Five Wrong Things Experts Told Me
One of the dangers of being a good listener is that, well—you listen. Combine this with a tendency to believe that other people generally know what they are talking about, and you’ve got the setup for entrepreneurial enervation.
Herein, five of the most off-target “truths” that business experts inflicted on my entrepreneurial soul:
If you are working too many hours, you’re doing something wrong.
MYTH! The 4-hour workweek? Who’s kidding whom? Maybe this is relevant if your goal is near-total retirement or some other ‘lifestyle option’. Or perhaps you have created a totally self-service online business, have outsourced the satisfaction of your personal needs, and your ambition is a life of leisure. But if you are bootstrapping a company, or you want to change the world with your innovation, be prepared to sweat. And besides, if you know how to build a quality team and you have a worthy goal, why would you want to NOT work?
You should be able to define what you do in 10 words or less, and your great grandmother should understand it.
MYTH! OK, I overstated the criteria just for effect. It’s true that eventually you’ll need a very succinct and accessible value proposition, so you can get people to invest in it, and get the buzz going. But if you know where you want to go and you are only beginning to find your way, focusing on a ‘high concept’ pitch can be counterproductive. This happened in my own company! We had been advised to use the buzzwords du jour, which just made us sound like everyone else. Just ask yourself, “what’s the value we bring to our customers?” And forget the opinions of grandmothers, great and otherwise. My mother never got what I do. I shiver at the mere hint of what her mother would have thought. Just speak to your prospects!
Entrepreneurs are not made, they are born… with at least one Y chromosome.
MYTH! I am living, breathing proof. But I have been told this is impossible–and not years ago, when I started my first company. This was just last year! And you wonder why there are so few women entrepreneurs? Enough for THAT expert. But he is not alone. If we women are forever having to prove ourselves (an even more pronounced requirement when said woman is of the petite variety) then this is the one wrong thing I am actually concerned may become the truth. Man-up and listen: it’s what’s inside. Give me people with great teaming characteristics and I don’t care if they wear ties or mascara, or both.
You need to pay someone to sell for you because Founders can’t sell.
MYTH! This is the one you get from out-of-work sales people. Sometimes you get the related myth that you can’t sell until you take the sales training being offered. Think about this. Who knows your product better than you? And who has more passion for it? (Hint: if you actually had an answer for that second question, you aren’t an entrepreneur.) You need these things: the ability to TALK… and LISTEN… and ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Enough said.
Starting a business isn’t easy.
MYTH! Starting a business is very easy. Keeping it going is hard. What does it take to keep it going?
First, you need to recognize that the trip from single person start-up to functioning business team is a HUGE transition. You have to stop doing a lot of things you’ve been doing just because they had to get done, and you need to entrust them to other people. Then you need to get out of their way. You need to set standards for respect and communication on the team, and you also have to live up to them! You have to be a better person–probably better than you have ever been, and you need to surround yourself with people who can do likewise. (Make sure those people are Coherent, with the right Role-fit to their job responsibilities, and have great teaming characteristics, of course.)
Finally, remember that further growth means those interrelationships will have to grow too. And it’s no myth: that will change you forever.
Want to read more insider-perspective posts? Browse our entire archive of blog posts on insights gleaned from the software industry by visiting the Industry Insights section of the Business-Software.com blog.