As entrepreneurs, we listen to the news today and hear about the massive successes of some very lucrative ventures – the news abounds with stories about Uber and AirBnB and Instagram. As new entrepreneurs, we, too, stand at the bottom of Everest and think: “If they did it, I can, too. I’m at least as smart and at least as determined.”
In our naiveté, we misjudge our own ability. Not because we can’t do it, but because we so often fail to realize exactly what it takes.
As we stand at the start of our own entrepreneurial journeys, we’re often missing the fact that between us and those lofty peaks among the clouds, are a lot of obstacles – physical, intellectual and emotional – that will form us into the business owners and leaders we will someday become. It doesn’t mean we can’t make it, but it does mean that we may not be as prepared as we first imagine. That being said, there is plenty we can do to increase our chances of success.
Bootstrap Your First Success
There are four stages of funding, and the first begins with our own sweat equity. Instead of heading straight for the highest mountain, we might shoot for, say Annapurna. We can build our businesses steadily and consistently; the way many of the most successful businesses do. By starting small and measuring, adjusting and building at a rate that allows us to grow and get stronger, we build both the endurance and systems for scalability, and learn from our own mistakes in an environment where a single slip won’t send us over a 500-foot vertical drop to a sure death. The level of experience that comes from this path inspires confidence in ourselves and in our future investors. Pairing with one of the area’s free services like the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or participating in an entrepreneur prep program like the one we’re building at Chandler Innovations can help you identify the skill sets and questions you’ll need to address as you begin.
Know Your Audience
Just as knowing that rappelling, ice climbing, and high altitude training will improve your chances of success on Everest, we can gain a competitive edge by knowing our audience – what they want and need – and building a solution our customers want for a price they feel is fair. We can focus on perfecting product market fit before we try scaling too fast to meet anticipated rather than real growth. And with a following of already loyal customers we enter the market with an established stream of revenue. The saying circulating at Phoenix Startup Week in February was “most businesses are a solution in search of a problem to solve.” I like to say that as entrepreneurs we will build it whether you want it or not. So by focusing on the pain points of your intended buyer and solving the problems they desperately need solved, you will create something they will not only love, they’ll be more than willing to pay for it, too.
Ask for Help
We can hire a coach, meet with mentors, connect with advisors who have already summited the highest peaks in the world and listen to what they have to say. We can ask them to assess our skills and hear our pitches and listen to their feedback when they recommend we improve our value proposition or that we may need to add an additional skill set in the form of a seasoned CEO. Surrounding ourselves with people who are not just smarter, but wiser and heeding their advice can shorten our own learning curves. There are countless services and opportunities in the Valley that can support you throughout your journey. SCORE can offer great insight into specific industries from seasoned veterans. Incubators like Chandler Innovations focuses on building robust networks of c-level experts and entrepreneurs willing to mentor entrepreneurs through their new businesses and CEO peer groups like the upcoming PeerSpectives CEO Roundtables we’re getting ready to launch at Chandler Innovations can give you the peer support you need to navigate the pitfalls.
Learn From the Their Mistakes
We can learn from others – not to compare ourselves to them and say I won’t make those same mistakes, but to truly learn from them – to hear not only about the successes they’ve had, but about the failures and what they chose to do with them. We can listen as they tell us it wasn’t just my lack of experience, but my arrogance or competitiveness that led me to climb higher before I was ready. We can check ourselves and consider that those same weaknesses may be rearing their ugly heads within us, and consider what we can do to combat them in advance of our own demise. Humility and the realization that not only will we fail, but that it will make us stronger and better, improves both our agility and our open-mindedness – two important factors in growing a successful businesses. Learn from those who have been before you by attending events like Phoenix Startup Week, talking candidly with the entrepreneurs you know or attending events like the Entrepreneur Speaker Series we’re launching in spring/summer at Chandler Innovations. Entrepreneurs are inherently willing to share their experiences with others – tap into that rich source of wisdom!
What’s your next step? Where are you in your journey to the top? If you’re already in the throes of your business and struggling through the ice floes on your way to the top, consider joining one of our PeerSpectives CEO Roundtables and learn from others who are where you are today. We’re holding two open houses (7:30-9:30am and 11-1pm) on Wednesday, March 23rd to answer any questions you may have. Register today!