You’re armed with a brilliant business idea and the passion to see it through. But how can you translate that idea and passion into a thriving business today and well into the future?
Build on Skills Gained From the Corporate World
Many successful entrepreneurs start their careers in corporate America. Working with big-name clients and leading teams can provide a solid foundation. It also brings with it opportunities to develop strong connections and build a network that will help you as you start the path toward successful entrepreneurship.
But would-be entrepreneurs may also need to adjust their current mindset and learn some new skills, says John Honney, director of business owner advisory services at Northern Trust.
The organizational support of a large corporation includes intangibles such as name recognition. “It’s one thing to call a supplier and say, ‘I’d like a quote for this prototype’ when you’re with IBM,” Honney says.
If you’ve been associated with a company of stature, you might be used to the credibility and clout that connection lends. Out on your own, your initial networking blitz may generate some excitement and leads. But after that, it might feel like “no one listens to you anymore,” says Honney, quoting his friend who is an entrepreneur.
While the corporate world can provide invaluable skills for entrepreneurs, having the innate qualities of patience and persistence can be key to your success.
Become a Generalist
Specializing in one area often leads to job security at large companies because no one else can perform your critical function. By the same token, “in a big company, someone down the hall knows how to do what you don’t,” enabling you to be more effective, says Lloyd E. Shefsky, professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and author of Invent, Reinvent, Thrive: The Keys to Success for Any Start-up, Entrepreneur or Family Business.
Even college degree programs tend to lead graduates down a specific path and impart an explicit skillset. But as an entrepreneur, you’ll want to expand your knowledge to become a generalist. “People often are struck by the breadth of skill required,” says Honney.
Separate Emotions From Business
Startup founders might be unprepared for how emotional an entrepreneurial pursuit can be at every phase. “The concept of ‘it’s just business’ is harder to accept and apply when you’re an entrepreneur,” Honney says. “Especially in the beginning, when it’s just you, just your idea, just your pitch that keeps getting rejected, it’s hard not to take it personally.”
On the flip side, the first whiff of entrepreneurial success can cause feelings of euphoria.
To help keep successes and failures in perspective, consider working with a business partner. “A well-chosen partner can help control the emotional amplification inherent in new business ventures,” Honney says.
Also keep in mind where your strengths lie. Partners can also play devil’s advocate and challenge your assumptions, in addition to providing the business skills and acumen that complement your strengths, Honney says.
Accept Your Brand’s Evolution
Letting go might also mean ditching preconceptions as fundamental as what your product or brand stands for. Brand identity and management are tightly controlled in corporate America, and developing strong, consistent branding is essential for a startup, as well.
It’s important to understand the allure of your product or service to customers. For example, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who Shefsky interviewed for his book, originally thought his brand stood for quality coffee. Today, Shefsky says the company recognizes that its brand’s resonance with consumers has more to do with its unique coffee shop atmosphere. The lesson is to tell your brand’s story, but listen closely if and when people start to retell it in their own way.
How to Fund a Startup Business
“Procuring funding for a new business isn’t a one-time event to get it off the ground,” says Lloyd E. Shefsky, author of Invent, Reinvent, Thrive: The Keys to Success for Any Start-up, Entrepreneur or Family Business. “In fact, you’ll need cash infusions at various phases.” Where to turn for funding depends on the phase.
Friends and family: Personal loans from friends and family can be helpful in the early stages, but do come with risk. “A good rule of thumb is to not dip into money they’re going to need in the next 10 years or so, and be sure your relationship can survive losing it all.
Influencers: By networking with powerfully connected people who are willing to share their extensive Rolodex, entrepreneurs may find just the investor or partner they’ve been looking for.
Crowdfunding: Through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, individual backers can pledge varying amounts toward your fundraising goal.
Contests: From Ooredoo “tStart” to lower-profile mentorship programs, opportunities abound to competitively pitch your idea to investors. While some for-profit contests require a steep cost to participate, others have low entry fees and benefit winners and losers alike.
Incubators: Ooredoo Incubator help startups in the early phases, but it also provide office and developement space at below-market rates, a host of business support resources and sometimes capital. “it also connect you with people who can make things happen.
Angel investors: Bussiness Angeles like Casbah Business Angels or CBA consists of individual investors that expect equity in exchange for financing and receive their capital. Some angel investors team up but most prominent ones fly solo. The best way to find angel investors is through networking and personal introductions.
Seed funding firms: Like angel investors, seed firms invest relatively small amounts at early stages, but they do so as a company.
Venture capital funds: These firms invest large sums of other people’s money and are organized as funds, with a manager who collects a fee as well as a percentage of the gains.
Growth equity: Also called growth or expansion capital, growth equity helps mature, capably managed businesses expand operations into new product lines or markets.
Know When It’s Time to Exit
At some point after you’ve successfully come up with and commercialized a new product or service, it might make sense to develop an exit strategy. “Your business might grow faster than you imagined or go in a different direction that may be beyond your expertise,” Shefsky says. An exit strategy can provide you with a time-defined sense of purpose. “Being an entrepreneur is like a relay race. You might get it to a certain point and then hand off the baton,” Shefsky says. “Take pride in priming the next guy for success.”
One final business concept to rethink is “go big or go home.” Sure, it applies to new business ventures, but with some editing it becomes a fitting long-term strategy for the visionary who dreams up the next big thing, whatever that might be.
If you plan to become that visionary, take your successes and lessons learned during your first go-around, and apply them to your next exciting venture.