10. Plan for Daylight | Peter Mehit
I was flying from Philadelphia to Dallas. It was an early Thursday morning flight and almost empty. I got a complimentary bump to first class and sat at the front bulkhead, half awake with a pile of papers in the empty seat next to me. The cabin PA crackled to life.
“We got a problem,” the captain said in that droll voice that we all make fun of. Then the plane went into the steepest dive I’ve ever experienced. “Everything’s going to be okay,” he added, I think as an afterthought.
But things were pretty far from okay. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling and then floated in the air, weightless. My papers were floating off the seat cushion and in that moment, I noticed that I was weightless too. It only lasted for about five, maybe ten seconds and it would have been the coolest thing ever, if it weren’t totally terrifying.
9. You Define Success
“The things you own end up owning you.” So said Tyler Durden as he opened a round of Fight Club in the cellar of Lou’s bar. That statement feels right because it is. We get attached to goals, to things, and we lose ourselves.
When you’re starting out, the excitement of doing carries you along. Each new success, each milestone achieved places you closer to where you believe you want to be. The late nights, panicked preparations for demos, the sweaty palmed waits in law office lobbies, they take a toll. You think you’ve rounded the corner to easy street, things fall apart. Just when your heart is about to shatter, you catch a break.
It’s exhausting and exhilarating, but it brings your team together. You become more than friends or teammates. You become stronger than family because you live through more intense experiences in one month than most families go through in a year. This bonding continues as you struggle with one mind to achieve a kind of birth. You believe that nothing will come between you and your partners after all you’ve been through.
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.
Make no mistake, we presently live in a say anything to win environment. Sometimes people are intentionally dishonest. These situations tend to be self-liquidating. Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, who famously said that having a backup plan is admitting failure, is the latest example where outright deceit brought someone crashing down. While spectacular, these cases relatively rare.
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.
This explosion of channels has fragmented the marketplace by income, race, educational experience, sports, personal interests, politics and marital status. The list goes on and gets more granular. What can someone looking to launch into this environment do to have a chance at success? Hint: “If you build it, they will come” is not one of the options.
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.
It makes sense. Think of your start-up effort as more of a lab than a business. You’re experimenting more than launching and using the results to fine tune the next moves toward the market. If you’ve done everything properly, even your failures will teach you something as you assemble the information you need to identify your ideal customers and build the product they want to buy.
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?