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- 08/26/14--12:07: _The Most Successful...
- 09/10/14--07:00: _How The Lehman Coll...
- 09/10/14--13:42: _10 Tough Lessons Ev...
- 09/14/14--05:29: _Tips Every Startup ...
- 09/15/14--09:01: _PETER THIEL: Creati...
- 09/15/14--13:43: _This Is What Entrep...
- 09/16/14--13:01: _How This 12-Year-Ol...
- 09/25/14--10:25: _Every Entrepreneur ...
- 09/25/14--14:03: _How I Made $10 Mill...
- 10/01/14--13:24: _5 Things Every Grea...
- 10/07/14--12:45: _Successful Entrepre...
- 10/08/14--11:39: _How Entrepreneurs C...
- 10/13/14--01:37: _This Is The New Boo...
- 10/17/14--08:12: _The 13 Worst Mistak...
- 10/19/14--05:37: _Why Selling A Start...
- 10/20/14--07:00: _This Couple Ditched...
- 10/24/14--11:15: _How One Woman Built...
- 10/31/14--08:21: _How Burning Bridges...
- 11/11/14--10:15: _Parents Are Sending...
- 11/21/14--12:26: _3 Lists Every Profe...
- 08/26/14--12:07: The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Have These 5 Traits In Common
- 09/10/14--13:42: 10 Tough Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Learn
- 09/15/14--13:43: This Is What Entrepreneurs Should Wear To Work
- 09/16/14--13:01: How This 12-Year-Old CEO Built A $150,000 Business
- 09/25/14--10:25: Every Entrepreneur Should Read This Guide From A Facebook Co-Founder
- 09/25/14--14:03: How I Made $10 Million And Completely Blew It
- I spec-ed out a website I wanted to make: a financial site that had no news on it but was focused on building community by exchanging ideas. I wanted to give people a way to make good decisions on their own.
- When I say “spec,” I wrote down what all the buttons on the front page would do and what other content would appear on the front page. I completely defined the next five layers of the site and what buttons and actions and content would occur on each page.
- Once I had the spec, I went to a firm in India and asked them to design five pages of the website. Just the design. No code. This cost me $500.
- I showed a potential distribution partner (thestreet.com) those pages and worked out a deal where they would help me get traffic AND they would place ads in exchange for 50% ownership. They had a billion pageviews a year so I said, “YES!!” (Actually, not quite true. I said, I was thinking 3% ownership for them and Tom said, “No, 50%” and then I said, “YES!!”) I paid the Indian firm to finish the site. This cost $2000. Then I came up with more ideas for the site and more ideas and more ideas and although we did a soft launch at version 1.0, we did a hard launch at version 5.0 about five months later.
- I got my friends to use the site. First I created over 700 fake users and manually entered in probably over 10,000 pieces of data onto the site just to make it useful right away. Don’t be afraid to do things manually to get things going on your site. Even with user-generated content, it’s OK if you are the first 1000 users if you expect a million users to benefit from it. Every successful business, even Google, Facebook, Twitter, started with a combination of manual improvements and friends of the founders using the site.
- I got my friends to write reviews of the site on their popular blogs. I wrote articles that would link back to the useful content on the site. I guest blogged on many different websites. This is how you get users back to your site. Everyone asks me, “how do I get users to my site”. The above is the answer. It’s the only answer. Don’t forget: when you start a website, it’s not yet a trusted site. So you have to bring people from a trusted site to your site to build up the trust in your site. This is true for any site: financial sites, bird-watching sites, weight loss sites, sports sites, whatever.
- I created three areas of community on the site: a way for people to message and have “friends”. A user-generated forum system, and a Q&A system. The Q&A system in particular generated 40% of the traffic the day after it launched.
- I had ads on every page at this point. A million users a month. And no employees. So we were profitable. We were making about $100,000 a month with zero employees in just four months. Being too afraid to build this into a big business, I sold the site almost instantly.
- 10/01/14--13:24: 5 Things Every Great Entrepreneur Needs To Know
- 10/13/14--01:37: This Is The New Book Rupert Murdoch Wants All His Execs To Read
- 10/17/14--08:12: The 13 Worst Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make
- Bleacher Report sold to Turner for a little more than $200 million five years after it was founded. But between four founders and more than $40 million raised, each was diluted to 5-10% stakes. That means each founder walked away with about $10 million after the sale.
- Arianna Huffington, Ken Lerer and Jonah Peretti also sold their startup, The Huffington Post, to AOL six years after it was founded. Their price was a lofty $315 million. Each owned different percentages, with Ken Lerer earning significantly more than Huffington. Huffington reportedly owned less than 14% of the company and took home an estimated $18 million.
- But look! Michael Arrington sold TechCrunch to AOL for about $30 million five years after he founded it. He reportedly owned 80% of the company when he sold it because he never raised any venture capital. That means he took home about $24 million before taxes – more than Arianna Huffington.
- For a non-media example, there's ThinkNear, a TechStars company founded by Eli Portnoy. It sold to Scout Advertising for $22.5 million 18 months after its launch. It had raised $1.63 million. At the time of its acquisition, it had a Series A term sheet for $4 million. If ThinkNear had turned down the acquisition and taken the Series A investment, Portnoy says his share of the company would have been diluted an additional 25-30%.
- Jeff Richards, who is now an investor at GGV Capital, tried both kinds of companies. Early in his entrepreneurial career, he founded a company that was valued at $250 million but Richards says he walked away with nothing. In 2003 he started another company, R4. Two years later he sold it to VeriSign for less than $20 million. That time, Richards says both the founders and investors were "thrilled" with the outcome.
- 10/20/14--07:00: This Couple Ditched Their Tech Jobs To Pursue Their Passion For Beer
- 10/31/14--08:21: How Burning Bridges Can Lead To Success
- 11/21/14--12:26: 3 Lists Every Professional Should Make
Have you wondered what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else? Is it a Type-A personality? Is it being a visionary? Is it being an inspirational leader? While many entrepreneurs do possess those traits, they aren't necessarily the most common ones among successful entrepreneurs. Sure they can be important, but there's a whole lot more that goes into a life of entrepreneurship, and everyone is unique. No billionaire is exactly the same. Here's what they do tend to have in common though.
1. They have passion
Perhaps the most important of all traits for successful entrepreneurs is passion. Despite many opinions on the matter, passion isn't really excitement some get at the chance to jump on a trend or fad in order to make a quick buck. It's more about the belief in your product or service; the idea that it may have a positive impact on your community or the world in some way. Even if your passion project doesn't come to fruition, it's enough to keep you motivated day in and day out, during all the ups and downs. When you love what you're doing, you're going to fight hard each day to build a product that has what it takes to grow strong.
2. Ability to bounce back from failure
Some say this is the most important entrepreneurial quality. It's one thing to take a risk and be willing to fail; it's a completely different trait to dust yourself off and get back on that proverbial horse. This is what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the ones who failed. Take Bill Gates and Paul Allen for example. They failed with Traf-O-Data before they made a fortune with Microsoft. Just imagine if they couldn't handle the stressful and challenging time following the collapse of Traf-O-Data and quit. The world might be a drastically different place. Failing isn't easy. But if you want to be successful it's something that you must experience and bounce back from.
"People don't want to talk about him because of the disgraceful way he eventually left the White House, but you have to look at Richard Nixon's ability to bounce back after multiple failures," says longtime entrepreneur Jordan Kasteler. "He was not only defeated by John F. Kennedy in the presidential race, but lost a California governor's race soon after. Several years later he rises like a phoenix from the ashes and wins the presidency. If that's not the perfect demonstration of bouncing back, then nothing is."
3. They are just likable enough
There's a fine line that entrepreneurs must walk when interacting with people. They can't always be that charismatic, outgoing individual that everyone seems to love. However, they also can't be that socially awkward person who refuses to socialize either. Remember, as an entrepreneur you may be the face or top executive of a startup. You have to be taken seriously as an executive, but also sociable enough when networking or trying to develop your brand's reputation. Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of an entrepreneur who has cultivated a good amount of likability over the years. Sure he can appear awkward while speaking publicly, but he has improved because he does it often. His recent awkward but endearing ice bucket challenge video shows he is a work in progress, and that makes him just likable enough to many people.
4. They know their strengths and weaknesses
The most successful entrepreneurs have a pretty solid understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. What this means is that successful entrepreneurs are comfortable and confident in their set of skills and talents. They've evaluated themselves to some degree and know business tasks and roles they aren't good at as well. Take the "Steves" for example. Without Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs wouldn't have had a computer to sell. And, without Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak may have never sold the Apple 1. Both men complemented each other's strengths and made up for their weaknesses.
5. They are serial innovators
Not only can entrepreneurs spot a problem, they may also try, and often succeed, at finding a way to fix the problem somewhat quickly. In fact, fixing problems is what drives most entrepreneurs. They are always observing and listening to the world around them and then developing ideas that can innovate. Take light bulbs, for example. They were pioneered to some extent by British chemist Humphry Davy in the 1800s, but have become associated with Thomas Edison because he made them last-longer. Successful entrepreneurs realize that they don't have to invent the wheel. They just have to make the wheel better or more accessible.
SEE ALSO: 15 Traits Of Entrepreneurs Who Fail
This post is sponsored by Spark Business from Capital One.
In 2008, friends Paul Trible and Paul Watson were graduating from Oxford University's Saïd Business School. Their careers in finance looked bright — until Lehman Brothers collapsed. Panic rippled through the financial world, and jobs vanished.
Trible and Watson had to come up with another way to make a living. They decided to follow through on their collective dream and start Ledbury, a luxury men's clothier. "We said to each other, we've been talking about this thing for a year, why don't we see if it's something we can actually do," Trible says.
First, they had to do some research. Trible apprenticed with esteemed Jermyn Street tailor Robert Emmett, while Watson learned everything he could about the clothing business. At night, the two would meet up in a London pub and go over their business plan.
Today, Ledbury is doing extremely well. Paul Trible is the CEO, and he designs the shirts. Paul Watson is the COO. About 96% of Ledbury's business is online, but there's also a store in Richmond, Virginia, where the Ledbury headquarters are located. "We've doubled for every year we've been in business," Trible says. "We've got about 25 employees and about 25,000 customers."
We interviewed "the Pauls" as part of our Fast Track Q&A series in which we're asking various small business owners 11 questions about their professional and personal inspirations. "The Pauls" shared stories of their days selling used golf balls and how indecision can lead to failure. Read more in the series »
Interview conducted by Business Insider Studios and edited for clarity and length.
BI Studios: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Paul Watson: I wanted to be a marine biologist. I grew up on the water in the New Orleans area, and the aquarium was my favorite place to go when I was little. I asked the people there, "How do I work here?" They were like, "Be a marine biologist."
Paul Trible: I wanted to be a professional football player [both Pauls laugh]. It's funny, because I'm a very small, small person. I was a large kid, though. When I stopped growing, I realized that I should look into other professions.
How did you get the idea for your business?
Trible: We were studying in England, and we really liked how they often did one thing really well there. You can go Jermyn Street to get your shirts. Or go to High Street, to the cheesemonger to get your cheese. We really liked the idea that the rise of online shopping was bringing that idea back to the forefront of commerce.
How did you pick the name for your business?
Trible: It's the name of the road where one of our favorite pubs in London was. It's where we spent many evenings drafting and redrafting the business plan for the business of Ledbury.
What's the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
Trible: Starting a luxury clothing business in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. That's probably up there.
Watson: Way up there. It might have seemed like a bad idea to some.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
Trible: Every summer a handful of women come into the store and buy a dozen of our shirts to use as beach cover-ups. They buy these beautiful, Italian cloth, luxury men's dress shirts. Then they just use them as bikini cover-ups. They often request that we do more florals. You can use these shirts for anything, but sometimes we forget that they get used as bikini cover-ups.
What is your greatest talent, professional or otherwise?
Watson: Patience. [both Pauls laugh]
Trible: Paul is definitely patient with me. I would say I'm a generalist. I'm average-to-good at a handful of things and not spectacular or terrible at other things.
What's the first job you ever had?
Trible: I worked at McDonald's. Working on your feet for six- to seven-hour shifts, helping people through a drive-through will definitely teach you something about customer service.
Watson: My first job, I was a used-golf-ball salesman. I lived in a neighborhood that had a golf course in it. And I used to collect the balls out of the ponds. I'd go swimming in the ponds, clean up the balls, and sell them back to the golfers.
Trible: And fight gators! He was in Louisiana.
Watson: No, no gator fighting, fortunately. The ponds were filled with chemicals, though, from the golf course.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
Watson: Fighting gators.
Trible: I spent the summer reading court depositions. I'd have to go into court and read insurance depositions for the courtroom. I loved it when I could use an accent.
Which entrepreneur or business personality do you most admire?
Trible:Remo Ruffini, the CEO of ski-jacket company Moncler. Moncler just does ski jackets. Ruffini bought the business less than 10 years ago and built it into a $4 billion enterprise. We talk about him a lot at Ledbury and how he does such a good job with ski jackets and how we can learn a thing or two from him with shirts.
Watson: One entrepreneur I've always liked is the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. In his book "Let My People Go Surfing," he tells the story of how he built a company on his beliefs and values. And he's done a great job of being the standard-bearer of Patagonia for over 40 years.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Trible: I'd fly. It would get me to the beach quicker.
Watson: He took mine.
Trible: You could look into the future. That would be good for business.
Watson: That's a superpower? OK, but I'd rather fly.
What advice would you give to an aspiring small business owner?
Watson: Go for it. Don't hesitate.
Trible: One of our board members gave this advice to us when we first started: More often than not, it's not the wrong decision that leads to business failure, but indecision. If we sit there and ponder too long, then we're not making progress. Indecision is the business killer. Always move forward.
As entrepreneurs, we all follow our own path. For some, the rise to financial success is a long, slow, painful process. For others, things just seem to magically fall into place. I believe that the latter isn't a result of magic, however, but is the sure sign of an entrepreneur who understands the importance of learning from, adapting to and growing with their business.
The following are 10 lessons every entrepreneur must learn in order to build a long-term, healthy and sustainable business.
1. The customer is not always right. From day one, we're told that "the customer is always right." We're expected to bend over backwards to please every single customer, even when they're clearly and painfully wrong. This maxim, however, can do a serious disservice to ourselves, our employees and our customers. Give your customers the benefit of the doubt, but not at the expense of your (or your employees') dignity.
2. Time is money. Money, customers, ideas: all resources you can potentially gain more of. Time, however, is the one commodity you'll always have a finite amount of. One way to ensure you make the most of your time is to assign an hourly dollar amount to your tasks.
Ask yourself: What would be a fair wage for the tasks I perform? If someone else can competently accomplish these tasks for less money, let them do it so you can focus on higher level, revenue-generating tasks. As a business owner, you should only do the tasks that only you can do.
3. Not all money is good money. This is a lesson many entrepreneurs struggle with early in their career. When you're getting your business off the ground, it's easy to fall into the trap of taking money from anyone who offers it. The problem is, not all customers or clients are worth it.
Avoid clients who take up too much of your time, who consistently have unrealistic expectations, or who you just generally dread working with. It's just not worth it!
4. There are no cheap shortcuts in marketing. I often speak to business owners who want marketing advice, but who then shun my recommendations as being "too expensive." The truth is, cheap marketing can make your brand look cheap.
Low-quality content, cheap ads, and "budget" SEO may save you money in the short term, but the damage they do to your brand's reputation can last far longer. For insight on how to market the right way, see my ebook.
5. Outsource as much as possible. If you don't have in-house staff to share the workload, consider outsourcing. Many entrepreneurs find that hiring an overseas virtual assistant significantly reduces the time they need to spend on routine tasks, freeing them up to work on revenue-generating tasks.
6. Build your personal brand as well as your company brand. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing on building their company brand to the exclusion of building their personal brand. However, your personal brand will differentiate you from your competitors, give you authority and credibility in your field, and stick with you in the event your company ultimately experiences failure.
For some practical tips, see my article, How to Grow Your Personal Brand with Your Content Strategy.
7. Work is life, and life's too short to hate your work. Work-life balance is something many entrepreneurs struggle with, which is why I'm such a huge fan of Tony Hsieh's approach. When you're passionate about what you do, and when you focus on happiness (both your own and that of your employees'), work isn't just something you do to fund your "real life." It becomes infinitely more enjoyable and meaningful, and significantly reduces your chances of experiencing burnout.
8. Hire people who are smarter than you. Face it: There will always be people who are smarter than you. If you're lucky enough to find these people, hire them. Focus on the things that you're best at, and give them the freedom to do the same.
9. Best practices may not be best for your customers. Particularly when you're just starting a business, it's easy to get caught up in doing what others tell you is the "best way" to do something. Problem is, "they" don't know your customers or clients. Use best practices as a starting point, but adapt them to meet the unique needs of your business and customers.
10. Just do it. Planning, strategizing and weighing options all have important roles within a business. But there comes a point in time when you just have to do it. You know the quote: "Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly."
Analysis paralysis or simply the lack of ability to execute a plan will stifle growth, innovation, and progress in any business. Even if the payoff for work done now won't come for years. Successful people do the work anyway because they know how to delay gratification, and this ability is what separates successful people from unsuccessful people, according to renowned physicist and author Michio Kaku.
There you have it: 10 lessons every entrepreneur must learn in order to build a profitable and sustainable business. Not easy lessons, to be sure, but ones that ensure the best possible chance of long-term success.
When you're starting your own business, it's hard to draw the line between when your work day ends and when your personal life begins.
For some (and probably many) startup founders, that line probably doesn't exist. Few entrepreneurs know this as well as Alexa von Tobel, the founder and CEO of LearnVest.
Von Tobel officially launched LearnVest in 2009 as an online subscription-based service aimed at making financial planning easy and accessible to women with little knowledge of the subject.
It didn't take long for LearnVest to gain recognition within Silicon Alley. By 2011 the company was already valued at $100 million, and von Tobel has been recognized as one of the most prominent female figures in the industry by Business Insider, Forbes, and Inc. among other publications.
But, as is the case with most successful startups, LearnVest's accomplishments didn't come easily. Von Tobel founded LearnVest during one of the worst economic periods in the country's history — the recession that occurred between 2007 and 2009. It took many sleepless nights and workdays that extended as late as 2 am to get Learnvest to where it is today.
In an interview with Business Insider, she shared some of the tips, guidelines, and principles that got her and the LearnVest team through some of their toughest times.
Focus and discipline are key
According to von Tobel, there's an important question entrepreneurs should ask themselves to nail down specific goals and priorities:
"If our business was only going to be around for a quarter, what would we be doing?"
Answering this question can help weed out the things that are less important to make it easier to execute necessities on a daily basis.
"When I plan my day I ask 'Am I doing the three things I need to do today? If not, why not?'" von Tobel said. "It's a process you should go through all the time."
'Make great decisions every day'
This is a motto that von Tobel lives by, and it drives the work ethic behind the LearnVest team.
"You can't make good decisions, but you don't have to make perfect decisions," von Tobel said. "Every day, come to work and make great decisions. If we're waiting for the perfect decision, we're going to be waiting for a long time. But if we only make good decisions, were never going to get there."
This fits into von Tobel's larger perspective on taking everything one day at a time. Having a long term plan is important, but it's also crucial to make sure you're doing your best work on a daily basis to move the business' goals forward. Looking toward the future all the time can become too overwhelming, she said.
Think big, then shrink it down
According to von Tobel, it's better to start out with big ambitious ideas even if you can't execute them the way you initially envisioned. If you think big, you can scale back your idea to something more manageable and realistic.
"It means you're thinking about all the opportunity that could be ahead of you," she said. "As an entrepreneur, you should ask 'How big could this be? What could ths look like? If you only think small, you could be missing opportunities that are ahead of you."
Don't forget to take care of yourself, too
In the early days of LearnVest, von Tobel put everything involving her business before her own health and needs. A lifestyle that's based on little sleep, long workdays of drinking nothing but coffee, and forgetting to squeeze in doctors visits obviously isn't sustainable for the long term. Now that von Tobel has been running a business for four years, she says she goes to the gym almost everyday and stays healthy.
Those lifestyle choices play a big role in how von Tobel runs her business.
"I'm healthier, I'm happier, I sleep better. And all of that is important," she said. "When my life is better, my company is better."
Although von Tobel's advice may be helpful, words can only go so far when it comes to describing the immense amount of work it takes to start your own company.
"If you know what it takes to become an entrepreneur, you'd never become one," she said. "Because it's you, in the trenches every day... It's a very hard, lonely endeavor to dream about something that's not even built yet and then go out and build it against the odds."
Peter Thiel, the billionaire cofounder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, writes the following passage in his book, "Zero to One."
Every one of today's most famous and familiar ideas was once unknown and unsuspected. The mathematical relationship between a triangle's sides, for example, was secret for millennia. Pythagoras had to think hard to discover it. If you wanted in on Pythagoras's new discovery, joining his strange vegetarian cult was the best way to learn about it.
Today, his geometry has become a convention — a simple truth we teach to grade schoolers. A conventional truth can be important — it's essential to learn elementary mathematics, for example — but it won't give you an edge. It's not a secret.
Remember the contrarian question: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
If we already understand as much of the natural world as we ever will — if all of today's conventional ideas are already enlightened, and if everything has already been done — then there are no good answers.
Contrarian thinking doesn't make any sense unless the world still has secrets left to give up. Of course, there are many things we don't yet understand, but some of those things may be impossible to figure out — mysteries rather than secrets.
For example, string theory describes the physics of the universe in terms of vibrating one-dimensional objects called "strings." Is string theory true? You can't really design experiments to test it. Very few people, if any, could ever understand all its implications. But is that just because it's difficult? Or is it an impossible mystery?
The difference matters. You can achieve difficult things, but you can't achieve the impossible.
The business version of our contrarian question is: What valuable company is nobody building?
Every correct answer is necessarily a secret: something important and unknown, something hard to do but doable. If there are many secrets left in the world, there are probably many world-changing companies yet to be started.
Why Aren't People Looking for Secrets?
Most people act as if there were no secrets left to find. An extreme representative of this view is Ted Kaczynski, infamously known as the Unabomber.
Kaczynski was a child prodigy who enrolled at Harvard at 16. He went on to get a Ph.D. in math and become a professor at U.C. Berkeley. But you've only ever heard of him because of the 17-year terror campaign he waged with pipe bombs against professors, technologists, and businesspeople.
In late 1995, the authorities didn't know who or where the Unabomber was. The biggest clue was a 35,000-word manifesto that Kaczynski had written and anonymously mailed to the press. The FBI asked some prominent newspapers to publish it, hoping for a break in the case. It worked: Kaczynski's brother recognized his writing style and turned him in.
You might expect that writing style to have shown obvious signs of insanity, but the manifesto is eerily cogent. Kaczynski claimed that in order to be happy, every individual "needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals."
He divided human goals into three groups:
1. Goals that can be satisfied with minimal effort;
2. Goals that can be satisfied with serious effort; and
3. Goals that cannot be satisfied, no matter how much effort one makes.
This is the classic trichotomy of the easy, the hard, and the impossible.
Kaczynski argued that modern people are depressed because all the world's hard problems have already been solved. What's left to do is either easy or impossible, and pursuing those tasks is deeply unsatisfying. What you can do, even a child can do; what you can't do, even Einstein couldn't have done. So Kaczynski's idea was to destroy existing institutions, get rid of all technology, and let people start over and work on hard problems anew.
Kaczynski's methods were crazy, but his loss of faith in the technological frontier is all around us.
Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.
All fundamentalists think this way, not just terrorists and hipsters. Religious fundamentalism, for example, allows no middle ground for hard questions: there are easy truths that children are expected to rattle off, and then there are the mysteries of God, which can't be explained. In between — the zone of hard truths — lies heresy.
In the modern religion of environmentalism, the easy truth is that we must protect the environment. Beyond that, Mother Nature knows best, and she cannot be questioned. Free marketeers worship a similar logic. The value of things is set by the market. Even a child can look up stock quotes. But whether those prices make sense is not to be second‐guessed; the market knows far more than you ever could.
Why has so much of our society come to believe that there are no hard secrets left? It might start with geography. There are no blank spaces left on the map anymore. If you grew up in the 18th century, there were still new places to go. After hearing tales of foreign adventure, you could become an explorer yourself. This was probably true up through the 19th and early 20th centuries; after that point photography from National Geographic showed every Westerner what even the most exotic, underexplored places on earth look like.
Today, explorers are found mostly in history books and children's tales. Parents don't expect their kids to become explorers any more than they expect them to become pirates or sultans. Perhaps there are a few dozen uncontacted tribes somewhere deep in the Amazon, and we know there remains one last earthly frontier in the depths of the oceans. But the unknown seems less accessible than ever.
Along with the natural fact that physical frontiers have receded, four social trends have conspired to root out belief in secrets:
First is incrementalism. From an early age, we are taught that the right way to do things is to proceed one very small step at a time, day by day, grade by grade. If you overachieve and end up learning something that's not on the test, you won't receive credit for it. But in exchange for doing exactly what's asked of you (and for doing it just a bit better than your peers), you'll get an A. This process extends all the way up through the tenure track, which is why academics usually chase large numbers of trivial publications instead of new frontiers.
Second is risk aversion. People are scared of secrets because they are scared of being wrong. By definition, a secret hasn't been vetted by the mainstream. If your goal is to never make a mistake in your life, you shouldn't look for secrets. The prospect of being lonely but right — dedicating your life to something that no one else believes in — is already hard. The prospect of being lonely and wrong can be unbearable.
Third is complacency. Social elites have the most freedom and ability to explore new thinking, but they seem to believe in secrets the least. Why search for a new secret if you can comfortably collect rents on everything that has already been done? Every fall, the deans at top law schools and business schools welcome the incoming class with the same implicit message: "You got into this elite institution. Your worries are over. You're set for life." But that's probably the kind of thing that's true only if you don't believe it.
Fourth is "flatness." As globalization advances, people perceive the world as one homogeneous, highly competitive marketplace: the world is "flat." Given that assumption, anyone who might have had the ambition to look for a secret will first ask himself: if it were possible to discover something new, wouldn't someone from the faceless global talent pool of smarter and more creative people have found it already? This voice of doubt can dissuade people from even starting to look for secrets in a world that seems too big a place for any individual to contribute something unique.
There's an optimistic way to describe the result of these trends: today, you can't start a cult. Forty years ago, people were more open to the idea that not all knowledge was widely known. From the Communist Party to the Hare Krishnas, large numbers of people thought they could join some enlightened vanguard that would show them the Way. Very few people take unorthodox ideas seriously today, and the mainstream sees that as a sign of progress.
We can be glad that there are fewer crazy cults now, yet that gain has come at great cost: We have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.
Reprinted from the book "Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future." Copyright 2014 by Peter Thiel. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
Without any sarcasm whatsoever, seriously, good for her.
When you think of Barbie, you likely think of the outfits. The fashion. The accessories.
Which triggered a discussion in our office recently — what do entrepreneurs wear?
It's tricky because the entrepreneurs in our mental images are sporting hoodies and black v-necks and squishy running shoes. Sometimes all at the same time.
Tom Tancredi, cofounder Dom & Tom, Inc., a recent addition to the Inc 500 list, illustrated the issue nicely. "A client recently walked into a proposal meeting and looked around saying 'I can't figure out your culture where the CEO is in flannel shirt and jeans, and the Account Manager is wearing a three-piece suit with a bow-tie and pocket insert.'""Frankly," Tom told me, "the dress code in the tech industry tends to change from role to role, department to department and office to office."
The idea of what entrepreneurs do or should wear is becoming so locked-in that Banana Republic recently launched a entrepreneur clothing line. And another company is selling the black v-neck — as in ONLY the black v-neck. There's even an official entrepreneur hoodie.
The discussion is tricky though because so many of today's entrepreneurs got that way being — or at least presenting the image of being — mavericks. That is to say, not doing things they way they had been done before, including the way they dressed.
For many entrepreneurs, they started their own ventures in part because they didn't want to do the 'suit-and-tie' office thing.
In entrepreneur culture, it became perfectly acceptable to don a hoodie and ironic t-shirt to board meeting or to pitch investors. It was its own kind of rebellion and non-status status. But now, with companies literally selling that non-conformity, has it lost that value?
And do we now expect start-up entrepreneurs to wear the 'uniform?' Would we take a tech pitch less seriously if the presenter wore a suit?
Or has the rebellion symbolism of entrepreneurship fashion left nowhere to go but beachwear? Will our next tech titans be unveiling their new products in flip flops?
Before we have meltdown over what entrepreneurs can and cannot wear, let me offer my personal rules-of-thumb on high-tech couture.
In the office.
Be comfortable. If it's your company and your office, wear what makes you most at ease. Running a company is hard enough— don't add to the stress by being uncomfortable. Whether that's jeans or heels, go with what suits you (no pun intended).
But remember, if you're the founder and/or CEO, your employees will look to you for leadership and what you wear will be the floor, not the ceiling, of their attire. There's value in looking the part and setting an in-office standard for what people wear.
At a meeting.
Dress better. Keep in mind that you represent your company and your product. Even though you're most comfortable in sweat pants and your college sorority shirt, the people you're meeting are probably expecting something different. Don't let your comfort cause them to be uncomfortable. Dressing better also says you take the meeting, and those you're meeting, seriously. That's especially important if they are potential investors or customers.
The bottom line is that I don't believe there is an entrepreneurship uniform — or should be. But don't let what you choose to wear trip-up your business goals.
"The most important thing is to dress for your environment — if I am in a meeting with an investor, I wear a dress and heels. If I am in one of our factories, I wear jeans and a t-shirt," said Heather Hasson, CEO of medical uniform FIGS. "Our customers wear scrubs to work. It is important to understand your surroundings and wear what makes sense without losing your identity and individuality."
Most entrepreneurs I know would wear a purple toga and hot pink fedora if they thought it would get them the investment, sale or new relationship. Keep your business and personal goals, as well as your audience, in mind. Leave the office or the meeting with them talking about your vision and your product — not your socks.
In the past three years, while his classmates were doing homework and playing sports, Moziah Bridges built himself a $150,000 business.
That's right — he started his business at 9 years old. Not yet a teenager, Moziah now has five staff members and has received a ton of media attention, from an appearance on the TV show "Shark Tank" to features in "O Magazine" and "Vogue."
"I like to wear bow ties because they make me look good and feel good," Moziah writes on his website. "Designing a colorful bow tie is just part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place."
Ever the fashionista, he's reveled in style from a young age. At 4 years old, Moziah wore a suit and tie whenever possible and insisted on dressing himself.
Within a few months, he had created his own collection of over two dozen bow ties. Friends and family fell in love with his creations. Moziah upped his production, fashioning tidy bow ties from his grandmother's vintage fabrics in an array of floral and African prints, and even scraps of old taffeta dresses.
Word of mouth worked its magic, and soon Moziah was taking orders through Facebook and selling on his own Etsy store. As demand increased, his mother, grandmother and other family came on board to help with production.
Today, each bow tie is still sewn from scratch, though Moziah has expanded from vintage materials to tweeds and ginghams, with a formal line of satins and silk. His bow ties are available in his own web store, on Etsy, and in boutiques throughout Texas, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
When asked who his role models are, he said he looks up to Daymond John, who became his mentor as a result of the "Shark Week" appearance.
As if his early success in business weren't enough, Moziah has also become something of a young philanthropist. This summer, he donated $1,600 to send 10 children from his hometown of Memphis to Glenview Summer Camp.
In a post on his blog, Moziah wrote, "Memphis is ranked the highest of child hunger; most kids only get a meal when school is in session. At the community center, the kids get a meal and play time. Giving back to my community really helped me feel humble. It also makes me smile because I see other kids smiling and enjoying the camp."
What's next for this inspirational kidpreneur? In a recent interview, Moziah said he wants to go college and start a full clothing line by the time he's twenty.
He's got it all figured out, folks; Moziah Bridges has a happy, colorful life filled with business successes, social good, work/school/life balance and solid goals for the future. And he still gets to bed at 8:30 every night!
What's holding you back?
Dustin Moskovitz co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and it made him a billionaire. Now he's working on another company, Asana.
Moskovitz created a startup deck that's full of advice about how to launch a successful company and explains what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It's not as glamorous as Hollywood and the media make it look.
"It's important to know [why you want to start a company]," Moskovitz explained to a Stanford class. "You may have been mislead by the way that Hollywood or the press likes to romanticize entrepreneurship."
"The 4 common reasons people want to start companies are: It's glamorous, you'll get to be the boss, you'll have flexibility, especially over your schedule, and you'll have the chance to have bigger impact and make more money."
"The reality is just not quite so glamorous, there's an ugly side to being an entrepreneur, and more importantly, what you're actually spending your time on is just a lot of hard work."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
$70 million was a lot of money for me at the time. And I couldn’t sleep at night until I gave back every dollar to the people who gave it to me.
I was running the sort of fund where people gave me money and then I invested it in other funds. The only problem was, I couldn’t figure out what funds were total scams and what funds were legit. In retrospect, I think about 9 or 10 of the 12 funds I was invested in were total scams.
For instance, and this is all in the SEC filings, one fund manager stole $10 million from his fund that I was invested in. He then paid a $50,000 fine when he was caught. Now he’s nowhere. I mean, he’s somewhere but I can’t find him. We’re Facebook friends but the last update was him sitting on a beach and it was updated about five years ago.
My investors were furious. They had been making money every month with me. They didn’t want their money back. When I told them I was going to give them their money back, with profits, they were so upset many of them didn’t want me to take a fee.
In every business I had ever started, even ones that had totally failed, I had kept good relations with the investors. Except for this one. Not a single relationship survived even though I had made money for everyone.
When you can’t figure out how you are making money. It’s time to change.
In 1998 when kids in high school were learning how to make websites, I sold my website design business for $15 million. Two years later almost all website design businesses were out of business.
And now in 2006, when no matter how hard I tried to figure it out it seemed like the world economy had gone crazy and I didn’t understand how these funds were making money. I pulled out all the money.
But I needed something to do or I would quickly go broke. I don’t want to act here like I was totally altruistic. I was so miserable all the time. I felt like I had failed and I was also having problems in my marriage. The sort of problems where you’d get in an argument and get kicked out of a car in the middle of nowhere.
I decided to do the only thing I knew how to do and the only thing that has ever made me money ever.
I took one thing I loved and married it to another thing I loved. And, thus, created a new thing. I loved Internet businesses, having built and sold one. And I loved the financial business, despite the fact that it was almost all a scam.
I shut down my fund.
Then, each step that follows was critical to success. If I missed one of these steps I would’ve failed. Each step was a small step. If you focus on big steps, you’ll slip on the small steps.
I could’ve used other examples. I could’ve used the debit card business I started. The delivery service I started. The mental health hospital I was involved in. The billion revenues business I’m on the board of directors of and the many other businesses I’ve advised and consulted with and invested in.
But the lessons are all the same.
Get down on your hands and knees and scrub.
Even when something is scalable, don’t be afraid to get down on your hands and knees and be the first part of that scaling. Don’t expect anonymous users to do all your initial hard work. Don’t expect computers to do all your initial hard work.
YOU do all your initial hard work.
Free content on the front page.
I had so much free content available it obscured the design. Everyone cares too much about design. Value is 10x more important than design.
Outsource in incremental stages.
First we designed pages, then after we knew we were going to get big distribution, we made the rest of the site. Then, based on user feedback and more ideas, we designed four more versions before an official launch. The site changed drastically from version 1.0 to version 5.0.
Diversify your distribution.
Although there was one primary source of distribution (thestreet.com) where I was getting traffic from, I also worked out deals to get traffic from AOL. Yahoo, Forbes, Reuters, and basic advertising.
Here's how to not worry about competition.
I had competition but they were doing the “build it and they will come” technique. 95% of businesses forget that it’s important to be the first heavy users of your product.
A restaurant is a great example of this. The initial success of a pizza restaurant doesn’t depend just on how good the pizza is, but how many of your friends and their friends come in the door to buy it. Don’t be afraid to call everyone in your rolodex to come on over and try the pizza.
Actually, this is not quite true either. When I first realized I had competition, I cried. I actually called the developers in India and told them it was all over. They had to cheer me up. One thing I learned ultimately, was that the biggest asset the business had was the passion my partner and I had for it. That passion was much higher than the passion of our competitors so we ended up creating and implementing the best ideas. End of competition.
I didn't know anyone.
I cold-called Yahoo, AOL, and Forbes to get on their radar.
In fact, I had a “negative network”. The first guy I called at Yahoo said he knew me. “Oh yeah?” I said because I had no idea who he was.
He said, “Yeah, I invested in your wireless internet business and lost my investment.”
You would think that would have hurt my chances. Yahoo became one of my biggest sources of distribution after that call. That guy became my biggest advocate within Yahoo.
The key is to anticipate what they might want, show them how it will cost them nothing but they will get huge benefit from it, and then just simply do it. Make it as easy as possible for the other side to say “yes” before you ask them.
If you want someone to say “yes”, show them exactly what “yes” looks like and show them that it is already made.
I had been 20 years already in the technology business (since I was in college). And I had been in the financial industry for about seven years then. So I combined interests and made the best financial website. Nobody else was as well-placed in this intersection as I was.
Make the business you would use.
I wanted a site with no news, but tons of interesting ideas, perspectives, ideas, and community.
Investing based on news is the fastest way to poverty but it is very common in the hedge fund business for professional investors to call each other and exchange ideas. Hedge fund managers are on the phone all day with each other.
I made it very simple for everyone, and not just hedge fund managers, to do that online.
ABD: Always be dealmaking.
Even though I had a 50% distribution partner right from the beginning I was constantly meeting with companies and people to see what extra deals I could make.
I would come up with ideas about the value I could deliver them and then I would offer up that value. Maybe they needed a white label version of my site. Maybe they needed content from my site. Maybe they needed their blog to be distributed on my site, maybe they wanted their newsletter sold on my site.
I did any deal I could do. Until finally I sold the site. But that wasn’t even the final deal. I stuck with it and the site continued to grow.
Nothing is a straight line.
There were constant cases where the code was bad on the site and the site would crash if it had too many users at the same time. Every other week I thought I was going to have a heart attack because the site kept crashing.
And some companies were very slow to do deals with me. Some companies outright rejected me (Google). You can’t be bitter or burn bridges. There may come another day, another company, or all the people at Google might move to other places where you do business with. The key here is to always stay in touch and provide monthly updates showing how you are improving things. Always be willing to help people no matter what.
How do you know when to give up?
Every step of the way I was willing to give up if I didn’t see some form of traction. Sometimes that meant more users. Sometimes that meant more profits. Sometimes that meant more technology that I really liked and ideas implemented that people wrote great reviews about.
Build community by hand.
I traveled around the country holding meetups with the most active users so I could see with my own eyes how the site was helping people. It was exciting to me. As long as I had that excitement, I knew something was working.
The people who showed up at those meetups became almost like ambassadors for the site. They were so active they used the site more than me. Nothing beats face to face meeting to build your ambassadors.
Why did I go myself to most of these meetups?
There’s a saying in Argentina, “When the CEO is looking, the cow grows fatter.” A business builds fastest when the CEO is looking at it. There’s a thousand details that the CEO sees. There’s 100 details that the COO sees. There’s 10 details that the regular employee sees. And details slip through the cracks when there is nobody.
At the same time I had also started a dating site (or four) and none of them got traction even though the sites were beautiful and I had smoked my own crack and thought the businesses were great. But no users equals no traction.
Perseverance is like a fire that needs oxygen.
Love is the oxygen for perseverance. You can love it. Users can love it. Partners can love it. Investors can love it. There are a lot of sources of love. Businesses and humans need love to live.
Ultimately, you create value for people and that’s how you build the love.
Business is just the delivery mechanism of that love.
Then love + perseverance = abundance.
I sold that business for $10 million and then two years later I was dead broke because once again I forgot all about love. I squandered the love. I forgot my small successes and made them into a big failure.
So I had to start from scratch again. Which I did.
The other day, a friend of mine asked me whether CEOs were born or made. I said, “That’s kind of like asking if Jolly Ranchers are grown or made. CEO is a very unnatural job.” — Ben Horowitz
What do great entrepreneurs know that we don’t?
It is a common myth that business geniuses like Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs had it all figured out from the start. Although they appeared to have a natural built-in sense for how to build businesses that changed the world, they all learned hard lessons along the way.
So what are the things Ben Horowitz, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Richard Branson know that so many of us have not yet figured out? Let’s explore five of them right now.
1. A Large Platform Creates an Unfair Advantage
What’s the biggest difference between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm just a few miles away? Mickey Mouse.
Walt Disney had a compelling and unfair advantage to secure more money from banks to build a bigger and more expensive amusement park than anyone had seen before. What persuaded bankers to back his idea? Walt Disney had a captive audience of fans who already loved what he did and wanted more of it. Disneyland wasn’t just an amusement park; it was an extension of the platform that originated with Mickey Mouse and expanded into countless beloved characters.
Can you create a platform of fans (of you and your mission) before you even launch your product or service? (Hint: try starting with just a blog and a mailing list and see what you can do.)
2. The Secret to Creating Great Products is Deep Empathy with Your Customers
Steve Jobs famously told Business Week, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
In other words, you can’t always rely on your customers to tell you what they want. That’s why great entrepreneurs cultivate deep empathy with their customers. They intimately understand their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and frustrations, and imagine products and services that directly address those needs better and more efficiently.
Can you make a list of 50 hopes and dreams, and 50 fears and frustrations that your customers have? How does your product help your customers achieve their dreams and protect them from their fears? Are you telling them this story on your website/blog/social media/mailing list, or just listing your product’s features?
3. There is Less Personal Risk to Starting a Company Than It Appears
Many aspiring entrepreneurs think starting a business is a huge personal risk. That if it fails, it will ruin their reputations or ruin them financially. The truth great entrepreneurs know is that if a business fails, you can always just get a job.
This knowledge helps great entrepreneurs manage their fears. They still feel fear, but they can recognize the irrationality of it and choose to continue on regardless. They no longer use lame excuses to not even try.
Closing a business does not on its own ruin a founder’s reputation. If the founder acts unethically or immorally in the process, that will clearly hurt their reputation. Though the death of a business is a difficult process, it is not a career-ending one.
Can you imagine a worst-case scenario and create a plan for what you would do if it ever happens? Then stop using worst-case scenarios as excuses.
4. Your Blind Spots Can Sink You (So Find Out What They Are)
Just like driving a car, you can’t always see everything around you when you are running a business. You might not realize how your behavior is affecting employee morale, or how your best intentions are actually ruining your company.
Ben Horowitz talks about many of these common blind spots in his blog and book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. For example, he talks about what to do when a key employee comes to you asking for a raise. If you do not know what to do in that situation, you might quickly acquiesce and inadvertently create incentives that turn your company into a political nightmare. (Note: Ben’s advice in this situation is to hire people with the right kind of ambition, build strict processes up front to handle sticky situations and never make exceptions.)
Not knowing how to properly handle difficult situations is a blind spot, and unless you surround yourself with mentors and people who have been through this many times before, you are setting yourself up to fall into these common traps.
Can you ask mentors, friends and colleagues, "What are my blind spots?" If you don’t ask for negative feedback directly, people won’t feel comfortable giving it to you.
5. Startups Are All About Stories and Relationships
Your product is not your company. When you buy an iPhone, you are not just buying another phone. You are buying into the Apple lifestyle. You are becoming a part of a larger story of innovation and technology. You are building a relationship with a brand that can last a lifetime.
The best companies and greatest entrepreneurs in the world know this and use it all the time. Richard Branson’s companies are infused with the “Virgin” mentality that they will provide better service to make the best experience possible for their customers. That’s their story. When you buy Virgin, you are buying into that story and creating a relationship with that brand.
What story does your startup tell? Can you create deeper relationships with your customers through helping them understand the larger story that your brand fits into?
The Biggest Secret Of Them All
Knowing and understanding are quite different. Knowing comes from reading information in blog posts, or books, or listening to podcasts. Understanding comes from trying to practice the knowledge, and usually failing at it a few times over.
If there is one trait all great entrepreneurs share more than any other, it is that they are incessantly driven to turn knowledge into understanding. Challenge yourself to put these five ideas into daily practice and take note of what works for you and what doesn’t. If you cultivate that burning desire and turn knowledge into understanding, you will be walking a path beaten by many great men and women before you.
Lucas Carlson is the author of "The Craftsman Founder Manifesto," which talks about the inner psychology of starting companies, and publishes startup advice and book recommendations for founders on his blog. Lucas is currently the chief innovation officer at CenturyLink, which acquired his startup AppFog.
Henry Ford had his do-or-die moment in 1908. Dubbed "Crazy Henry" when he built his first car a decade earlier, Ford now had a crazier dream: He wanted to create a car for the masses.
He picked a small room in his factory and stuffed it with designers, milling machines, and drill presses. Ford sat in his mother's "lucky" rocking chair. His competitors were thrilled. "How soon will Ford blow up?" they asked.
Finally, investors gathered for the unveiling. Workers hoisted the engine 50 feet in the air and began lowering it into the chassis. But as it descended, the engine started spinning faster and faster until it broke free of the ropes and smashed to the ground.
This was Ford's test: Go big or go home?
He quietly stepped forward and announced he would personally build a replacement. Six months later the Model T made its debut. It would sell 15 million cars over the next 20 years.
Every entrepreneur I know has faced one of these "engine-of-the-floor" moments — a critical juncture that determines whether your idea goes huge or falls flat. I've mentored 1,000 entrepreneurs who now generate over $7 billion in annual revenue. And I've noticed a pattern: Lots of leaders keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
But solutions exist. I keep a running tally on a whiteboard in my office. The next time you drop an engine, perhaps one of these might help you pick it up and move on.
1. Close doors.
Two entrepreneurs were in my office. Their social media company was taking off, with great clients and 70 employees. But they were stressed. I asked if anything else was contributing. "Well, we still own a radio station." I grabbed my whiteboard. "You guys need to close doors," I said.
In the early stage of building a dream, a little feet-dragging is understandable. Sara Blakely kept selling fax machines while she sold her first Spanx. But eventually you need to commit.
Bette Graham kept working as a secretary after inventing Liquid Paper, but the company didn't take off until she quit. Phil Knight did other people's taxes for years, but Nike didn't soar until he gave up his accountant job.
When we're young, we're often told to keep as many doors open as possible. But for an entrepreneur seeking to go big, the better path forward is to close doors.
2. Fire your mother-in-law.
A few years ago I analyzed my best- and worst-performing entrepreneurs. Three-quarters launched their business with a partner, usually friends or family. Things start off swimmingly. "We practically finish each other's sentences!" Then, one partner wants to expand while the other doesn't; or one lacks the skills to scale. Yet they have no way to handle these disputes.
Half the entrepreneurs in the bottom quartile shared one thing: They lacked a shareholder agreement. My advice: Get a startup prenup.
Since, in many companies, it's a founder's sibling who's in charge of sales and an in-law who controls finances, on my whiteboard I'm even more direct: Fire your mother-in-law.
From the sons of IKEA's Ingvar Kamprad to the wives of Rupert Murdoch, families that work together often stop playing together. Gordon Ramsay split with his father-in-law and business partner, Chris Hutcheson, after discovering that he had been funneling money to a mistress and secret family for 30 years. Talk about a kitchen nightmare! It's okay to love your partner, but make sure you know what to do if the love goes away.
As entrepreneurship has gotten sexier, a few stories have dominated: Apple, Facebook, Twitter. These businesses were based on breakthrough ideas. But that's not the norm. Most entrepreneurs don't have a big idea; they have lots of small ones. They don't innovate; they minnovate.
Many famous products were minnovations. In 1914, Kimberly-Clark executives discovered a creped cotton substitute, which they sold to the Army for gas masks. Stuck with a surplus after the war, Kimberly-Clark marketed it to women as a makeup remover. Customers complained that their kids kept stealing them to blow their noses, so the company repositioned the product as Kleenex.
In 1957, Bill Gore was part of the DuPont team that discovered a new application for teflon. He left to start his own company, W.L. Gore, which adapted that discovery into waterproof clothing, guitar strings, and dental floss.
Innovation captures more headlines; minnovation captures more markets.
4. Drop the pens.
But don't minnovate to the point of distraction. Researchers in California compared companies that pivoted once or twice with ones that did so many more times. The ones that made only a couple pivots raised two-and-a-half times more money and grew four times as fast.
Compare Apple and Sony. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he questioned the number of products. "Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?" He then asked managers, "What are the 10 things we should be doing next?"
After much jockeying, they produced a list. Jobs slashed the bottom seven. Sony, by contrast, has too many brands and too many products.
I was evaluating an entrepreneur who sold eco-friendly packing materials made from tapioca. His business was booming, but he was distractedly excited about disposable pens. One observer told him, "Drop the pens!"
Joyful exuberance can be an entrepreneur's greatest strength, but it can lead to crippling diversion. Stay focused.
5. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
We think of entrepreneurship as a big, scary thing, involving terrifying leaps. It's actually a balance between embracing risk and reducing risk. In air force survival school, they teach recruits to tackle their most difficult challenges through prudent steps. Their slogan: You eat an elephant one bite at a time.
The same applies to entrepreneurs. As Henry Ford put it, "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs." The next time a piece of your dream comes crashing to the floor, pick it up, go back to work, and chalk it up as your Model T moment.
Linda Rottenberg is the cofounder & CEO of Endeavor. This piece is adapted from her new book, "CRAZY IS A COMPLIMENT: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags," which was just published by Portfolio. Copyright © Linda Rottenberg, 2014.
Nellie Bowles, in an article on Re/Code, writes about the tragic suicides of three entrepreneurs involved in The Downtown Project in Las Vegas.
Their stories show the potentially extreme isolation and psychological impact of entrepreneurship.
Although the buzz about entrepreneurship continues to grow, in reality, more than 70% of ventures fail. Most entrepreneurs make a lot less money than if they worked for someone else. The road to success is often long and lonely — brutal hours, massive amounts of stress, and a huge amount of personal sacrifice. And in some cases, failure takes an unimaginable toll, such as ending one's life.
I believe we need much more conversation about the psychological makeup and impact of entrepreneurship.
So, let's first summarize why would anyone want to become an entrepreneur?
To survive: They have no other choice.
To pursue a dream: They want to fulfill their personal and/or financial dreams.
To make a difference: They want to make a difference, to do something that has a positive and long-lasting impact.
Those who survive and ultimately thrive in their entrepreneurial journeys have one thing in common: It's called "grit." It is the courage, the resiliency, and the power within each of them — not the circumstances outside — that keeps them moving. This is the topic of the next book I'm coauthoring with Lydia Dishman.
Angela Duckworth, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her colleagues in their research define grit as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals."It's now believed to be the most important trait of successful people, and Duckworth writes that "the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina."
I believe grit is an attitude; it's your belief that you can conquer anything. It's not giving up, nor giving in. It's the ability to go from days to weeks to months to years to reach your destination as you define it. To me GRIT stands for:
Trusting your gut
Gut refers to instinct. It's the ability to jump into something based on your feelings without knowing all the facts. It's how we tap into our subconscious mind to guide ourselves.
When something is right, the choice often becomes strangely easy. It feels natural; you are not forcing it; there is not a lot of conflict. When something is not right, if you are really tuned in to yourself, your body reacts to it. You feel it in your stomach.
The trick is to develop "guts," the courage to trust yourself to choose the right path. Every time I have failed, it started with me going against my gut. Like anything else, trusting your gut comes from awareness, devotion, and confidence. In this case it is your emotional self.
(Read one of my previous posts, "7 Ways To Build Your Courage Against Impossible Odds," for more on the topic.)
Confucius famously said, "The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm."
The noun "resilience" stems from the Latin resilience, which means "to rebound, recoil." As a character trait, resilience is a person's mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness, or depression.
Entrepreneur or not, life eventually throws everyone a major curve ball. Professional and personal failures and rejections, health issues, accidents, natural disasters: each needs to be approached with resiliency in order to survive and then thrive.
Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like the green reed instead of breaking like the mighty oak. They possess a set of powerful traits.
(Read one of my previous posts, "Bend, Not Break: 9 Powerful Traits of Resilient People," for more on the topic.)
Invent and reinvent, again and again.
In this ever-changing world, we are constantly forced to reinvent ourselves. And this reinvention process by its very nature is the essence of the entrepreneurial mindset, one that is "purposefully omnivorous." It allows one to learn from diverse perspectives. Entrepreneurs need traveling companions that can relate to their experiences and support their suffering.
In rough waters, when we feel there is no one to call upon for help, it is ultimately our skills that save us. We master our skills by constantly pushing ourselves with devoted effort — devotion that allows us to craft our authentic calling by connecting the dots between our inner world and outer world. You have to stay in the game in order to win. Entrepreneurs find a way to press on! You have to invent and reinvent again and again.
As Theodore Roosevelt said:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
So my friends, be bold and dare greatly!
(Read one of my previous posts, "How To Reinvent Yourself with An Entrepreneurial Mindset," for more on the topic.)
Tenacity is the commitment to your purpose. Gandhi said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
We fail when we give up. It takes a lot longer to succeed than it usually seems on the surface. We live in a world where instant gratification is the name of the game, and the definition of success is overblown.
The meaning of success should be driven by the sense of our individual purpose. Executing that success requires taking the next step, every day, no matter how hard it may be. Tenacity means to keep looking for the answer though the darkness of despair is all around.
As Bangali Poet Rabindranath Tagore said, "I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door — or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present."
It's this ability to get up again and again that makes the difference.
(Read one of my previous posts, "How Lego Survived Against All Odds — And You Can, Too" for more on the topic.)
In his article, "Founder Suicides," which pointed me to Nellie Bowles' story on the Las Vegas tragedies, Brad Feld writes, "It's OK to fail. It's OK to lose. It's OK to be depressed." It's encouraging to see that conversations about the psychological impacts of entrepreneurship are happening.
I try to deal with my adversities and setbacks with "grit" day in and day out. I hope you do the same, as the world needs entrepreneurs more than ever.
Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is "Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability" (McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). Copyright (c) 2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved. Follow him on Twitter @faisal_hoque.
PayPal founder and serial investor Peter Thiel has penned his thoughts on startups and how to build the future in his new book Zero to One and his insights have captured the imagination of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
So much so that Murdoch has tweeted he will be buy a copy for each of his senior managers.
Enjoying brilliant, often provocative, Peter Thiel book, Zero to One.Will buy many and distribute to all senior execs.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) October 13, 2014
Zero to One launches with a contrarian premise – that we actually live in an age of technological stagnation and and how short-term, distracted thinking ruins businesses.
Thiel then covers off what he sees as the business challenges of the future and how the fallout of the ’90s dot-com boom still haunts tech startups.
But there are mistakes that slow you down and ones that can stop you dead in your tracks. A recent discussion on Quora focused on the unavoidable mistakes that new entrepreneurs often make. There were many good suggests from businesspeople who chimed in. Here are 13 that were particularly insightful and sticky.
Hide from problems
When things go wrong, what you absolutely, positively, without a doubt should not do is hide. Only when you face the issues do you have a chance of finding solutions. That also means to avoid pretending that all is well with investors and staff. They can often be helpful, so why not let them?
Be all things to all potential customers
You can never please all the people all the time. One implication is that you will never develop a product or service that is attractive to the entire market, let alone all people. Don't bother. Focus on what you can do for a particular subset.
Try to do too much at the start
You want a product or service that will startle everyone and draw buyers. It's understandable, but there's a tradeoff. If you spend too much time chasing perfection, you won't have the time to chase customers, allowing a competitor to slip in with a product that may not be as amazing, but that has the advantage of being available for purchase.
Ignore the answers you get to the questions you ask
You will (or should) talk frequently to staff, investors, vendors, prospects, and customers. They can offer great insights and advice that can improve your business. But that only happens when you actually listen to what they say and not dismiss it. Not that you should automatically do what everyone tells you, but if you dismiss anything that doesn't immediately agree with your assumptions, you're going to tank your business.
Slavishly copy a successful startup
You've seen the new tech company, restaurant concept, consumer product, or some other successful new business. It's an enormous mistake to try to copy what you just saw. You will have different abilities, resources, ideas, and opportunities. If you can't significantly improve the idea, do something else. Why start off as an also-ran?
Think that great products are enough to succeed
Ralph Waldo Emerson was wrong. Build a better mousetrap and the world will not beat a path to your door. You need to create a strong business, learn to market, and handle problems. Only a fully-developed company will succeed. A great product alone is likely to fade into obscurity.
Skip the proof of concept
You're sure that you know what people want. Of course you do. But what if you're wrong? Unthinkable, of course, but it's all too possible. Rather than assume your omniscience, test your ideas. Better to find and fix the problems at the start so you can proceed more smoothly and successfully.
Rush to economies of scale
You want your business to be a blockbuster. But don't plan on it. Building an infrastructure and hiring the people necessary for a big rollout is a mistake if you do that too early because you'll burn through resources before you can justify the expense. Catching up to growth is painful, but never catching up to capacity is much worse.
Stay fixed on your vision
Entrepreneurs are often passionate about their concepts and plans. That doesn't mean the world is. People may react differently than you expected. Changing circumstances might close some doors or open others. Adapt your idea as necessary to make the business work.
Run out of cash
Money is the blood of your company. If you don't cut expenses wherever possible without threatening the quality of your products or operations, you open a corporate vein and bleed onto the floor. Forget the fancy office or perks. The more money you save, the more time you have to get things right and see the business blossom.
Work out the details with co-founders later
You go into business with a partner, maybe an old friend, and suddenly things don't work the way you expected. Someone isn't putting in the effort or can't get the necessary results. If you haven't considered such issues as a parting of the ways, who has the final say on decisions, or how or when you cash out, then you are an accident waiting to happen. Get the details straight at the beginning.
Hiring the easy gets
Hiring is a painful and expensive undertaking. You meet people who seem to be matches and so want to bring them on. Resist and create a real HR process. Evaluate and vet candidates, and get the types of expertise, both technical and managerial, your company will need.
Be satisfied with basic financial data
A bookkeeper and a copy of QuickBooks is not a financial system. If your intent is to make the company grow, you need accounting that is complaint with generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, as that's what investors, acquiring companies, or the stock market will expect. Set it up right from the beginning. In addition, work out what metrics will be most important to various aspects of the business and generate those numbers. Know the incremental cost of an additional product unit, how expensive it is to acquire a news customer, the average customer's lifetime value, or whatever else might make a difference to how you make decisions.
It sounds impressive when a founder sells a startup for tens of millions of dollars.
But it sounds really impressive when a company sells it for hundreds of millions of dollars.
As a founder, which option is better? For many, a smaller exit should be the desired outcome.
The short reason: lower-valued startups take less time to scale and less venture capital to fuel, which means founders will likely own higher percentages of their companies when they sell.
There are also fewer acquirers as the price of your company increases. And when an acquirer does come along, there's more due diligence which means sealing the deal can take much more time.
Unless you have a hot company like Instagram. Then you can forget all of that and close a billion-dollar acquisition in 48 hours.
Let's look at some examples.
So who would you rather be, a Portnoy and an Arrington? Or a Huffington? All made roughly the same amount of cash but for Portnoy and Richards, the smaller exits took significantly less time.
The decision to go big or stay small is one entrepreneurs shouldn't take lightly.
Arrington says he nearly accepted VC money for TechCrunch four times. He initially didn't raise money because it wasn't an option. In 2005 investors were less willing to write checks.
"When I started my first company, Achex, we raised $18 million in venture capital in 2000 from DFJ," Arrington wrote to Business Insider in an email. "The company later sold for $32 million, but due to a 2x liquidity preference (common in those days), the founders essentially got nothing, just a few hundred thousand dollars to not block the deal."
Arrington says he raised so much then because it was nearly impossible to build that kind of business without a lot of capital. "These were the days when you had to buy Oracle database stuff, and there were no easy hosting options like Amazon and Google offer...Today, most startups don't have multi-million dollar infrastructure costs just to get the service launched. So there is less need for capital to get to market."
Raising a lot of money at a high valuation has its benefits. It can mean overtaking competitors, which are prevalent in early stages (GroupMe had to battle Fast Society before selling to Skype, Foursquare had to beat Gowalla, etc). It can also make a difference in hiring.
It's easier to attract engineers and other talent when you have brand-name investors tied to your business and you can offer attractive salaries. Arrington recalls his difficulty luring his business partner, Heather Harde, away from News Corp where he says she was making $1 million. All he could offer was a $150,000 base and stock options.
Arrington sometimes wonders how much further he could have taken TechCrunch had he taken funding. "I often wonder if we could have grown faster, expanded in other ways, if we had raised money and were less frugal," he wrote.
For Portnoy, the pros of staying small and selling early outweighed the risk of raising a lot.
Portnoy had a family to support and no nest of cash to fall back on. An acquisition would make his financial situation much more comfortable. In addition, one of his board members had run a company that took a lot of funding and eventually went public. Even though that board member's company had an exit 30 times larger than Portnoy's, he ended up with about the same amount of cash.
Lastly, Portnoy knew most entrepreneurs only get one shot at a startup. If they fail, it's the end of the road. But if they're able to get an exit under their belts quickly, more opportunities present themselves later. Investors are eager to back founders who have successful track records. And obtaining personal wealth means a different, sometimes bigger mindset the next time around.
It's important to note that while smaller exits may benefit entrepreneurs, it doesn't always benefit investors.
"As a VC, I am now investing in companies shooting for outcomes >$200M, but it’s not the right model for every entrepreneur or every company," Richards says.
Arrington, another entrepreneur turned investor, referred to a startup his firm CrunchFund backed that sold early against investors' wishes.
(Side note: When an investor's and entrepreneur's exit plans don't align, investors occasionally offer to let founders take money off the table. Then, even if they go for a big exit and the company fails, the founders have a financial cushion. Snapchat's founders just did that; each was given $10 million in addition to the $60 million their startup raised.)
Although Arrington doesn't see himself founding another company, he says he'd always opt to raise as little money as possible. "In general I'd only raise venture capital if I absolutely had to. I'd raise it opportunistically based on market conditions to take as little dilution as possible. And I'd spend that VC money the same way I spend my own money in business - extremely frugally," he said.
Jonah Peretti, who co-founded The Huffington Post and now runs another high-valued company BuzzFeed, offers different advice.
"My advice is you shouldn't do a startup for financial reasons," he wrote via email. "Most startups fail and there are easier ways to make money with less risk...And if a company is successful, which is very hard to achieve, the money comes whether you build a fat company or a lean one. Mike [Arrington] and Arianna [Huffington] both did great financially. So did Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systrom. How many yachts can you water ski behind?"
This post is sponsored by Spark Business from Capital One.
After working in the tech industry for seven and a half years, Andrew and Lindsay Nations decided it was finally time to pursue their true passion: beer. So in 2012, the couple moved back to their hometown of Shreveport, La., to open Great Raft Brewing.
Today, Lindsay and Andrew have turned Shreveport's first post-Prohibition microbrewery into a local favorite. To find out how they did it, we interviewed Andrew and Lindsay as part of our Fast Track Q&A series, in which we ask various small business owners the same 11 questions about their professional and personal inspirations.
Watch the video to find out what drives them both, what Andrew's first job was, and what Lindsay would love to have as a superpower. Read more in the series »
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Gigi Butler was a cleaning lady with just $33 to her name when she opened her first cupcake shop in Nashville, Tennessee, almost seven years ago.
"People thought I was crazy, and they laughed at the idea," she told Business Insider. "But I just had this feeling that I had to do it."
After securing a location, whipping up a few recipes, and hiring two employees off the street, Butler opened the doors of Gigi's Cupcakes on February 21, 2008.
"I had no investors and literally not a cent to spend on advertising," she says. "So I just hoped and prayed people would come."
And they did.
Today there are 92 Gigi's Cupcakes locations in 23 states, and this year she expects $35 million in annual sales across all stores. It's safe to say Butler's bank account balance is no longer in the double-digits.
"I'm so happy with how things have turned out, but I never thought my success would stem from cupcakes," she tells us. "I always thought it would be music."
Butler was born in Oklahoma and grew up on a farm in a small desert town in California, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Since age 7, she dreamed of becoming a country singer. "Nothing else was even an option. I was going to be a country star, end of story," she says.
But at 15 she needed a job, and she really wasn't interested in working for anyone else. "I decided to buy some mops and buckets, and I went from door to door, ringing doorbells, offering to clean people's homes."
That's how Gigi's Cleaning Company was born.
She cleaned homes, offices, and construction sites (and sang in a band on the side) in California for five years before deciding she was ready to take the next step in her music career.
So, in 1994, she dropped out of college and moved to Nashville with $500, no job, no friends, and no place to live.
"When I got there, I continued cleaning. So I'd do that all day, then come home and nap, then I'd go sing at bars at night until 3 a.m. — and do it all over again the next day," she says. "But when I turned 31, I got tired of getting my butt pinched and passing the tip jar around. I felt like I was failing since my dream was to sing. But I knew it just wasn't working anymore."
After giving up her dream of becoming a country star in 2005, Butler focused on building her cleaning business in Nashville.
"I was making pretty good money and learning how to be a boss, manage a team, and run a business, all without having to be in the corporate world, which was great since I never really wanted to sit in front of a computer screen in high heels, pantyhose, and a skirt," she says.
Though content, Butler said she knew she wasn't being challenged enough, "and something was still missing."
In 2007, while cleaning a bathroom in a client's home, Butler got a call from her brother.
"He was in New York for Labor Day Weekend and said, 'You won't believe this, but people are waiting in line for hours for cupcakes! And they're not even as good as yours."
Butler grew up surrounded by bakers. Her aunts, grandmothers, and mother were all talented in the kitchen — and she "inherited the gene."
"It's in my blood, but I never thought about pursuing it as a career or a business."
She hung up the phone and looked at herself in the mirror and thought, I'm not afraid to fail, so I'm going to do this. I am going to open a cupcake shop.
A month later she was in Texas visiting her great aunt Bennie who owned a bakery. "I had no idea what I was doing, so I went there to learn."
When she got back to Tennessee, she went to the bank to ask for a loan. "I had great credit and no debt, but they literally laughed in my face and said, 'Seriously? A cupcake shop?'"
So, instead, she took $100,000 in cash advance loans from her credit cards.
After finding a location for the store — which she refers to as "the sweet spot," since it's near three universities, six hospitals, and right off Music Row — Butler's parents came out to help her launch her new business. "My mom helped me develop recipes, and my dad did the store design. They also gave me some money, which I really needed."
Before opening the shop, Butler used up all of the $100,000 in loans, plus the money her parents gifted her, and all of her savings — and she still had $6,500 in bills to pay ($4,500 in rent; $1,000 for ingredients; and $1,000 for her first two employees). She had just $33 in her bank account.
"I literally cleaned three houses the day before we opened the store to pay the plumber," she says. "And then that same day, my contractor came in with a $15,000 dry wall bill he 'forgot' to give me. I literally fell to the floor and had a melt down."
Butler had exactly one week to pay the $6,500 to her landlord, food supplier, and two employees — and told the contractor she'd need some time to pay off his bill.
"I didn't know how I was going to do it," she tells Business Insider. "I remember looking up, saying, 'Please, just let the people come. Make them like my cupcakes. They have to like my cupcakes.'"
They didn't like them; they loved them, she says.
Within a few hours of opening, a line formed outside Gigi's Cupcakes shop.
Butler recalls an encounter with one customer that first week. "I was walking around greeting people, and one woman said, 'I'm going to order a Scarlett's Red Velvet flavor cupcake.' So I told her we didn't have that particular flavor that day, and she started screaming at me, 'I've been waiting in line for that cupcake! You're telling me you don't have it?! Are you some kind of idiot?' And you'd think I'd be offended, but I walked away and thought to myself, 'Oh my god, people are yelling over my cupcakes because they want them! Cha-ching!'"
By March 1, 2008, a week after opening, Butler was able to pay off the $6,500 in bills. "And I still had $300 left," she says proudly.
A few months later, Butler's landlord, Alan Thompson, suggested she franchise her concept. "I said, 'What's franchising?'"
So together with Thompson, her parents, and her brother Randall, who was eventually appointed as chief operating officer of the company, Butler began franchising the Gigi's Cupcakes brand in November 2008.
"I thought I'd open one shop and make $50,000 a year, and that's it," she says. "In fact, I didn't even stop cleaning until I had 15 franchises."
Today, 90 of the 92 Gigi's Cupcakes stores are owned by franchisees.
She believes her brand has had so much success because the products — cupcakes, cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, and other baked goods — are "delicious and unique. Each flavor has a story," she explains.
The other reason: "I was never afraid to fail, so I gave it my all."
Butler, a single mom to her 3-year-old daughter, says her biggest challenge has been accepting the fact that she "no longer wears all the hats."
"At the beginning, I did a little bit of everything. I'd be whipping up a batch of frosting, then have to run to a meeting, and then do paperwork. Now we have a great team to do all of those jobs, and my role is to be the face of the brand. But I still want to be everywhere, all at once, making sure everything is perfect, because this business is my baby — it has my name on it."
Butler says she plans to grow the business to 250 stores by 2019.
"But no matter how big we get, I'll always make time to put on my apron and whip up a batch of frosting, because that's what I love to do."
What's the backup plan?
When I left Google in June 2012, I didn't have one. I only knew one thing: It was my destiny to become an entrepreneur and the time had come. Those already entrepreneurs probably remember the raw emotions that stirred inside the day it all became official. For me, I found the experience quite frightening and exhilarating.
Focus on a single outcome.
In 1519, Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, famously ordered burning the boats as his troops prepared for the impossible conquest of the Aztec Empire. Well, this may be false. Some sources indicate he scuttled (or sunk) the ships to prevent a mutiny. Nonetheless, it's a vivid story and an apt analogy for preparing to take on the startup world.
As actor Will Smith explained in an inspiring interview, having a Plan B only distracts from pursuing Plan A.
In my case, I "burned the boats" by creating a mission and brand centered on my top value: a freedom lifestyle. (Many would say this is foolish, which is OK because I'm not speaking to them.)
I define freedom lifestyle as a person's having the ability to do what he or she wants, when and how desired. It's an intentional and adventurous way of life, with the individual making a lifelong commitment to crafting and sharing his or her unique genius.
Any entrepreneur, solopreneur or wantrepreneur may feel a similar drive in life. Having a mission and leveraging it is critical.
The repercussions of having a lifeline.
Although an unconventional approach, burning bridges provides laser focus to the entrepreneur. The outcome becomes clearer and there are less distractions. Having options may seem like an effective risk-mitigation strategy, but it will only hurt the entrepreneur. A person with a backup plan is likely to use it, which results in settling for far less than what he or she desires.
A backup plan is the sum of all the entrepreneur's worries, fears, and disaster scenarios muddled together into one half-hearted game plan. Anyone who doesn't burn the bridges will find that his or her focus will habitually (and unconsciously) shift toward the obstacles.
The proof all around.
Which people can serve as role models? What success stories resonate the most? Through my study of successful entrepreneurs, I've consistently observed the following traits and many startup leaders take pride in these qualities and identify with them on a personal level:
Following high standards and pursuing an insatiable thirst for growth and knowledge
Exhibiting unwavering confidence in achieving desires — to the point that this becomes part of their identity
Showing a commitment to creating value for others and contributing beyond satisfying themselves
My notion of burning bridges is not about someone carelessly abandoning his or her connections and past. Rather, burning bridges is a form of "inevitability thinking": By creating intentional shifts in mindset and choices, taking action toward goals becomes inevitable — along with success. Here are some steps for doing so:
1. Identify the ultimate outcome or desire.
Define this goal in a crystal-clear fashion and be sure there's a strong underlying "why" behind the desired outcome. My ultimate outcome is to give people the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to become successful online solopreneurs and live a freedom lifestyle.
2. List all worries.
Spend time to write down the various disaster scenarios, fears, worries and potential backup plans. Then toss the paper or trash the document. Better yet, burn the paper (carefully, please).
3. Define the first action.
Specify the initial step to take toward the goal. Imagine a line of dominoes all leading toward the result. If there were one massive domino at the front that could set the whole process in motion, what would it look like?
For me, the first powerful step was starting a blog and publishing the first post. That led to consulting, creating products, building a community, speaking and now writing pieces like this.
4. Prepare to struggle.
Entrepreneurship is not always glamorous and there will be dark days. But one step beyond the dark days is where the lesson lies along with eventual success. Be ready for the struggle and remember persistence is everything.
5. Celebrate wins and other winners.
Celebrate small wins and find other winners to be influenced by. As Tony Robbins has said, "proximity is power." The fastest way to grow is by spending time with people who have already arrived at their destination and met with success.
Las Vegas' 9th Bridge School is quite possibly the only American preschool to incorporate lessons from Burning Man into its art curriculum this year.
Of course, the 9th Bridge School isn't just any school. It's an "entrepreneurship preschool," where tots aged six weeks to six years are trained in the confidence-rich, risk-taking spirit required to start a business.
And yes, this includes having students build the mosaic pictured below with help from artists who attended the debaucherous Nevada desert festival beloved by Silicon Valley.
The school was founded in 2013 by Wharton School of Business graduate Connie Yeh, a little more than two years after Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, her cousin, asked what she would do if given the opportunity to do anything in the world.
Then a financial derivatives trader at Citigroup in New York, Yeh told Hsieh she would like to do something in education, despite not having any experience in the field. Hsieh invited her to move west to run the education initiatives financed by his $350 million investment to revitalize Downtown Las Vegas.
Inspired by non-traditional education philosophies like the Montessori method and the Khan Academy's YouTube tutorials, Yeh developed a plan to build charter and private schools in the area. Meanwhile, Hsieh gave $1.5 million to Teach for America to bring 1,000 of its inexperienced, high-achieving teachers to Las Vegas' existing schools.
Yeh decided to make her first endeavor an entrepreneurship preschool when she came to the conclusion that many of the skills that make people successful in starting a business are the same ones that make them successful in life.
Further, she felt that many of the soft, interpersonal skills that make a good startup founder just don't get taught in traditional schools.
Today, 9th Bridge has 27 students, whose parents pay annual tuition rates ranging from $13,250 to $15,750.
The school's seven teachers lead five classes in which students are grouped by age: one class of infants, two classes of toddlers, one pre-kindergarten class, and one kindergarten class.
While the parents who send their children to 9th Bridge are a mixture of business owners who came to the city as part of Hsieh's investment project and non-entrepreneurs, Yeh tells Business Insider in an email that she thinks the parents all share an entrepreneurial spirit and want the same for their children.
On the school's website, Yeh describes 9th Bridge's values as such: "My take on being entrepreneurial means having insatiable curiosity, passion, initiative, determination, courage, creativity, optimism … the list goes on and on."
If you're wondering what all that entails, Yeh, 31, says it starts with building students' self-esteem, independence, and problem-solving skills.
Before students are able to talk, the 9th Bridge School teaches them sign language so that they can express their wants and needs, a practice Yeh hopes will give them the confidence to communicate effectively and "make an impact" later in life.
To foster independence, the school tries to make students into active learners by giving them the chance to help devise their own lesson plans.
For instance, one student brought a snail he found on a family trip to class with him, much to the delight of his peers. This led to a unit in which students gave the snail a name ("Turbo") and took care of it, while learning about its body parts and diet through videos, books, and a lesson in which they created Play Doh snail models.
Students also compose music using iPads and mixers, and build new things out of recycled materials brought to 9th Bridge's "Repurpose Room."
"With our commitment to unleashing and fostering the potential in our students, we believe so many positive things will happen when students are engaged in hands-on, meaningful learning experiences," Yeh says.
In addition to its focus on what Yeh calls "social-emotional learning," the school also teaches kids traditional academics like science, reading, and math. And like any good startup's employees, but perhaps unlike most five-year-olds, the academic progress of 9th Bridge students is tracked with advanced metrics.
"Our students read, write, and talk about a wide variety of books in a range of genres and disciplines, while our teachers systematically assess and use data to improve literacy performance," the school's website states.
Yeh says that in the future, 9th Bridge could help the children launch their first businesses by periodically turning the school into a "mini-city" of classroom startups. Potential ideas include selling the food students grow in 9th Bridge's garden at a farmer's market and peddling classroom projects at Las Vegas' monthly art fair.
She plans to grow the school, which has room for 80 to 100 students, by adding one grade annually as the students age.
So far, she says she has been most excited by her students' experiments with projects of their own creation, and the collaborations she has seen between students and members of the Las Vegas public.
"There are so many opportunities to incorporate tools that can help a future entrepreneur!" Yeh says. "Once our students are older, we envision the surrounding community as the classroom — there are countless numbers of learning experiences all within walking distance."
Starting a company is like a dream come true: no one telling you when to go into the office, you can pick and choose meetings and there's unlimited vacation. Sigh — the life of an entrepreneur. So flexible, so fabulous. If only it was that easy.
Those perks were likely on the "perk" side of the pro and con list you made before going into business for yourself. But the real truth is that now you're busier than ever. You're likely wearing the hat of HR, IT, marketing, and business development teams, just to name a few.
Structure and organization are key to success as an entrepreneur. I know because without my lists I could never get anything done at home, work or play.
For those entrepreneurs needing a little help in the organization department, here are three lists you should be making:
1. To-do list
You have to have one. I structure mine with daily tasks but you may find that a weekly list works better. Another option is to organize your to-do list by project or client.
It's easiest to plan ahead and make sure not to include too much on the list at once. Try to really be aware of what is feasible given the time frame and resources you have available. I make my to-do lists for the next day before I leave the office at night. I run through everything that is coming up and what has to be handled the next day. I include any appointments and meetings on the list as well. Then when I come in the following day, I just refer to it as my roadmap and hit the ground running.
2. Outsource list
Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I get it, control is a difficult thing to give up — especially when we're talking about your business. You'll do whatever it takes to make sure it's successful. So why not give the to-do list to someone else?
Outsourcing will provide you the freedom to focus on the tasks you're really good at — and hopefully increase your chances of making more money. So, make a list of all the mundane tasks that are necessary but that you don't need to physically do yourself. Responsibilities like making appointments, booking travel, uploading your blog posts and maintaining your social-media platforms can easily be outsourced. Investing in the help of interns or virtual assistants will be worth the trouble, as the time you will save is staggering. Make sure to also make a list of all the projects you want to work on once you have some extra help to get the busy work off your plate.
3. To-become list
I'm a big fan of Oprah's mantra: "You become what you believe." Once you set an intention to do something it becomes so much easier to attain it. And taking it one step further and writing it down can really seal the deal. In fact, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor at the Dominican University of California found that writing down goals will make you 33% more likely to achieve them.
This list can include anything that you want for your business and your life — daydreaming is definitely in order for this list. Think big. Even if you can't figure out how exactly you'd achieve that goal, write it down anyway. Making a to-become list will get you motivated, hold you accountable and remind you of what's important to you and your business. Keep this list somewhere safe and set a reminder in your phone every few months to check it out and see what you've become.
SEE ALSO: 22 Lists Everyone Should Make