Starting a company: how do you do it?
Often I get asked, what is it like to start a company? Or, what do you have to do to become an entrepreneur? Or maybe, lessons learned for developing a company? Or something else about being a business builder.
Thinking back, I can’t tell you how many startups I have tried that haven’t worked, or how many times I have been “On the Brink.” It is often easier to talk about your successes, not your failures. But I do have some tangible learning experiences from both successes and failures, and I think it is appropriate to provide you with a list of those so that hopefully, you don’t have to experience the same pain that I went through. Remember, it is a lot easier looking through that rearview mirror rather than facing the barriers in front of you.
A little background
I spent a little over 40 years building a company, first as an investor and then as a consultant, initially working during the evening while keeping my day job and then becoming the CEO for more than 20 years.
We (and I use that word deliberately because it is always a team effort) built this company into a major player in the K-12 summative assessment education space. We made a lot of mistakes along the way but ultimately were successful creating real value and then selling the business.
10 crucial points you should consider when building your business
- You need a vison. What is your elevator speech? What do you imagine your “thing” will look like at the end of the day? How do you define success? Now, I recognize that this vison can change over time…especially with exposure to external elements. But, you need to start someplace and a clearly defined vision will help.
- Think Big. Being bold will cause you to continually re-evaluate your vision and adjust as the marketplace adjusts. Be sure to build something at the “end” of your dreams. Don’t limit yourself.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of culture. At SAMC, the more companies we work with, the more we realize that sharing a common organizational culture is critical. That said, it’s more difficult to share a common culture today since the boomers, millennials and GenZs look at the world very differently, particularly in the different ways they each use social media.
- Think capitalization. From experience, I can tell you that under-capitalization is not fun. It forces you to impose priorities that can restrict or slow your growth. Blue Ocean Strategy® teaches us that first-to-market might not be enough for you to secure an anchor in your market space, meaning that a late entry can come in and steal your thunder (and your profits). Your goal is to be “the only” in your market, not an “also-ran,” and for this you need capital.
- Think about your best asset. It is probably your people. Thus, the hiring process becomes extremely important AND so does retention. Don’t be penny-wise. Let your employees share in your success.
- Figure out how to motivate people. It is not always the dollar. So, you need to create an environment where people feel good about what they do, their offerings and who they work for and with. While I understand that office politics exist, you should try to root out all examples of bad behavior.
- Don’t reject new ideas out of hand. Become a lateral thinker. Not everyone sees the world the same way, nor comes to the table with the same solutions. It is very important to be patient, and to listen to and evaluate non-conforming ideas.
- Become more analytical. Perhaps you are already analytical. If you are not, you need to be! With AI and data-driven businesses, often the answers are right before us…if only we took the time to find and review them. Often these numbers predict the future of your business. And given enough time, once reviewed, they can also reveal opportunities for great change.
- Make sure you have an off button. Everyone needs an off button. Find something you like to do and somebody to enjoy what you like when on vacation or even on an evening out. I couldn’t have done it without my significant other. You need someone whom you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you generate new wins.
- Lifelong learning is a must. It gets more difficult every day to keep up with technology and all the changes it is bringing to our society, but not keeping up with these changes could put you significantly behind, perhaps to the point of never being able to catch up. Really think about making lifetime learning a priority. What you knew or did yesterday will probably not help you in the future!
These are a few of the ideas or norms that have worked for me. I would love to hear your ideas, so please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about becoming a successful entrepreneur, I recommend these blogs and podcasts:
- Blog: Best Practices to Scale Your Business for Growth
- Blog: Starting A New Business? 8 Keys To Make It A Success.
- Blog: Entrepreneurs, Be Smart and Pick the Right People to Help You Grow
- Podcast: Andy Simon—Confessions of a Successful Entrepreneur
- Podcast: Rod Robertson—Winning at Entrepreneurship
- Podcast: Nigel Parker—How To Turn A Great Idea Into A Successful Business
Ready to turn your big idea into a viable business? Maybe we can help.
At Simon Associates Management Consultants, we specialize in helping entrepreneurs large and small develop a business strategy, realign their company culture, launch their venture, capture customers and grow market share. Our 6-Step Process is designed for emerging business owners who need smart, innovative strategies so they can adapt to changing times and capitalize on new technologies. Perhaps we can help you with your venture? Please contact us. We look forward to having a conversation with you.
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