If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about investing in your idea or you’re graduating from business school and considering starting a business post-graduation, Brian Hamilton, CEO of Sageworks, has a few thoughts he’d like to share.Lesson 1: Focus on making the world a better place incrementally
Young entrepreneurs tend to define the capacity to start a business by their ability to come up with some revolutionary idea. To me, this is very poor thinking, which is sometimes encouraged within academia. Serious students of entrepreneurship should start with something they love and build from there, not with trying to change the world as we know it in some fundamental way. Making the world a better place incrementally is a better way to think about starting a business. Small changes by millions of entrepreneurs are what really will have an effect on the economy and the lives of people.
Lesson 2: Add value… and the rewards will likely follow
I think people have to rethink their idea of success. When I was younger, my idea of success was being a billionaire. This is like trying to hit a tennis ball while you’re looking at the scoreboard. If you focus on adding real value the market will reward you by buying your products and services. This may incidentally lead to you being a billionaire but you have to get your goals straight from the beginning. At root, this is a good thing because it forces all of us to create real value and to think about how to serve, rather than receive. I wish I had really understood that a little more when I was younger but the market teaches you very quickly that that is how you have to think.
Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid to fail
I hope that students and entrepreneurs who are truly interested in starting a business actually give it a shot. I worry that they feel some type of internal obligation to not fail at anything since most of them have had very little failure in their lives. Even at Duke, where the students are smart and capable, I worry that these same attributes make it hard for them to take chances. They really need to redefine what failure is in the first place. If you view starting a business and losing it as a failure, you’re probably not even going to get out of the gate. I will say that I think that the younger generation of students probably has a better handle on this than when I was at Duke, when very few people started businesses.
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