In my experience as an entrepreneur, I have found lots of MUSTs; crucial things to do in order to be successful. However, most people do not talk about their FAILURES. That hidden timeline, here summarised as a list of things NOT to be done, is as important as the ones to DO.
NUMBER 3: Avoid becoming discouraged
Many of the entrepreneurs that come to my office, surrounded by their aura of novelty and excitement, find themselves trapped in one of the following three positions.
1. Setting unrealistic goals with unrealistic deadlines.
Even in a short, 15-minute consulting interview this issue usually comes up. Although most companies in a start-up condition do not require a concrete business plan, it is absolutely essential to keep your feet on the ground. Look forward to your first year of business with realistic goals. Remember that you must build up a solid base from which your organisation will grow. So never, ever rely on good analysis and good opinion to start off. It is not enough.
Once your business plan has advanced to a solid model, go to the field and knock some more doors. You must be restless and absorb as much information and as many opinions in the field as you can.
Do some research with experts on the field you are about to approach. Find out how much time each item on your list took them and what the most frequent obstacles were. Also, consider the basic bureaucratic procedures that might delay your whole business.
In the developing world especially, you will find that there is an interesting gap, to say the least, between what governmental agencies will tell you and the reality of the bureaucratic timeline.
The first year of any business is the hardest. Great planning, impressive persistence and razor sharp focus are essential but not enough. Absolute dedication is also not enough.
Once you have found this level of dedication and you have walked the streets for every little piece of advice, failure might still be around the next corner.
Starting something from scratch is one of the hardest things that this capitalistic economy has to offer to any educated citizen.
Do not get discouraged, on the contrary, in that moment you will be much more capable of setting a realistic goal and an equal deadline. But only then.
So, walk the streets. Then plan.
2. Thinking that revolutionary ideas will sound great
Revolutionary ideas do not sound great, on the contrary. Most of the inventors in history have been called crazy at some point in their career. Some inventions were so radical in their times that they were ridiculed for decades. For example, Western Union decided not to invest in the telephone at the beginning of the 20th century because they concluded that it was a useless technology.
Another example was IBM’s corporate strategy which, in opposition to Apple, stated for almost half a century that computers would never be used in consumer homes.
Steve Jobs was called crazy for believing that the personal computer could become an everyday consumer product. Revolutionary ideas do not sound great.
Never forget that resistance to change is a basic instinct that is ingrained in our behaviour. When society is confronted with a revolutionary idea, only a very small percentage of the population may consider it. It is only later, when intelligent and influential people are supporting the idea, that change reaches critical mass.
Steve Jobs said that consumers cannot tell you what they want, you must do that thinking for them. Then remember it has to be presented with utmost showmanship.
With all this said, do not be discouraged when you are trying to bring a new idea or product to the world. Remember that respect comes at the end. First, you will be ignored, rejected and only later you will be considered successful.
3. Thinking in philosophy and not in business
Here’s another common behaviour which I encounter a lot. Dreamers, inventors with mighty expertise in their science, are usually unable to look beyond. They dream about doing very public appearances with their projects and ideas. They imagine trips to beautiful parts of the world, presenting their discoveries to respected professionals and attending magnificent events. This sensation of uniqueness is one of the most rewarding feelings that modern inventors can experience.
However, if the idea is ever going to transform into a transcendental invention, the philosophy behind the business must be kept but adapted to reality.
Nothing takes more motivation out of a team than a leader who is drowning in philosophy and carrying the business through to bankruptcy.
Most of the inventors that I encounter are people unwilling to make a sustainable business out of their ideas.
Do not get trapped with inflexible philosophy, adapt your ideas to the modern world where there is a chance for them to make a change.