As an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to know that the early stages probably won’t be what you imagined. Your first idea is rarely your best, and it’s natural to go through so many iterations of an offering that you feel like quitting in despair.
Add to that an ever-growing list of responsibilities that you probably didn’t have to deal with in your last role. You’re the head of hiring, the product engineer, the director of sales, the chief spokesperson, and more. It’s an intimidating prospect for even an experienced entrepreneur, and this can make it all the more difficult to take those first steps toward getting your business airborne. To help you along, here are three actions to take that will help you prepare for takeoff.
1. Question yourself.
Serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who currently invests on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” says, “What I always ask people is (1) Is it something you love to do, and (2) Is this something you’re good at?” If you can check both of those boxes, you’re going to have more than a fighting chance in your endeavors. But before you can answer those questions accurately, you need to find where your passion and your skills truly intersect.
Any amount of time you spend working in an area that doesn’t interest you and doesn’t complement your skill set is time that you could have spent working on a business that you love. Your ideal entrepreneurial intersection isn’t going to just reveal itself, though. To determine where you fall, create “me” time in your daily or weekly routine. During your me time, you can meditate, take a walk, or journal — any practice that will assist you in your discernment process. Build this time into your schedule to ensure that it happens.
2. Focus on the idea.
Great marketing is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s everything. Consider the top risers in the 2018 BrandZ report on the Top 100 Global Brands. During the last 10 years, the top risers, which include Apple, Nike, and Chanel — companies that clearly have the product chops to back up their ad budgets — have achieved a combined value growth of 168 percent. Meanwhile, brands known to consumers for “excellent advertising but a weaker brand proposition” achieved just 27 percent increase. It’s clear that no amount of ad spend can turn a mediocre idea into a great one.
Author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki advises would-be entrepreneurs to focus on the prototype: “Don’t focus on your pitch deck, business plan, or financial projections. If you get a prototype out, and you get enough people using it, you never have to write a business plan, do a forecast, or do anything like that.” By putting a great idea above all else, you’re creating a more attractive product or service that will in some ways sell itself. And by prioritizing a prototype in the early stages of your venture, you’ll gain valuable feedback from potential customers on how to improve.
3. Find your tribe.
No matter how good your idea is and how much passion and skill you bring to the table, you can’t go it alone. One of the hardest lessons for many entrepreneurs is learning how to rely on other people to help carry the load. You’ll need to hire employees and give up responsibilities at work. And to achieve your greatest success as an entrepreneur, you must lean on a broader support group — both at the office and outside of work as well.
De Andrea Nichols, social impact design principal of St. Louis-based Civic Creatives, is a big proponent of the latter. “My entire life’s journey has been guided and grounded by the power of various women mentors,” she said “When their energies aligned toward supporting my career development, I have consistently felt the power of my village steering and propelling me to carve my own path and build the work that I uniquely envision.”
Entrepreneurship is a profound journey — both profoundly challenging and profoundly rewarding. These three actions will help you reduce the challenges and accelerate the rewards.