If you’re young and a fan of Entrepreneur.com, chances are you don’t see yourself “climbing” the corporate ladder for the next 40 years. But, before you start changing the world and celebrating your first IPO, here are a few things you should know --starting with the biggest mistake most young entrepreneurs make.
1. Go for the 'minimum effective dose.'
Sure your product or service may not be not be perfect for years to come; just don’t let any perceived limitations stop you from taking it to market. As long as your product offers value to your customers, it’s ready to launch. Everything else will come in due time. This doesn’t mean you should start a business around a subpar or incomplete product, but you shouldn’t wait until it’s "perfect," either.
As Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn has said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Many times, entrepreneurs get caught up in trying to make everything perfect, but that’s rarely going to be the case for your product or service. Focus more on getting your business out there and then improve as you go along -- especially if you’re just starting out.
2. People are your business.
Growing up with virtually unlimited access to the Internet was great, but it also made it easy for you to avoid direct contact with others. This is one sure guarantee of the demise of your business. No matter what, you will need the help of others to grow it. You may need other investors; you may need a business partner or co-founder with a certain skill necessary for your businesses growth. And, you'll certainly need customers, right?
The late author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, "You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
As an entrepreneur, you need to nurture your ability to develop and cultivate relationships with others because that skill is essential to the growth and success of your business. How can you build more relationships to help your business grow?
3. Let go of the business plan myth.
The world has changed a lot since the time of traditional 160-page business plans. There are millions of successful businesses that started from a simple idea!
Despite this need for simplicity, remember what Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once famously said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
While the "traditional" business plan may not be necessary, there are key things to consider before you launch. First, start with the end in mind by considering how you want your business to function. Next, consider the branding aspect of your business, domains, social media profiles, etc. and own your name! Finally, put it all together by handling the legal aspects of your business.
Being a young, ambitious entrepreneur, you may not want to get bogged down with this aspect of your business -- so don’t! This can all easily be taken care in a matter of hours online.
4. Treat cash flow as king.
You will need not only enough money to start your business but to support yourself in those lean startup months. Yet, even if your startup capital is low, there are a number of sources for funding: SBA loans, friends and family and even crowdfunding.
An old proverb states: “The art is not in making money, but in keeping it.” So, once you have money coming in, be sure to reinvest it into your business. This can occur in many different forms, such as marketing, hiring staff, business development or even reinvestment in yourself.
5. 'Fail forward.'
You quite simply don’t know what you don’t know. Even with 20 more years of experience, this truism won't change in terms of starting your own business. Sure, you will learn new things, acquire more skills, but even then you will have unexpected problems. Just don’t let the fear of failure stop you from launching your business.
As Guy Kawasaki wrote in The Art of the Start: “Ambitious failure, magnificent failure, is a very good thing.”
Sure, everything you do won’t be right, and you’re going to make mistakes. But the good news is, as an entrepreneur you can learn from those experiences. Most important, you can apply what you learn to your business, and grow.
Now, isn’t one temporary setback worth it as long as you "fail forward"?
6. It’s okay, even mandatory, to be different.
You’re unique and your company should be as well. There are definite benefits to modeling the successful companies out there, but that doesn’t mean we should copy them. Don’t try to be just like Steve Jobs or to have a company that looks like Google.
Wrote Marty Neumeier in Zag: “Think of radical differentiation as the engine for a high-performance brand.”
People have a need for variety, so if you have the same cookie-cutter product or service, you'll have nothing to compel customers to choose you versus your proven competitors. Modeling other successful products or companies can work for you, but you still have to bring your own unique spin.
7. Launch now.
Everything that you have right now is enough to get started. If starting your business is in your future, then now is the time. Why? Because there is never going to be a perfect time in the future.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing, said Walt Disney, co-founder of that iconic company.
Does this "launch now" emphasis mean that you should quit your job or drop everything to start your business? Maybe. But for most, it could mean just stepping out there as an army of one. Start your venture on the side now and grow your business into that IPO launch.
Do you have these seven things for your business? If so, then you have everything you need to start your business. So, what’s really stopping you?