I do like to make a difference between entrepreneurship and startups. For me startups only cover a small fraction of entrepreneurship, as a family owned business can have thriving entrepreneurship and also a big, publicly listed company can be entrepreneurial driven.
Hire slow, fire fast
Building a great team is the most important thing for you as a entrepreneur and a leader, what else are you leading? Often people will say that the company is their second family. And considering how much time you spend with your colleagues it’s not that wrong. So when you are hiring people, especially the first dozen, really make sure that they fit the culture and values that you hold dearest and want to establish in your company. Don’t be flattered by the fact that someone is willing to work for you!
On the other side, every time you have the feeling that someone might(!) not be a good fit: Fire fast (and be generous)! Especially if your team has grown and you are not that close to every individual any more, you will likely be the last person to know that there is something wrong (doesn’t fit the culture, not doing the work), so when in doubt: Let it go. One bad apple spoils the bunch!
Startups die mostly from indigestion not starvation
Raising money is seen as a badge of success and not seen as a bet that there might be something. Look at it from the perspective of the person writing you the check: They are calculating that eight out of ten checks won’t work out (so you’re collateral), and also their job is to write checks for founders like you! So please, don’t see it as an end goal. Most startups will scale up quickly once the money is in (hiring people, new office, more perks, more projects), and loose focus in the meantime. The founders will be exceptionally busy, but it might not translate into more revenue. Once the money runs out hard choices have to be made: Down size the staff, raise again or go bust. After raising a big pile of cash using it wisely is really hard and be disciplined about it!
A company that’s run on the cash it is generating through business transactions (selling stuff or providing a service) will grow way slower than a company with an infusion of cash. But a company with lots of cash still has to grow its revenue and keep it cost structure in check.
Don’t let the perfect be the evil of good
Basically it is good to often ask yourself: Does this thing really need to be perfect or is it sufficient to make it good? If it really has to be perfect than make sure you are aware of the costs and plan accordingly.
This goes into the pareto principle: roughly 80 % of consequences come from 20 % of the causes.
Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.Thomas Edison
Keep at it and try, again and again. Also ideas are worthless – execution (the team, leadership, business model) is everything.
The key to failure is trying to please everybodyBill Cosby
One of the pillars of a successful business is to know your customer. That also tells you who your customer is not. So while making your business very targeted to one audience you will naturally make your product / service not useful for everyone else. That’s by design! You can’t sell cars and then try to please a customer who wants to fly over the ocean…
The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.Ralph Nader
A leader should make him-/herself obsolete, and enable more people in the team to take over aspects of the business. Only then the business can grow but that means the people have to think for themselves and be leaders themselves. Lot of CEOs and managers want to keep their team at bay and make sure that no decision is made without them. This just leads to more work and a organisation that is stuck with getting everything ‘approved’ by a leader that is to absent from the nitty gritty stuff to actually make useful decisions!
Instead of freaking out about these constraints, embrace them. Let them guide you. Constraints drive innovation and force focus. Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.37signals
For me that’s very easy to remember as my creativity only comes when there are constraints. The task: “Imagine your dream house on a blanc canvas” is exceptionally hard for me. But on the other hand: “here is a house, how would you change it to make it your dream house” is way easier for me.
Life’s too short to learn from your own mistakes. So learn from others!
This quote is so old and I still find it funny. It states so may obvious things: You will make mistakes, others will make mistakes. But also mistakes will only show you what not to do – they don’t show you what to do. So don’t do all the mistakes yourself – leave some for the others! 😉
Only the paranoid surviveAndy Grove
There is a book with this title and it describes how Andy (former CEO of Intel) steered Intel through drastically changing times and transitioned it from memory manufacturer to chip manufacturing.