To answer this properly, I consulted with my partners here at Agendrix. Here are our thoughts.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure; Just Do It
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll make mistakes—and learn from them. Failure is part of an entrepreneur’s life. A partner recommended this book to me, which says the same thing. Many people are so afraid of making mistakes that they’ll never launch their business.
For instance, someone once told me they spent over $50,000 in real estate investment training. This excessive preparation suggests a serious fear of failure.
My first reaction was to ask them why they hadn’t simply invested this money in a first property. Many people live in their dreams for fear of failing, and therefore never manage to make their dreams a reality.
💡 There is no better way to improve your project than getting started; this will force you to take action.
2. Start with a Proof of Concept
Too many times. I’ve seen new businesses invest prohibitive amounts to launch their concept without having made their first sale beforehand. Many of them shutter their doors after a few months. A lot of people become entrepreneurs thinking they’ll be rich in no time, that they’ll hit a homerun. They’re usually finished before they reach their first milestone.
You don’t need the best website, the best brand or the best equipment on the market to start out.
💡 Think of the most minimalistic approach for your product or your service you could start with. Then think of how you can make it even more so. Then do it again. With this frame of mind, you’ll be able to demonstrate your concept will cost way less than what might be expected.
3. Share Your Ideas
Are you afraid to share your ideas for fear that others might steal them? Generally speaking, when I hear this, I know I’m talking to a neophyte. Why? Experience teaches us that a good idea isn’t worth much without a good execution. And to improve an idea’s execution, what’s better than getting feedback from experienced people? Building a prosperous business requires investing a lot of hours per week for many years. Don’t kid yourself that people will drop everything at the drop of a hat just to copy your idea.
💡By discussing your ideas with experienced people, you’ll benefit from a broader perspective, which will help you increase your business’s value.
4. Make Decisions for Yourself
Your parents, friends and teachers will all have their own opinions on your project. Never lose sight of yours. In the past, I’ve seen an entrepreneur mock Agendrix’s concept when we were starting out. If we had cared about what everybody thought, we never would’ve gotten anything done.
💡Showing openness of mind doesn’t mean you should take everything at face value. Be attentive to what people say, but always decide for yourself. Make choices according to your values and ambitions, based on what you think is the best path for you, not for others.
5. Be a Lifelong Learner
Always be in learning mode. Whether you listen to podcasts, watch videos or read books and blog articles, educate yourself and learn from others’ mistakes and successes. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but capitalize on what others have learned before you.
Here Are Some Suggestions on Where to Begin
- Lean Startup
- Getting Real
- Delivering Happiness
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things
- Crossing the Chasm
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
6. Keep to a Clear and Concise Model
Avoid starting with a sprawling business model. Actually, unless a potential investor requires it, don’t make one at all.
💡Opt for a one-page canvas. It’s way simpler to have discussions around something like that than over a 75-page document.
7. Experiment and Adapt Quickly
Chances are your first idea won’t be the one that works. At least, not like you originally anticipated. Always be ready to pivot and turn a new leaf.
💡It can be difficult to change or abandon a project or an idea that you’ve put time into, but keep in mind that doing so is integral to success.
8. Keep It Simple
Complexity often leads to misunderstandings, gaps in perception and, in time, frustration. Complex concepts are a perfect cocktail for explosive problems. Of course, your product or service might solve a complicated problem, but keep the way you present your solution to clients as simple as possible.
💡Be it in presenting your product or your service, in drafting a shareholder agreement or in managing a project, keep things as simple as possible.
9. Remain Authentic
This may sound cliché, but it’s really important.
💡Don’t invest in a project you don’t click with.
10. Bond with Other Entrepreneurs
Expand your network. Take entrepreneurs from your circles out for drinks or lunch and chat with them. Participate in events like Startup Weekends and targeted happy hours. They’re perfect for meeting new people. Of course, working on your project is even more important and should take the better part of your time. To cite DashThis founder Stéphane Guérin, “networking is good, but working and generating revenue is even better.”
💡Ideally, try to network with people from your industry. Getting acquainted with them will be even more beneficial.
11. Pick the Right Partners
According to Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman, 65% of high-potential startups fail because their cofounders don’t get along. This statistic doesn’t surprise me.
💡Choose partners who share your values and ambitions, who have complementary interests and expertise, and who are as passionate about the project as you are. Make sure that all your partners have a similar long-term business vision: Is one of them aiming for international expansion while another wants to remain small-scale and local?
12. Don’t Try to Be Completely Unique
Many think that not offering an absolutely unique product or service would bar them from success. But is anything truly unique nowadays? Facebook isn’t the only social medium, McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food chain and BMW isn’t the only carmaker. Ultimately, what matters is meeting a need and bringing sufficient value to a targeted clientele.
💡If you plan to wait until you find a completely groundbreaking idea for your business, you’ll likely wait your whole life.
13. Take Your First Steps without Looking to Optimize Them
Do what you have to do to succeed in the long term, not in the short term—even if some of your decisions may not seem cost-efficient.
Take Airbnb for example. Did you know that its cofounders initially went and took photos of listed apartments themselves? In your opinion, was that optimized or even cost-efficient? Clearly not. But doing so made them learn a lot about what they had to do to better serve their clientele.
💡Don’t look for a ROI on every decision. Do your best to create value for your clients and stay in learning mode. Later on, you’ll find out how to optimize the processes that become burdensome with time.
14. Bill Clients Quickly
There’s nothing quite like a client who’s willing to pay to validate your concept. If your product or service really has value for your clients, don’t feel bad about billing them for it. After all, how else will you be able to keep serving them?
💡You’ll eliminate fake clients who are quick to criticize but ultimately won’t pay you.
But in the end, all these tips are useless without the most important tip of them all: persevere. Success comes with sustained effort and perseverance through thick and thin.