Millennials: 10 Things Old Farts Won’t Tell You

… About Entrepreneurship

If you’re starting up, you’ll be getting a lot of advice from people.  Some is useful, some is not, but it’s what’s not said that is the most valuable.  Here’s what we’ve learned in the last dozen years:

1. You’re not going to win the pitch contest – even if you win it.

Shark Tank is great entertainment.  It’s the perfect reality TV format.  Entrepreneurs, fresh with enthusiasm and ideas vs. hostile moneyed elites tearing their dreams asunder for the entertainment of the viewing audience.  America loves a good fight, and Shark Tank delivers the humiliation and put downs that make great television.  But the link between it and actual reality is tenuous at best.

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2.  Nobody With A Job Can Help You Become An Entrepreneur

If you spend two seconds thinking about that statement, the truth of it becomes evident.  Unfortunately, if you want to become an entrepreneur, the most visible sources of help are the least helpful.

It doesn’t matter how much information you have about how businesses are launched, the missing element is the courage to actually take risks.  The entrepreneur, while reducing risk, must embrace it to make their goal a reality. If you need a steady paycheck, you are not an entrepreneur.  So why would you get direction from someone who does?

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3. You can’t succeed without the ‘f’ word

I know what you’re thinking.  Either a.) he can’t possibility mean that ‘f’ word or b.) the ‘f’ word is focus.  Focus would be a good ‘f’ word.  Nothing truly gets done without it.  People who think they are multitaskers are really deluding themselves.  Not even computers multitask.  Designers just add more cores, but each one of them is only processing one instruction at a time, really, really fast.

We teach people how to visualize businesses into reality and focus is an important part of it.  I can tell you I get my best results when I can eliminate distractions.  But that’s not the ‘f’ word we’re talking about.

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4. Minimum Viable Products Can Be Missing Valuable Pieces

Fail fast. Fail forward. Nice, glib encouragements that old farts will give you from the security of their wealth and comfort.  Use lean start up techniques to consolidate your ideas into a minimum viable product (MVP) that you can get in front of the market to see if there’s interest.  Use the least amount of effort and treasure to see if there are buyers.  Once you get a spark, pivot toward a business model that you can monetize by adding costly but more unique aspects to your product or app.

Maybe before every code jam and Meet Up started preaching this evangel, it actually worked.  But what can be seen now is a race to mediocrity and a wasteland of failed ideas.  The thing that is really tragic is that many of these companies had an idea that was disruptive or unique that likely got killed by agile MVP methodology.

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5. You Can’t Win, If You Can’t Walk

He was such a good listener that his signature move was always a shocker.  When the negotiation crossed his boundaries, he would politely push back from the table, rise and extend his hand. “I’m so sorry things have come to this,” he’d say, shaking the hands of people with very puzzled looks on their faces, “Maybe this isn’t meant to be.  But I’ll call you if I can think if a way around this.”  There would never be an argument or flaring tempers.  It would seem like it came out of nowhere.  And that would be that.  He would excuse himself and we would leave.

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6. Investors and the Rule of Rocks

The irregularities in her numbers made the investors do one of two things: 1.) Bug out, or, 2.) dig deeper.  As we returned answers, they weren’t satisfied. They asked more questions.  They kept digging.  Eventually, the search ended as we and the client realized nothing was going to happen.  The client was completely pissed and we were thoroughly embarrassed.

When we asked her why she went looking for equity funding with her finances in such disarray, she answered, with a straight face, “The opportunity is so strong that I thought an investor would look past the problems.”

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7. Be Wrong, Be Strong

The ability to be truthful goes directly to the heart of whether you get funding, attract customers and recruit great employees. But that is just one part of it. The ability to be wrong can determine if you survive at all.

We’ve all had bosses, friends and relatives that just couldn’t admit they’d made a mistake.  We know how we feel when we know the facts and someone tells us we’re wrong or don’t understand.  The longer we are in that environment, the less we trust the person, the more we doubt reality, or both.

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8. Who is More Important Than Where

What is the right channel for my product?  Where is the best place for my ads?  Should I be mostly on Facebook?  There are a million questions for which you will get an equal number of answers.  You will get advice on which channels are hot.  People will try to sell you programs and services to reach your customer.  In fact, when talking marketing tactics, you’ll get so much input it’s almost useless.

If you ask people starting businesses where they think they will be successful in finding new customers, most will say social media, but ad spending was only 23% of all ad dollars spent in 2015.  Television is still the dominant media platform with 39% of the dollars.  What about print, radio and billboards?  This is another 26% of ad spend.  If the SEO and AdWords were enough, you wouldn’t hear or see ads for websites and mobile apps in these other channels, but you do.

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