Ways to Become a Better Entrepreneur

On 01/14/2010, in Entrepreneurship, by Jordan Wilson

Neil Patel lists “53 Ways to Become a Better Entrepreneur“. Mr. Patel makes some interesting points. As he is still involved in new ventures, I suspect his list will continue to grow over time.

A few thoughts on his points and related issues. The numbers below tie directly to his list.

1. Many items on his list are subsets of not being overly emotional. Keeping cool may be the most important factor for success in business. Or investing. Or anything. I shall discuss emotions and business in my next post.

8, 10, 15, 22. Business is business. It is not family, friends, something for shortcuts, or a game. Choose business partners, mentors, advisors, and staff who meet the needs of your business. Not because of any other factor.

Unless absolutely certain, avoid getting involved with family members. It is bad enough for a business to fail. Creating bad blood in the family just adds to it.

Internal business partners should have complementary skills. First, your partners must fill a void in your own skill set. If you are an accountant and are starting a restaurant, you should not be getting another accountant as a partner. You need a chef.

Second, make certain that everyone knows their role before you start the business. If suddenly you and your accountant partner both you want to be the chef there will be trouble.

Third, anytime you have a business partner, formalize the arrangement. At inception, everyone is happy and all is well. Over time, things change. Put in writing everything you can think of relating to the business arrangement. Especially important is agreement on everyone’s specific roles and what will happen in the event of dissolution. It will save you down the road.

Spend the money to have a professional prepare the contract. If you are on the receiving end of a contract, spend the time and money to have it reviewed by a professional. Your partner may be friend or family today. Who can say in the future. Be safe.

I realize that money is tight in most start-up ventures. But this is not an area to scrimp on.

Avoid Uncle Bob as mentor or professional advisor unless Bob clearly knows what he is doing. You might save some money but I bet it will cost you in the long run. With advisors, you get what you pay for. I am not saying that you need to get the absolute best (and most expensive) advisors in your city. But this is an area where a good person can save you money and a bad person can cost you a lot over time.

Be careful when dealing with external business partners. By this I mean other entities (companies, partnerships, sole proprietorships, suppliers, retailers, etc.) that you have strong relationships with. Do some due diligence before hopping into a business bed with them. A bad relationship can be expensive, both in money and reputation.

I was told once that you can tell a lot about a company by who they do business with. The good companies tend to do business with other good companies. The bad with the bad. Before doing business with someone, check who they do business with. It may save you some aggravation.

19. Always do your homework ahead of time. How can you not have a marketing plan?

27. Yes, you can get a lot of free advice. But often you get what you pay for. Take the free advice, but do not follow it blindly. Always consider the source before following someone’s recommendations.

28. Hard work is important. But you also need a well thought out business and marketing plan. Then you must implement it. Work hard and have faith in your abilities and preparation. Do not be afraid of taking calculated risks. Do your best. Sometimes that is not enough. But if you have done the best possible job, that is all you can do.

Sadly, timing and luck are important factors in the success or failure of new businesses.

35. Raising venture capital is difficult. Until you get a strong track record, at which point you may not require venture capital, raising money is a challenge. Consider starting businesses that do not require extensive initial capital. Or be prepared to surrender significant control of your business to a financier for less than fair amount of money.

41. Calculated risks, that is. Do not take risks just to take risk. Always assess the risk return relationship and then make a decision.

Sometimes the best results are the ventures you decline to pursue. Depending on your analysis, doing nothing might be the best option. Do not act just to act.

50. Very true on the practical side. There is no substitute for experience. But you do need some technical skills as well. If you do not partner with people that do have the skills, you will need to acquire them yourself. Which is more expensive? The time and cost of learning new skills in school. Or the money lost due to mistakes made as you try and gain some experience.

52. Get to know your competitors. Competitors are not your enemy. In fact, they can be quite helpful.

I hope these thoughts are useful for any budding entrepreneurs out there. Good luck.

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