There have been so many articles and books written about young entrepreneurs and what they should be doing or not doing when they start thinking seriously about launching their own company. A number of these articles talk about the need for a uniqueness of the idea and cite the unique skills of the individual involved in the start-up. And emphasize the creativity needed to write a proposal and business plan on the way to obtaining venture capital.
Whatever the company in question is, it is still a business and must be built in a fashion that still requires some basic business smarts and attitudinal fortitude. These issues, even for a young person, are of such paramount importance that, if ignored, can cause failure or repeated failure on the way to that dreamed-about goal.
In my view, they would include the following:
- If there is one thing you need to know, then it is yourself. Honestly and without deluding yourself, know who you are but also what you are not. Don’t ever try to be something you’re not because you will automatically remove yourself from the ability to lead to your best strengths and that will inhibit or eliminate your chances for success.
- When you make mistakes, and you will, don’t think you can get away with the usual crowd-pleaser called apologizing to others and then gathering their praise for being so honest. You need to admit the mistake to yourself and then seriously reflect on the reasons, be they mechanical (business-related) or character-related, which caused the problem in the first place. Was it hubris, perfidy? Was it lack of experience or forgetfulness or lack of attention to detail? Don’t finesse or rationalize the mistake or the causes in a superficial fashion. Learn hard from it. And don’t make the same mistake again.
- Make sure you have made a decision on what kind of a person you want to be when you get close to the edge, i.e., temptation or people issues. In what way are you going to play the game? What do the words fair and integrity mean to you? And don’t put the statement you make on these issues out there with a semi-sincere smile. Or laugh it off or make off-the-record remarks to your colleagues about the meaninglessness of such issues. You might not pay for that today, but you have set a pattern which could one day lead you astray and possibly even shatter all of your dreams. Mean what you say and say what you mean. And remember: people have feelings so watch what comes out of your mouth.
- Get yourself someone with whom you can dialogue about business structure and organization. And about short, middle, and long-term strategy and about setting priorities. Learn what critical success factors represent and how they impact your company’s chances at success and make sure the critical assumptions you make in your forecasting or in your judgment of the market are fundamentally sound and not just based on “I think it might work” way-out-there theories. Some of the latter “dream factor” has to be in there, but that dream cannot survive without a solid thought and planning platform underneath it. Meet frequently with this person. He can be your mentor or someone from the Venture Capital Company. It doesn’t matter where you find him or her. But make sure you have one. You are going to need their advice. And not just once or twice.
- Take a course in Contracts. Your lawyers don’t sign those contracts you will have repeatedly on your desk for signing. You will. If you can, read some of the relevant material or articles available in the market on how to negotiate. You can win big, but also lose big when you negotiate something for yourself and for your company. Give yourself a half-way decent chance of being on the winner side of that equation.
- Building a company requires a certain degree of micro-managing. Lines of authority and responsibility are blurred. Don’t be put down by people criticizing you for doing that. Knowing the lynch-pin details of your business, knowing the details of the market and your product or services allows you to do the power walk. Details, correctly used and “owned“, are the kind of power you need. Walk continually that walk and you will enjoy the respect and recognition you deserve.
- Remember you have a heart and a soul. Take time for your family and your loved ones in order to maintain balance in your life. If you haven’t got time to read your daughter a bedtime story, you are missing life. It’s as simple as that.
Neil Giarratana, author of CEO Priorities