Lessons Learned for Entrepreneurs
So you have a great idea and you decide you want to start your own business… do you find yourself doubting whether anybody else can launch the idea as well as you? Do you fear that someone might steal your idea – or get to market faster than you can? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, read on and learn from experts and seasoned entrepreneurs how (over)confidence and stealth may harm you more than hurt you.
Live and Learn
Take it from the guys who have been in the trenches and know a thing or two. Bill Ready, CEO of Braintree, on online payment provider comments, “Back in the late 1990s, when I was a 19 year old engineer at Netzee--much like other bright, young, ‘hot-shot’ engineers today--I had this sense that I knew everything, and I didn’t realize the importance of really listening to those who were more experienced. What I have realized since then, is that one of the most important things you can do is to surround yourself with great people, and to listen to them."
Or as Bing Gordon, Chief Partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, a venture capitalist group, so poignantly states, "The number one piece of advice I would share is to recruit a mentor. Find someone you admire who is at least one generation older, and has no direct authority over you. Lack of context and perspective can cost you months and years--with a bad career choice, an unwise relocation, short-term negotiating posture, and, generally speaking, sophomoric thinking." We recommend that you take the advice of these two titans to heart and see where these words can take you and your idea.
Keeping It Secret
This is a common mistake among many entrepreneurs, usually referred to as “guarding the big idea”. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect your “baby”, much like a mama bear standing on her hind legs, bearing her teeth, preparing to attack at the slightest glimpse of trouble or threat to her young. However, in doing this, you rob yourself of the opportunity to talk through your thoughts with people who may actually be able to help and work with you to grow your idea. This double edged sword can be an insurmountable hurtle to some. You may feel as though you’re exposing yourself to “idea theft”, but there is actually something to be said in talking to others who may be more business savvy than you. You can gain some very useful knowledge about what it is you’re trying to do and where it is you’re trying to go with your business. Not to mention that sharing your business idea with others can lead to new customers, referrals and partners that will be critical to your success.
Keep in mind that not everyone is out to poach your idea or steal your team. This paranoia can run deep, especially among anyone who truly believes in their idea with every fiber of their being. But what about adopting a more J.D. Salinger approach? Though perhaps without the crippling “recluse” aspect he later adopted which might hinder the eager entrepreneur. He is quoted as saying, “I am a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.” Isn’t that ultimately what your goal is and should be? Wouldn’t life feel so much happier if these were the “suspicions” we were bogged down with rather than living in fear that someone is out to get us?
Granted, there are some exceptions when someone you thought was on your team turned out to be a weasel and stole your idea; but these cases, generally speaking, are few and far between. And when it does happen, at least you have learned the suspect’s true colors and have them off your team. It is, however, important to recognize the differences in people who seem genuinely interested in seeing you succeed versus those who want the credit without doing the actual work. If this is something you struggle with, ask for help! (Notice a pattern here?) An entrepreneur is only as good as the people he/she hires; and what better way to filter people out than seeing how they react to your sharing an idea.
Another thing to keep in mind when developing your idea (and you may not want to hear this) is that most likely it has been thought of and launched before. That isn’t to say that your idea isn’t unique in its own way, but rather than thinking you’re exempt from failure, changing the world, and omnipotent with your brainchild, instead check out what others in the field are already doing and how you may learn from them. Forging these relationships early on, even if they seem competitive, will only help you later and will make your idea the best it can be. Seeing what others are doing with your idea will give you vital clues of when you need to tweak, pivot or find a new void within the idea that is ready for opportunity.
Now Go Get ‘Em!
Go ahead and think “I’m brave!” Having the courage to chase your dreams is not something a lot of people are willing to allow themselves to do. Pat yourself on the back and reflect on this thought by Tim Westergren, founder of internet radio giant Pandora, "Be sure to ‘notice’ ideas when you have them. Stop. Take the time to consider them seriously. And if your gut tells you they're compelling, be fearless in their pursuit."
About the Author: Lauren Bell is the Community Concierge at Workbar Cambridge and knows an unreasonable amount about fossils. Contact her via email firstname.lastname@example.org