Four reality-check tips for startups

Ryan Downs · November 23, 2010 · Short URL:

Entrepreneurs need to see clearly through the passion

Entrepreneurs often share similar traits.  We are very focused on our ideas and are aggressive in implementing them.  In September, The New York Times printed a piece that truly resonated with me as an entrepreneur.  The article, entitled, “Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs,” echoed this same sentiment and more. 

Entrepreneurs “are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell," according to The New York Times. In other words, sometimes we get so caught up in our passion, and we’re so manic that we cannot see our own missteps along the way. 

I’ve learned many lessons throughout my career – important lessons -- and some that have been difficult to swallow.  But it’s these lessons that allow me to take a step back and reflect on where my business is headed, and that I encourage fellow entrepreneurs to take into consideration in their ventures:

It's okay to ask for help. Seek advice and input from experts and mentors - folks who are entrepreneurs but also who have other relevant expertise.  Consider formalizing these relationships with a Board of Advisors.  Meet with this group regularly and not just when you are in a crisis.  Their experience and guidance will allow you to make sound decisions that could have a long-term impact on your success.

Spending money to make money. What can wait?  Watch expenses like a hawk, especially in the early days.  Avoid costly physical space, long-term contracts and adding permanent headcount wherever possible.  Every dollar counts when you’re trying to build a business.  Be sure you’re spending money in the areas that will truly help your company grow. 

Stuck in business polygamy? Time to make a choice.  It is very hard to start a successful business when you have another full-time job, allowing you to focus on the new venture only on nights and weekends.  Everyone has a different risk profile, but at some point, you have to give up security and focus on the new business, or it likely won't work.  This is critical.  If you’re really going to make your new venture work, you’ve got to commit to it 100 percent.

Don’t be afraid to make changes to your original plan.  Entrepreneurs quickly discover that more often than not, things won’t go according to plan. Make it a point to review your progress objectively on a regular basis and make adjustments to your plan as you see fit.  You had the idea and the creative instinct.  Trust your “gut” and to put the idea into action.

Entrepreneurs, while passionate and risk tolerant, are also creative problem solvers.  Next time you find yourself in a pinch, take it from someone who’s been in your shoes; these tips will help you to stay on track and ensure you’re making the decisions that are best for your organization.

(Image source: drjeffadams)

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