will meander along the journey. It will never end where you imagine.
- Marketing and sales are key to taking an idea from kitchen table to corporate boardrooms. Getting the perfect pitch and strategy that taps into emotion and prompts people to take action and purchase your product or service takes days and weeks of mind bending brainstorming.
- Hiring a brilliant employee doesn’t mean you have a team player and you need a team more than you need a star.
- The smallest investor can demand the largest chunks of your time and energy—especially a first time investor.
- Bootstrapping is possible—it is amazing how much you can trade and barter to get through the early months and years until you have such a demand that you need outside investment.
- It takes a long time to build a relationship with anyone, and a business partner is no exception. You need to date, to be engaged, and only marry when all the tests are passed.
- The “perfect is the enemy of the good”. When you take pride in your expertise and have built high standards for yourself, it is a challenge when you have to drop the standards to get your product to market. It hurts!
- Different stages of business growth need different personalities with different strengths. When you go from a green start-up to phase two, it takes a different type of leadership. And when you go from mid-size to very large, you may need to hand over your baby to someone else. This is somewhat like having a child grow up and get married. There is joy and sadness in the letting go.
Getting the right team, a viable product, a financial business model, a right message, a receptive target market, adequate funding, the right partners, a healthy company culture, and a profit is no small task. If the first venture fails, learn all you can and take it forward. When your next one succeeds it will be an incredible thrill.