The corporate world you lived in for so many years has turned its back on you. Yeah, you always said “*&%$” this place, I’m gonna start my own …[add your dream here]…” but now, the reality of your situation has given you back a cold, hard slap on the face. OK, so you didn’t harbor dreams of retiring from this place, but you didn’t plan to leave so soon. You figured it would be better to ride this out and wait till the economy turned and then, when all the stars lined up, you would launch the entrepreneurial campaign of a lifetime. Short circuited as your plans are, you now have no choice but to take that proverbial jump into the shark infested, sink or swim, eat or be eaten, day by day war-zone we entrepreneurs like to call: “start-up life”. Cue Metallica, Welcome to the Jungle. You thought the corporate life was cold.
“But I’m superstar!” you say. You convinced yourself that the idea you have is revolutionary and the timing couldn’t be better. You have savings and you were lucky enough to have equity in your property. “I know tons of people,” you say, imagining that you can raise funds from your network of peers. Off the cliff you go, on a prayer and you’re going to either fly or come crashing down. Grab your cape.
Let’s put it in perspective. There is no better way to look at your competitive environment then to start with your own situation. You have already had that conversation with yourself about how far you are willing to go and how much you are willing to risk before you walk away from something. The simple reality is when you start your own business, not only are you risking your own money, you are risking your time and your reputation. If this is what you have to lose, don’t you think your competitor is wearing the same shoes as you? How far do you think you’d see him go, in order not to lose everything?
Now that we are clear about the battlefield, how confident do you feel about risking your entire life’s savings and way of life on your idea? How well prepared are you to take the journey? If, considering all the risks, you are still a go, then know that the best soldiers on a battlefield are those that are best trained. Equip yourself with knowledge, surround yourself with experience, pack the right gear for the mission and execute your plans.
When you’ve stopped belly dancing on the idea and gotten serious thinking about how your business, “your baby”, is going to survive, this is what you need to get started:
1. Knowledge – Start with due diligence on yourself before looking at the industry. Take stock of what you own and what you owe. Be realistic about what it costs every month to live the lifestyle you live right now. What is your runway (how many months do you have in the bank without income that you can house and feed your family)? If you only have two or three months before the money runs out, you need to either get a job or reduce your expenses drastically.
2. Experience – Surrounding yourself with others who have had success in your industry not only opens doors but brings you invaluable resources. Bottom line, get some help. Just like the best athletes in the word benefit from coaching, so do business owners. Business coaches are a great resource for helping you earn more money, operate your business more smoothly and become a more effective leader. A mentor in your industry will help you navigate the minefields and help you before you make potentially disastrous mistakes.
3. Gear (Technology) – You’re a professional, act like one. Social Media is not just a buzzword. What it means is to be connected to a larger audience. Being connected doesn’t mean having to answer your phone 24 hours a day; it’s more flexible than that. It means you have a professional website, Facebook/Twitter page and a blog so you can connect with your potential users and clients. Update your LinkedIn profile to attract business relationships. Last but by no means least, have a way for people schedule an online appointment with you 24 hours a day directly from your website.
4. Execute – Get to market fast. You don’t have time to make everything perfect, you just need to prove you can make it and sell it. Don’t get bogged down with the little details. Once you have a product or a service in the market, your customers will tell you how it should perform. You need to prove to yourself and your family that you have a legitimate path to revenue otherwise you will continue to drain your resources until there is nothing left. This is business by the way and the main goal is to get a return on your investment right?
This is by no account an exhaustive list of what it takes to go from the corporate world to the start-up world. What I am trying to portray here is the reality that you are in for the fight of your life and you must be prepared to do whatever it takes to win this battle. Know that you are stepping into an arena with seasoned vets that will take your lunch if they can. Be diligent, focus on your disruptive business or technology, and apply the four rules above; you’ll be well on your way.