My dad used to say that the only difference between the “you” now and the “you” 20 years from now are the places you go and the people you meet. The more experiences you accumulate and the more conversations you have, the deeper your knowledge base and the wider your self- and situational awareness grow -- and you can never have too much of either.
One way to “meet” others is by reading their book. If their book is boring then chances are they’re boring, too. If, however, their book provides useful and actionable information then the “you” of today is better than the “you” of yesterday. That’s a win.
If there’s one book to read to become a better, more informed entrepreneur (other than mine, of course. That’s a joke -- but not really) it’s The Purpose Is Profit by former CEO, president and chairman Ed McLaughlin. This entrepreneurial bible walks you through the thinking that led to the success of one startup and the lessons learned from the failure of another. It offers a 16-step startup roadmap as well as a funding guide that covers more financial terms than I ever knew existed. Here are a few tidbits of its entrepreneurial wisdom:
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Acknowledge the pull. Accept the push.
Whatever your current place of work, there are reasons to continue or discontinue working there. The pull is that brilliant startup idea you have that you want to test because you sense it’s an unmet need; an “existing imperfection…coupled with a burning desire to do something about it,” as Ed puts it.
The push, however, is the realization that no matter how hard you work in your current job, there will always be politics, processes and people you cannot change. If you’re willing to live with these, then you’re probably not reading this article anyway. Otherwise, you can leverage raw emotion as motivation to push you into the entrepreneurial realm.
Leverage your distinctive competence.
This is your ace in the hole to making a dent in the startup space. Distinctive competence is what you build your business around because it’s what you -- and only you -- are good at. Armed with unique knowledge or talent, distinctive competence is what helps you minimize risk and distinguish your brand. Here are a few questions to determine your distinctive competence:
- What knowledge, talent, or skill sets you apart?
- In what field is your track record for success the highest?
- What distinct experience or success do you have that people will pay for?
- What competencies do you need to differentiate yourself even more?
Everyone is good at something. The ones who discover what that “something” is and learn how to monetize it become entrepreneurs.
Invest in yourself.
In Moppin' Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success, author Dennis Miller (not the comedian) says the secret to his happiness came when he began investing in himself. Personal success is the gateway to business success. You can’t lead others effectively until you know how to lead yourself just as you’ll never show up happy to work if you’re not happy with yourself, and your business will never be “fit” if you struggle with stress, overwhelm, and a lack of focus. Startup success stems from personal success -- not the other way around.
A dynamic plan is different than a business plan. I’ve often struggled with the idea of writing a business plan because, well, I know from my own military experience that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Business plans are no different. Similar to buying a car where the second you drive that car off the lot its value is diminished, business plans become obsolete just as fast. A dynamic plan, however, morphs and adapts to your business plan as new information emerges because it’s defined by the destination you set rather than the road you travel to get there.
I don’t single out books often, but this one is worth it.