Saturday, 5 December 2015

Be afraid to fail! And don't!

"Don't be afraid to fail" is widely misunderstood and comes with several disclaimers.

It has become an entrepreneurship cliché: Don't be afraid to be wrong or to make mistakes.

Well, we are afraid to make mistakes, and for good reason: If you mess up, people don't easily forgive or forget. 

On the other hand, it's important to keep experimenting and keep testing the market so that you can play to the actual market.

So firstly and most importantly of all, I think "fail fast" applies to your market research and planning. Try to prove your most basic assumptions wrong as early as possible. If you can't... well, only then do you have a product!

Try to sell before you do the work. Some services and products need careful market research and planning, but many don't.

Don't lie about your ability. You don't have to advertise it - but if you're asked whether somebody is your first customer, it's okay to admit it, but play to your prior experience and the things that set you apart. It may just be the fact that you're taking a fresh new approach.
People value honesty and relationships run on honesty. Currency is a cheap substitute for trust.

What if you made some mistakes in the running of your already successful business? Well, as long as those mistakes are the result of your best planning and reasoning and you don't have to cover it up or explain it away. If you just get on and you're honest and straight about it do what needs to get done: be apologetic, but not overly so, and don't go into defensive mode or victimize yourself, just carry the lessons from your failure with pride: eventually you will be forgiven.

But make sure you dissect your mistake and that it leads you to better insights that you could not otherwise have seen coming.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Why are big companies' products so bad?

Before I dive into the advice I would've liked to hear when I started out...

There are some things that never made sense. Why are some companies so big, and why are their services so inappropriate?

How is it that lonesome, single, me, can do what the 10 000 pound gorilla with all the money in the world, can't?
Lets start at the 40 000 ft view: That company didn't form overnight.

That company is the result of entrepreneurs as well as people with other skills, skills such as building up businesses and merging with other businesses and buying up yet others, often knowing very little about the actual service or product that the business is about. 
Large companies are often started by entrepreneurs who often know less than you. Some of the people involved know about the work and some know purely about how to run a business and manage people and accounts. (They don't always end up in the appropriate positions.)

(Perhaps, the company did form overnight - but even so, they would've formed overnight out of the ashes of another.)

To me the most surprising thing of all is that - whether you know it or care about it or not, you are likely busy building up a small department for a big company.

Although - staying small could be the best possible thing that you could do - but it can be more difficult than you can imagine.

A small grace though, is that - if you're an entrepreneur, you will hardly have time to worry about this.

HR? Lawyers? Marketing... Puh-leeze!

The way most industries work is quite unlike you imagine when you start out - and nobody tells you about it - yet countless people grow through it and come to the same insights.

I have been involved in several businesses in several industries. At university, I studied everything except business, so I learnt the hard way. Much of business is common sense - but what I learnt the hard way is that there are limits to how much one person can do, and to how big a company can grow if it's run off a spreadsheet - and that accountants, lawyers, sales-people and HR really do have a place, in fact, they have a critical place, especially once you reach a certain scale.

But this blog won't be about that. Not yet. Not for a long time. Because none of that is relevant to an entrepreneur with a product or service that is in demand. An entrepreneur who is in survival mode - and don't have the time, need or luxury to care about any of the above, or about what's coming.

An entrepreneur who simply needs to have enough money in the bank so he can buy the next batch of stock in order to do the next batch of work.*

I will use this blog to share what has held true for me, from the countless pieces of advice that has been given to me over the years.

Advice that has allowed me to think clearly about complex things, in order to make decisions *today*. Okay, well maybe *today* is not yet your *today*, but tomorrow might become your *today* quicker than you might think.

* By the way: you can save yourself a lot of pain if you refuse to work without getting paid up-front.