The 3 Wisdoms No One Told You about Starting a Company
by Daniel S. Williams
Lori Greiner once said, “It’s not who’s going to let you, it’s who’s going to stop you.”
Having been a lifelong inventor and successful entrepreneur, her rhetorical question hints as the level of personal motivation and perseverance entrepreneurs need to be equipped with to getting a startup off the ground.
It’s no easy feat beginning a business, but the following are three tips I wish I knew earlier in the process.
First, “shift” happens.
One of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur is the inability to predict everything. While your own venture will offer a freedom and daily set of challenges ready to be overcome, failures along the way are inevitable.
More often then not, in meeting with mentors and potential investors alike, you’ll receive mixed messages—person A wants to see X, but person B can’t stand for X to happen. There is not always a clear path to take, but listening to feedback and taking it to heart is what’s important.
Look for the “overlap” of the circles. If you picture the various areas of feedback —like from mentors, investors, and customers— as a venn-diagram, then logically the areas of overlap are potentially the ones to devote the most attention to. It is an iterative process that can either become more muddled as entrepreneurs gather more feedback, or it can be an enlightening process if one focuses on the areas where a consensus is being formed across groups.
Second, use your mind, not only heart.
As an entrepreneur, the analogy usually given is that your startup is your baby—a living, breathing thing cared for and loved along the journey. While having passion is great, it also is dangerous.
Measure things with relevant metrics. One of the key areas entrepreneurs spend extreme sums of their already tight budgets is on advertising. Sure, Google AdWords can seem very inexpensive at first glance, $0.30 per click to your site for example. This kind of thought is deceiving. It is easy to spend seed money, but spending wisely requires much more attention.
Track the conversion rates you experience on keywords, find the ‘long tail’ keywords with lower competition, and above all, be a disciplined adherent to the analytics around performance. If something isn’t right, taking corrective steps is an option only when one knows what’s wrong.
Third, focus outside of your business, too.
One of the most important resources available to any entrepreneur is a network of mentors. Seeking out valuable advice does more than a pivotal role in saving time and money, as it also opens a whole new avenue to learn from those who have been in your shoes and dealt with many of the same issues. With more perspectives and varied backgrounds, a fortified advisory board can prove invaluable.
While some advisors may ask for “advisory fees” to join your board of advisors, many simply wish to give back and share their insights. For those who may ask for a small fee—ask yourself if their connections, experiences, and background may be worth it.
By being able to seek advice and opinions from an array of advisors to your business, the ability to see things in a new light is much easier, not to mention that your advisory board can greatly help when meeting with investors. I call them “ace advisors” since these individuals not only offer phenomenal advice and guidance, they also serve as beacons to potential investors that your idea has struck a chord among notable industry practitioners.
Being an entrepreneur is an experience many don’t wish to give up once they’ve joined the ranks. But it is also one of the most winding, adventurous careers in getting a business past market research, to funding, to forming that A-player team.
About the Author
Daniel S. Williams is currently an Advanced-Standing senior at Boston College. He is actively involved with Boston SaaS startup Xperii as the Head of Business Development, has interned with Edward Jones, and worked for a CPA firm with Texas and Washington offices. His articles have been featured by award-winning YFS Magazine and other publications. He is HubSpot Inbound certified, as well as both Google AdWords and Analytics certified. Blog: DanielSWilliams.net Twitter: @DanSeanWilliams
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