I was an entrepreneur for some years and now I help other entrepreneurs develop their customers, product, market, and entrepreneurial mindset. I noticed that there are common myths my clients have around entrepreneurship, which undermine their decision-making abilities.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS ABOUT TAKING BLIND RISKS
Many people treat entrepreneurship more like playing the lotto than like running a business. They dive into it before gathering sufficient insights about their customers, market demand, and their likelihood of success. They also make blind investments into expensive association memberships, fly across the country to wallet-busting conferences, and build infrastructure before bothering to validate whether it is worth the cost. And yet, this type of validation is the key to entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurship is about investing your time and energies into identifying the depth of the pool you are diving into by obtaining critical insights from customer and market discovery.
YOU HAVE TO BUST THROUGH WALLS TO GET THERE
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that expression as an entrepreneur–“you have to bust through walls to get there.” Quite honestly, if you feel you are beating your head against a brick wall, it is because you are beating your head against a brick wall. Don’t let someone convince you that this is progress toward your business goals. Entrepreneurship is about finding the doorways in the wall and walking through to the other side. It is also about building genuine business relationships and identifying true market opportunities that will cause those doors to open. How do you do this? Follow the bread crumbs to where you are welcomed on your journey, and move away from situations where you feel like you have to beat your head against a brick wall.
YOUR GOAL SHOULD BE TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS
Entrepreneurs are told they need to scale, but for most, the very idea of scaled growth causes an all-systems shut-down, and for good reason. You cannot be certain you can scale anything unless you are already a large organization with access to scale. Growth at the entrepreneurial level is an organic process with natural limits at each step of the way. And the process starts with a seed idea, which grows into a sprout, which turns into a sapling, then into to a tree, then a grove of trees, which turns into a forest. The growth of the forest is outside of the seed’s capacity and control. The seed can only be a seed and transform into a sprout. And the sprout can only transform into a young sapling, and so on. Forget scaling the forest if you are at the initial stages; plant and water your seeds. When they are ready, they will sprout, turn into saplings, etc. Focus on the next step and you will get to your final destination.
YOU NEED TO WORK ALL THE TIME IN ORDER TO BE PRODUCTIVE
How are you? Busy, you say? Is that your metric for success? Are you focusing on the big important decisions or distracting yourself with minutia? Remember that working harder is not working smarter. The reality is that keeping busy can severely jeopardize your ability to reach your goals. If you crowd your mind with busy-work, you will not have any room for creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. So be thoughtful of how you spend your time. Create enough space away from the office to give your subconscious mind the time to problem-solve. Give yourself enough play-time to rest and allow your creativity to kick in. Be okay with saying no to the myriad of events, coffee dates, and meetings available to you. Being selective will help you be more productive.
VENTURE FUNDING WILL COME SAVE YOU
A very small proportion of entrepreneurs receive venture funding. And if you are a minority or female, your chances are unfortunately much smaller. Venture capitalists are looking for astronomical returns; unless those are in your 5-year business plan, you are barking up the wrong tree. Instead focus on mere mortals who share your values and are willing to invest in who you truly are and what you believe in. Recent changes to US law (the JOBS Act), make it possible for you to fundraise from non-accredited investors (provided you file the right paperwork at the state and federal level first). Crowdfunding campaigns, when executed successfully, can also be used to obtain investment dollars in exchange for a stake in your company. High income angel investors are out there as well. Know your options, understand your target audience, and—first and foremost—know thyself.
PEOPLE WILL EMBRACE YOUR BETTER, CHEAPER, FASTER, MORE SUSTAINABLE INNOVATION
Human reality is biased toward the status quo. The practical result of this is that you can present a product to someone who will benefit from it being better, cheaper, faster and more sustainable to them and they will still say no. This is because human beings and society at large make decisions based on their emotions, first and foremost. And all that talk about being objective, making decisions based on the bottom line, etc., is literally just talk. Do not be fooled into believing this is true–it will only take you down the road of much effort and little return. Instead, focus your attention on people’s habits (the status quo) and their motivations (emotional drivers) for change. These are the true indicators of your likelihood of success in a given market.
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME (YES, MOST PEOPLE STILL BELIEVE THIS)
I am not sure how much I need to say here, except that “build it and they will come” is not a viable business strategy. Instead, go out and do customer discovery. Once you have sufficient insights, build a prototype. Then test the prototype with your target audience. Once you feel comfortable with that, build a minimum viable product (a low-investment product designed to test market demand for what you have to offer). You can start building the final product, infrastructure, inventory, and/or software once you start generating revenue from this process.
If you have any questions about these seven myths or need more advice around them, get in touch. Wishing you good luck and good fun along your journey!
Joanna Malaczynski is the Founder of DESi Potential, a consulting firm that helps emerging, innovative, and sustainability-oriented companies gain market traction. She is a design thinker with a background in software entrepreneurship, interaction design, customer discovery and analytical research techniques.