There has been a long standing dictum, one I happen to believe, among self-help and entrepreneurial gurus that leaders perform better when they follow their instincts. Furthermore, good leaders rarely retreat from a decision. Conversely, poor performers consistently change their minds, which slows down their own decision making process and often adversely effects others as well.
In my experience entrepreneurs that constantly second guess themselves or make decisions out of fear usually end up making ill-fated choices that crush them in the long run. That is why it is often recommended by business consultants for entrepreneurs to go into endeavors with a solid competency of what they are about to do . Even if what you are promoting is an innovation with no historical basis, one needs the ability to at least envision the (possible) future in the hopes of successfully navigating through it.
As the French proverb goes, “In the kingdom of blind men, those who are blessed with one eye are kings.“
I sustain a small functional supplement company with my father. I really enjoy it as a past time. It has brought my father and I closer together and the effort I put into it is synergistic with the Live Life Love project and keeps my entrepreneurial spirit alive.
The rules my father and I have set further for the endeavor are that the project must remain fun and not interfere with our daily activities. We have given ourselves permission to change the rules come the day it takes off, but for now it’s just a hobby. As such, we wanted our first product to be fun… but also something people would use. I have discussed in previous posts that a good entrepreneur always looks for a problem to solve. I’m an athlete but I also enjoy the occasional beer. Athletic training the day after alcohol consumption is not enjoyable so we found our problem to solve.
Problem: Athletes that need to train the day after a celebratory event
A formula based on the latest scientific studies was put together and Function — the hangover cure was born. So we have our first product but now we need to get an audience. Standard entrepreneurial operating procedure when you have a product to promote is to go to the “water holes” that potential customers might be dwelling. You make nice with whoever is overseeing the watering hole’s activity and get permission to market to their audience. So that is exactly what I did. I researched and reached out to a few dozen influential beer and wine bloggers to offer free samples of Function in order to get some potential favorable buzz. I believe in the product and have gotten great feedback so why not?
The result: “Beat it!!!” I should have known better… The last thing operators of premium alcoholic beverage sites want to be associated with is one of the negative aspects of alcohol. I might as well have been offering discounted bail bonds for alcohol related offenses. In hindsight, why would any of these folks want to showcase one of the potential downsides of the products they are promoting… even if I am offering a solution?
Anyway, I am now searching for other watering holes to mingle in, but I thought since I am usually positioning myself as the knowledgeable entrepreneur, I expose this error in the hope that it helps someone else. Also, to highlight that along the entrepreneurial path there are always missteps. The key is to learn quickly from them and move on.
Recently I attended a meeting with my local chamber of commerce and was made aware of the story behind a neat little start-up, The Penny Ice Creamery. The Penny Ice Creamery is an artisan ice creamery located in Santa Cruz, California, that successfully used government programs to get their business flourishing. They are a “real world” example of what a great business plan along with thoughtful execution can achieve.
The video above shows how The Penny Ice Creamery was able to maneuver their way through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enabling business partners Kendra Baker and Zach Davis to successfully deploy their entrepreneurial vision. It also illustrates the value that small business plays in a community by highlighting job creation and purchasing from local and national suppliers. If nothing else it is a testament to what can be achieved with fortitude and another example that great entrepreneurial ideas get help when needed.
Inexperienced entrepreneurs create a business or product without knowing who their potential market audience is going to be. They innovate some new service and/or product and then go find the market (people to sell it to). If your goal is to be an entrepreneur (as opposed to an inventor where this model is part of the process) this course of action is ill-advised.
Seasoned entrepreneurs seek out hungry customers with a problem and then try to provide a desirable, consumable solution (product or service) to help these people alleviate their problem. The potential and capacity of your entrepreneurial reward is determined the minute you finalize the market choice for your product or service.
The world’s most successful fishermen will tell you this piece of advice (which is just as applicable to starting a business): You can have the best fishing pole and the best bait and still not catch any fish in a puddle of mud. With the advent of the Internet, there are some great ways to find a profitable market before you get started. A great book covering the topic of AdWords (with lots of details on finding profitable markets) is Google AdWords For Dummies by Howie Jacobson of AskHowie.com.
This post is about using Kaizen principles as an entrepreneur. Kaizen is a Japanese concept meaning “continuous improvement” or “change for the better”. When applied to entrepreneurship it honors improving processes — and optimizing the entrepreneurial journey — more than focusing on static outcomes. The underlying philosophy is not the comparison of a beginning point and endpoint but the process of improvement and growth in the present. When applying Kaizen to an entrepreneurial system, you should involve every member of your business (across all levels). There are five elements to consider:
In Kaizen, everyone within your endeavor is expected to share in the collective entrepreneurial experience… successes and shortfalls. This is not a one day event or celebration, rather an enduring process which aims to eliminate inefficiency and ambiguity. In addition, it also aims to create a harmonious working atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to participate in making the business better. Using Kaizen principles, organizational structures are flattened and everyone works with everyone else within the business. Furthermore, it is assumed perfection can never be truly achieved, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, this is not a problem based approach… it is a constant process. Everyone around you becomes a big-picture thinker.
Using this philosophy your employees begin to understand that their opinions are important and useful. They naturally become more empowered. The biggest takeaways from Kaizen is the importance of process, and that success is a journey that has no end… it is paved by being mindful of small consistent victories. Everything is built by taking small steps, by taking everything into consideration. Entrepreneurs using Kaizen principles take nothing for granted and constantly look to improve by taking small steps everyday and honoring the process of building a meaningful business. If you would like to learn more about Kaizen, I suggest reading Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Second Edition by David Mann.
Want to be an Entrepreneur? “Stop Watching F… ing Lost!” stated Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of the book Crush It! If you are a would-be entrepreneur working a normal day job, I encourage you to watch his YouTube video below…
Although I’m still pissed at Mr. Vaynerchuk for flaking on a promise to provide a seminar for everyone that purchased a book bundle he was promoting with author David Bach, I remain an avid fan of his work and buy in fully to his ideology that hard work and perseverance will pay off in the long run. He calls it “patience and passion”.
I know from experience that – absent a lot of luck – perseverance, tenacity, and reciprocity are needed ingredients in a winning recipe for giving your fledgling business the best odds of success. Vaynerchuk continues on late in the video (about getting your business started) by saying, “there is never a bad time, when you believe, when you work hard, and you know what you are doing… Work! That’s how you get it.”
There are always a few hours in the day to complete tasks. Passion and patience will get you to the finish line. If you would rather watch Lost (or any other television show for that matter) than work on your business, there is no shame in that. However, unwittingly (or maybe intentional) you may be identifying how unimportant your idea is, and as such, it might be time to rethink whether or not you are truly committed.
Getting a business off the ground is a challenge and like most challenges, starting and building a business halfheartedly will make the process extraneous at best, and more often than not a complete waste of time and resources. Entrepreneurs are notorious for going borderline maniac about a new idea. If we are left untamed, we press forward without a roadmap and tend to only focus on the activities that are exciting rather following through on all the activities that need to get done. As you begin to start a new business it is important that your goals are in line with your personality and desires. As such, it is necessary to inventory your motivations and talents and come to a decision whether it is worthwhile for you to push forward.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself first before getting started: Are you comfortable with taking risks and making tough decisions? This question is important because these are two “must have” attributes of an entrepreneur. Also, what is your definition of success? Your nostalgia might be short lived if you are only driven by profitability, since most businesses take awhile to get off the ground. Will you be supported by your family? If your husband or wife does not like someone who takes risks you are off to a bad start.
If you decide to press forward, building out an idea you truly believe in – an idea so engaging you think about it minutes after you wake up until it is time to go to sleep – is an extraordinary, rewarding journey regardless of the outcome. If you are ready, and in it for the right reasons, you won’t be too worried about missing Lost or any other sacrificed leisure activity for that matter.
With that said, if you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t forget to kiss the spouse and pet the dog, they are your biggest fans and you need them on your side to make this work!
Many entrepreneurs name a business before giving this step much thought. However, naming your business is an important process that should not be made in haste. Your name is often the catalyst in which your business idea will begin to take shape. Your name will influence your branding, your logo, and your position in the marketplace.
A name that’s not well thought-out can be a disaster:
A great name will get you off to a good start. There are some straightforward things to consider when choosing a business name. First, keep it simple. Don’t come up with a complicated name that is useless in helping someone identify what you do. Make it easy to spell and easy to remember. If a person can’t remember your name or find you on the Web you have probably lost the sale to the company they can remember and/or locate.
Get some creditable feedback from people you trust but don’t invite too many cooks into the kitchen either. The more people you get involved the harder it’s going to be for you to narrow your focus. Your name should be creative, without being whimsical. If you are a creative type, get one or two practical people to help you decide. If you are the practical type, do the opposite.
Create a name that is expandable but don’t exaggerate too much either. For example, don’t go with Global Widgets when you have two employees on payroll and only ship locally. However, do not use a name that includes your city of operation either — unless your plan is to never expand past your city limits or the location adds value to your brand (for instance Planet Hollywood is okay because it portrays the Hollywood experience you can expect at a Planet Hollywood restaurant).
Don’t parody a famous brand name unless you like getting sued. We were going to call one of the companies I helped found the International House of Design and borrow off the IHOP logo to design our branding. It would have been a big mistake (luckily we were smart enough to realize we were being a little too “whimsical”)!
An old trick is to start your company’s name with the letter ‘A’ to be the first in the phone book. Although this is not as important anymore, preferably you still want a letter in the first half of the alphabet for online directories and company lists in convention handouts, etc. It is always better to be on the top of a list, or in the beginning of booklet (before your customer’s attention wanes).
Lastly, before you cement your name make sure it is available on the Internet. Even if you do not plan to operate on the Web, these days you need a website. Try a reputable domain registrar to see if your business name is available. If your name is not available domain registrars often have naming engines that can help you brainstorm a new name. It’s not that hard to name a business, but it is not that hard to screw it up either. Follow the above advice, do your research, choose wisely, and you will be off to a good start.
Entrepreneurial ideas are a dime a dozen… good commercial ideas however are a scarce commodity. Whenever you hear someone say, “I’m an idea guy, I’m always thinking of new ideas,” run the other way! They have just confessed, albeit usually unknowingly, that they’ve yet to learn how to focus. I know because I use to be an “idea guy”. It served me wonderfully as the co-founder of a successful marketing agency selling my ideas to clients (because ideas were the product)… when I started a restaurant endeavor this trait served me poorly. In the case of the restaurant start-up, it was burdensome to successfully manage the balance between creation and execution.
There is a term that McKinsey consultants use when getting rid of ideas: “kill your babies” (discussed in a good book called The McKinsey Mind). If you have a good idea but it cannot be monetized – kill it! There is no reason (as an entrepreneur) to waste your time on an idea that will never make you money. During the early stages, your idea can be far from perfect. However, if you can’t write a short paragraph on how it will motivate someone else to take money out of their pocket and put it into yours it’s probably not worth pursuing.
I love wellness and fitness and want to help people perform better. As a result I’ve start a nutritional supplement company that enhances people’s ability to achieve various goals. Functional nutriceuticals is a simple and proven idea that will generate revenue through innovative products that are designed to help people accelerate their aspirations, improve performance, and improve well-being.