For a long time entrepreneurship was a mysterious black box for me. I didn’t know what it took for people to start something amazing. I don’t think I even understood the concept. I thought that in order to become an entrepreneur you needed to have an incredible idea that no one else have thought of before, have an uncanny talent to predict future trends and a power to attract investors like flies to honey. But most of all, I thought an entrepreneur needed to start off having an idea that would change the world… After all, it all starts with an idea, right? Wrong!
Little did I know that in order to become an entrepreneur, you only need to overcome one thing and one thing only: your limiting beliefs. That is “the bullshit story to you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it” as Jordan Belfort puts it best.
OK, all of that sounds inspiring, but I’m sure you are looking for more concrete steps. So let me tell you which were the steps I followed in order to become a start-up founder. There is no woo-woo or magic behind this process, but a proven methodology. So let’s open the black box and demystify the whole deal.
How I started my journey into entrepreneurship in 7 steps
1. Green glasses
This is a metaphor; you don’t actually need to have glasses tinted in green. This is about seeing abundance and opportunities everywhere. What this metaphor means is that the perspective with which you see the world can change everything. If you have your green glasses on, you can see opportunities for business everywhere you look.
2. A market
How do you pick the right target market to start your business in? Choosing the right market is crucial. You have a great product that solves a real problem, but if you don’t have enough people who will buy it or if they don’t have enough money to pay for it, then you won’t have a business. In choosing your market there are a few key criteria you need to have in mind: profitability (are they making money? I would say, shoot for businesses that make at least 100K in revenue); spending power (do they have enough money to buy your product?); and size (will there be enough people to sell your product to?).
I would add also that you need to choose a market you are comfortable with, either because you have some experience in it or because you like it and believe in it. Otherwise, you are only going to give a half-hearted effort in trying to serve it.
3. A process to extract ideas from that market
In order to create a successful business you don’t need to start with a great idea. You need to start with finding a problem to solve in the market you chose. I learned idea extraction from Dane Maxwell from The Foundation, and while certainly there is a structure to it, it boils down to asking a lot of questions and truly listening to your market. What you want to find out from them is what the biggest problems they are facing in their day to day business are.
4. A process to validate the idea
At this point you have problem and an idea about how to solve it. That’s awesome! The best way to know if your idea is going to be successful before you actually start working on it is to validate it. This is a make or break checkpoint. No matter how cool your idea looks to you, if you cannot validate it, it will be better that you don’t move forward and go back to the previous step. So how do you validate your idea? Well, you go back to the people in the market you have been interviewing and propose your solution. The question is: Are they willing to pay for it? If not, then you have a “nice to have” product only.
5. A pre-selling strategy
This is the part where you get customers to pay upfront for a product that doesn’t yet exist. Wait… what? Yes, you sell your product before you create it. Simply put, pre-selling is partnering with someone with a problem you are helping them to solve. Pre-selling is important because it allows you to test your business idea before you invest time and money in building it. It is not about convincing them to buy something they don’t want, but about giving them the opportunity to help you create something that they need!
6. Start before you are ready
Or as Sir Richard Branson puts it: “Screw it, just get on and do it.” You will never feel ready when working on something important. You will most likely feel unprepared, uncertain or just plain terrified. If you don’t overcome this, you will never start. You don’t have to immediately create a successful business; you just need to take the first step. And then the next. And then the next. (Oh, and by the way, this applies to every objective you are trying to achieve!).
7. Bootstrap (this one is optional)
Why? Because when you don’t take financial backers or investors, you remain the owner of your vision. This is a strategic decision and by no means mandatory for every start-up, but there are very good reasons behind bootstrapping. Added to not giving up your vision, you are also not trading capital for a percentage of ownership; and you can control your own rate of growth. While funding also has its upsides – you can have a salary, rent an office, hire all the people you need and even maybe have a cushion if you need to make changes – getting funded is harder and more time consuming than you can imagine, so your focus moves from creating your business to just pursuing money.
… And this is a very important caveat: venturing in the world of entrepreneurship might be simpler than expected but being an entrepreneur is not easy. There will be days in which the world will smile at you and you will feel so successful and accomplished that you will be jumping between ponies and rainbows. Other days, you will want to sit in a dark corner with your head in your hands wondering what the heck you are doing. There are no safe bets and it is a roller coaster ride. This brings me to my next point, you need to have a certain outlook on life and a specific frame of mind to truly become an entrepreneur.
It’s about the mindset
Perhaps, the most important discovery I made in my journey into entrepreneurship is that being an entrepreneur has more to do with a mindset and less to do with the amount of ventures you launched or how much capital you can raise.
When you are making a choice in your life that is way out of your comfort zone in order to gain something new, you are acting as an entrepreneur.
When you decide to move forward without knowing the outcome, without being ready, without having done it before, you are acting as an entrepreneur.
Go for it!
Are you feeling the tingling sensation of wanting to have an adventure? Are you tired of your 9 to 5 or feel trapped by the corporate world? Have you ever imagined working with your laptop while sipping a smoothie at the beach (it’s what I am planning for this summer by the way)? Then give it a try! Step out of your comfort zone and see what else is out there for you!
- The Foundation Is A Bad Ass Tribe Of Entrepreneurs Building Lucrative Software Companies http://thefoundation.com/
- Check out The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Achieve Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, a must read for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and managers.
- You might also want to take a look at The Lean Entrepreneur by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits for insights on how entrepreneurial visionaries are made.