I was recently asked to come on to KATU’s Afternoon Live Show and share 5 tips for starting a successful business. A lot of experts will tell you something like “start with a detailed plan.” “Get out and network.” “Surround yourself with the right people.” Oh, and here’s one of my favorites: “find a healthy work/life balance.” Hahahahahaha! That’s a funny one…
Those are all logical instructions, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not important – not in my experience. First off, I don’t think you should start with a detailed plan. That’s a waste of time. I like to work on short “10-point” plans. That big plan you spend 75 hours on is ending up in the recycle bin either way. And definitely, don’t get out and network right away. Make sure you have this idea boiled down to its ultimate simplicity and know what you intend to do. And, finally, to hell with work/life balance. That’s for W2’s.
I’ve started a number of businesses that became companies, which became market leaders. What made those companies successful wasn’t the business plan, whether or not we paid for software and it definitely wasn’t a healthy work/life balance. It was the fundamental philosophy of my approach. To have the right approach, I needed to FIRST overcome the personal barriers that held me back. I had to let go of fear, ego, sloth and arrogance. For number 5, I had to learn a little cosmology. I bet they didn’t make that connection in business school.
Here’s my 5 tips for starting a new business:
#1 - Be Fearless
Fear is your number one enemy of success. You can’t be afraid to seek and fulfill your calling. It’s always easier to do something other than what you really, truly want to do. That’s because you’ll never have to measure yourself, your limits or your ability. There will always be naysayers and non-believers. But, if you want to be successful, none of those people can be you. Take action on the quiet, persistent voice from within and have faith that what you’re doing will pay off.
#2 - Don’t build it for you
Many people disagreed with me on this one, but I still think they’re wrong. Some told me that you have to “do it for you” or it won’t work. I think that idea is short-sighted and backwards. So many business owners start a business because they’re good at doing something in particular. They want more time and more money, so they start a business (doing it for themselves). But, when the business scales, even just a little, it becomes new territory and ultimately unmanageable. So, the owner resorts back to what he or she was good at in the first place: that thing in particular. The result is less time, less money and more stress. So don’t build it for you. If you’re going to build a business, I say: build it for us. Build it for the market and build it for the people that join you along the way. If you take this approach, your company will evolve into what it was always destined to be. Life will be more interesting as you discover and observe unpredicted events. You will be the proud creator of something that makes an impact in this world and the company you founded won’t be sucking the energy out of your life, dependent on you for its survival.
#3 - Do it right, or don’t do it
As I’ve said before, there’s a thousand ways to skin a cat. But one of those ways is the most efficient way, most effective way and the right way. People say to me “Ben, what if you don’t know how to do it right??!!” Look, I get it – you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m saying: don’t take short-cuts. If you have no clue what you’re doing in a certain area, get help and don’t put it in the world until you’re confident you’ve got it right.
#4 - Know who and what you need before you start
When you have an idea and want to turn that idea into a company, your first phase of hard work is getting to the starting line: launching the business. Before you start investing time, energy and resources building up to launch your business (like wasting your time on a “detailed business plan”), you must understand who and what you need for a successful launch.
To make things less mysterious, here’s what you’ll need:
These four basic things will require people (skill) and / or capital. Don’t hesitate to ask for help (preferably good help). But good help always comes at a cost: equity or cash. If you need to raise cash, you will need a business plan and partners that fill management team gaps. Knowing who and what you need, before you start, will not only ensure a successful launch but a faster & cleaner go-to-market effort.
#5 - Start a business with the intent to disrupt
Finally, why go into business if not to disrupt your market? It’s your duty as a new business creator to effect change and evolve your market in some way. Solve a previously unsolved problem or bring a new benefit – a purpose that makes the world a better place for doing business with you. That not only inspires me, it inspires growth. Using the Formula for Market Change helps you start a great company with a vision and purpose that goes above and beyond your competition.