Prior to going into a game, a football squad will break their preparation into two main parts: pads (including walk-throughs, drills, etc.) and studying film. In terms of preparing you for entrepreneurship, professors, mentors, and your internship bosses can only provide the latter. Only the aspiring small business owner can suit up and continue playing where the film leaves off.
As young aspiring entrepreneurs grab their diplomas this spring, what advice should they hold dear? Being 29 and nearly on my second business (through terrible economies), I offer the following advice based on real-life trial and error:
– Understand That You’re Never Going to be Ready
If you want to open your business, do it. Don’t wait for your friends to partner with you and don’t wait for the economy to turn around. Put up the website, offer a service and make the mistakes from there. We’re only human, we make mistakes, but we also only live one time. Learn quickly enough from those mistakes as they happen.
– There’s No “grey Area” – If You Need to Take a Side Job, Go Hourly
Owing a business is not a second-string situation. You are either in the game running and blocking or in the stands watching someone else make 7-figure touchdowns. This may sound harsh, but it’s true. One of the big mistakes that graduating entrepreneurs make is that they take a “real job” because they feel it makes them more esteemed.
The problem is that they become reliant on the paycheck. My drive came to me when I was a Fifth Avenue doorman through college and on the weekends for $16 per painful hour. I still have nightmares of the maids of the Mellon family yelling me at to fetch their groceries.
However, it was at this job that I told myself that I would fight as much as I deemed necessary to go being from their doorman to their neighbour.
At the end of the day, a corporate paycheck can turn the aspiring entrepreneur just as complacent as the aspiring employee.
– Target Small to Mid-Size Business
When starting out, the young entrepreneur needs to focus on doing business with smaller companies. Here is my argument:
– Larger companies have very long sales cycles that drain living expenses for the young entrepreneur.
– Larger companies want to buy from companies that have industry reputation.
When working with larger companies, I can assure you that the question “Who have you worked with before?” will surface and it’s not fun to answer when you are starting out.
– Larger companies throw out RFP’s. The frequent tendency of young entrepreneurs is to spend days answering only to realise that the doc was sent from an assistant’s BlackBlackberry to justify the company finalising the deal with the vendor they already have in mind.
– When the entrepreneur targets smaller companies at first, they have shorter sales cycles, but just as importantly, it’s good practice for getting a feel for the marketing for the young business owner. If it’s not a Wal-Mart account you can err as much as you need as long as you maintain a professional, friendly demeanor and make it clear that your client’s best interest is your best interest. With small to mid-size companies, remember: the young entrepreneur is selling to people who knew what it was like to be a young entrepreneur.
There guidelines come from experience I lived while starting my own business and stumbling along the way. And that is my ultimate argument: it’s OK to stumble – as long as you learn from the process and pick yourself up higher than you were before you fell. But you’ll never risk falling if you never start running the entrepreneurial track in the first place.