The truth of all things is that we rarely play for the big leagues without a bit on minor league practice. The good news for budding startup founders is that just like baseball we can practice the craft of entrepreneurship in a relatively low risk environment. And that environment is whatever environment we happen to live in right now.
So here are 3 simple and practical steps we can undertake today to learn some real startup science – or if you’re a creative, artsy type, let’s call it the art of entrepreneurship.
A key question you must know the answer to is what happens when I Google your name? Do you ‘own’ the digital footprint from which people will make judgments about you? Or does Mark Zuckerberg or LinkedIn own it? This is an important question as your digital footprint tells people a great deal more about you than your resume does. Especially given a resume is fare less important in startup land than an Ivy League degree or corporate experience is. If you make the effort to create a digital presence on your own platforms, your own .com or your own blog or some cool projects, people will know you are serious. Potential investors and collaborators know you’re a go getter, that you get stuff done. In doing so you’ll be starting to build your personal brand. And if you can’t brand yourself (a product you know very well and believe in) how will you ever build a new brand other people care about?
Action Step: Go register the dot com for your name or another dot com that will be your personal brand & project centre point. It’ll cost you around $10 and this Pollenizer resource list will help you non techies get something live on the web.
Side projects are cool because they are no different to front and centre projects. Just smaller. All of the skills needed to make a side project fly and the same skills to make a focus project fly. Planning, execution, tenacity, resource allocation. It’s just that when it fails (it probably will) you wont go hungry, but you’ll get all the lessons that big project failures can also give. So go through that list of ideas on tiny apps you wanted to develop, or events you thought you’d run, or new product ideas you thought you could make and get making. Don’t think about it too much just start and work it out as you go along. Throw some time and tiny bit of money at it and prove to yourself you’re serious about this entrepreneurship stuff. If you don’t have a list of ideas, then start that list today and pick one within 7 days to do. Ideas are everywhere once your start actively looking for them. It doesn’t have to be a big or even original idea, anything will do. Bonus Fact: A significant number of global corporations started off as side projects. I practice what I preach and you may have even seen one of my side projects.
Action Step: Allocate 1 night per week and 1 afternoon per weekend to your side project. Choose a project which is launch-able within a month. Move fast & keep the launch date.
Now I’m not talking about so called sales people who work for large established brands, with existing sales channels, and existing customer relationships with national advertising support programs type sales. No I’m talking about real ‘sales’ selling where the people you are selling to didn’t know you existed until you turned up to try and sell them something. It’s this type of selling which will teach you a thing or two.
And the thing you need to learn isn’t hard selling old school chop shop stuff – the thing you need to learn is to face your fears. Face the fear of rejection which is inevitable when trying to convince people of anything – and certainly into buying whatever you sell when you get that side project up and running or get into a full time startup situation. Learning to sell is imperative for so many areas including capital raising, media coverage, employee recruiting….. everything. So you might as well start where it is hard. Here’s a list of commission only sales jobs, many of which can be done from home or part time. Every other selling event will seem easy after this.
Action Step: Start small – pick up the phone and try and sell a pretend subscription to time magazine to 10 random phone numbers. The ultimate fear faced head on and the only risk is dying of embarrassment.
There are a lot of skills and attitudes we need to be successful entrepreneurs, all of which can be learned and are a natural part of being human. My two favourite though are courage and action, so make me proud and have the courage to take action today!