This is truly a golden age for startups. There are so many resources, mentors, investors, books, networks and a range of institutional support to get entrepreneurs started on their innovation journey.
One more useful pocketbook of advice for entrepreneurs is the recent reprint of the book, All Time Essentials for Entrepreneurs: 100 Things to Know and Do to Make Your Idea Happen. The UK-based author, Jonathan Yates, is himself an entrepreneur and founder of a water product company called Santeau. His other book is FreeSourcing: how to start a business with no money.
“This is a manual of ideas, not an instruction booklet,” Yates begins. “During my own startup experience, I made many simple mistakes. I also learnt a great deal along the way,” he adds. His 100 tips are divided into 10 categories, and each tip is accompanied by a power quote. I have summarised some of the advice below, the full book itself is a good pocket companion to have.
1. Starting up
Don’t keep your idea just in your head – write it down, sketch it out, talk about it. The very act of putting it out explicitly will start giving it shape. Don’t wait for the light bulb to come on for the Eureka moment – go and find the switch. Start today. If you like your idea, talk about it and pitch it. If it is a powerful idea and inspires you to devote your energy to it, start work on it on the side till you are ready to make it a full-time project.
See if your idea can solve real problems. Get more ideas by talking to potential customers; treat a sale as a conversation. Get fresh ideas flowing by learning new skills, reading a new book or magazine, or traveling, or doing volunteer work. Take someone else’s brilliant idea and make it better. Learn to dream and imagine. Appreciate other people’s interests and passions also.
Entrepreneurs embrace change, create change and enjoy change. Set goals and post them in places where they remind you of your journey ahead. Visualise the end state of success. Stay in the ‘flow’ of energy, and don’t give up; find a mentor to inspire you. Find your energy source and hang on during ups and downs.
Find out where the opportunity is for you – in a company, social enterprise or even as a ‘solopreneur’ or ‘altrepreneur.’ Do your research well and build a network. Absorb and learn from criticism. Learn from everyone around you.
Conquer your own fear of failure. Learn from your failures and mistakes and don’t repeat them. Break down big problems into smaller ones and you will eventually overcome them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you will find that people love to help others. Learn how to think creatively and see the opportunity even in a crisis.
Stay on top of your budgeting; outsource and recycle as much as you can. Expect more out of your suppliers. Understand the goals of investors so they can trust you. Always look at ways of reducing risks. Focus not just on sales volumes but on customer goodwill.
Read a lot – and write a lot. Create a culture in your organisation which is absolutely unique in some way. Learn from your competition as well – and outpace them. Go beyond networking to deeper conversations.
Be your own customer also. Build a brand, not just a company or product. Roll out a whole family of products, not just one. Master the art of buzz and viral marketing. Be creative in your PR (eg. Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines offering to buy British Airways’ Concorde for £1!)
Under-promise and over-deliver. Sell the benefits of your product/service, and not just the features. Get customers to fill out surveys and also give testimonials and referrals. Give free advice to customers, honour them at functions. Do unforgettable things for your customers and your customers will not forget you. Treat them as your friends.
There are no short cuts to success, hard work is the only way. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and if a customer says ‘no,’ stay in touch anyway – they may come back to you later. Create your own good luck. Celebrate the small successes, they keep you going!
The author has also compiled 100 terrific inspirational quotes in the book, here are some of my favourites:
“All people are entrepreneurs, but many of them don’t have the opportunity to find that out.” – Mohammad Yunus
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
“For a dream to become reality, make it real enough to believe in.” – Peter Jones
“The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
“Losers visualise the penalties of failure. Winners visualise the rewards of success.” – William Gilbert
“Research serves to make building stones out of stumbling blocks.” – Arthur D. Little
“Everyone lives by selling something.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“No matter what your product is, you are ultimately in the education business. Your customers need to be constantly educated.” – Robert Allen
“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Business is like riding a bicycle. Either you keep moving or you fall down.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” – Lewis Carroll