How to Avoid the 2 Worst Pieces of Advice as an Entrepreneur and Startup
A while back a question was asked on Quora (and I answered, which inspired this post),
What popular startup advice is plain wrong?
There seem to be an increasing number of startup ‘gurus’ along with more and more websites offering advice. Yet, there seems to be a lot of crap. So, what do you think is the worst?
Take a look at this video, and let’s jump into the 2 worst pieces of advice I know of right now, because they hide the reality, AND the real fun.
A Brief History:
How I Learned to Be an Entrepreneur
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 25 years, and wasn’t born selling stuff to my friends as a kid…which is what many think an entrepreneur does!
In fact, for the first 5 years I was in business, I was pretty lost. No one told me how to do things, or that every effort needed to be followed up, researched, and tested. Alone to my own wits, I whined alot, stumbled, and basically got consulting gigs but didn’t build a business.
So when I share this advice, it’s not to bad mouth the emotion behind the advice. It’s good to be psyched about what you are doing, and to feel free, yet what I’ve learned is that people mistake these as the keys to being an entepreneur.
The key that I’ve learned is simple; LOVE solving the problem your customer has, so they come back again and again. If you don’t solve a problem, you’re not relevant, and the easy part is falling in love with your solution, what you are doing.
What happens if they, the audience, don’t care for your solution? That’s where you pivot and adapt, and wake up from the 2 worst pieces of advice I know for startups and enterpreneurs.
Bad Advice #1.
Be passionate about your product!
Writing a book or course on being an entrepreneur seems to almost require that the teacher say this, tying into a person’s search for meaning and excitement in their life.
Yet after the warm fuzzy part of the startup wears off, you start to do repetitive things, things you don’t like, and pivoting from your first idea onto the next, in search of the right answer as defined by your audience.
First the whole passionate schtick is like the self help/Secret end of this business, as if just being passionate will get it done. Imagine that all you have to do is visualize, and repeat to yourself that you are a good person.
Sound insane? Do you know how many entrepreneurs I’ve met who are in their business and almost waiting for destiny to find them, talking to themselves instead of engaging their audience?
Yes you should care and love what you are doing, but it’s not about you, or your product.
It’s about the problem you solve, and you should be
passionate about solving that problem.
Everything else flows from that, even your products will change and adapt to the market. Love the problem, not the product.
What most entrepreneurs love is their solution, their whole ego gets wrapped up in proving to the world that they have the right answer.
You only have one group to prove that to, your audience of future customers. If they don’t buy it, it’s not a good idea.
And if you believe in your idea more than their reaction, get a job now. Because you are wasting your time, and theirs…running a startup is not an ego trip, though a strong ego does help.
It’s about constantly researching the problem and your solution, pivoting and adapting, testing and measuring. Sound boring?
Welcome to the real world of the entrepreneur, long hours and lots of risk, and also lots of return. You either love it or you don’t, but don’t use passion as your excuse.
Passion is just the fuel that drives the business, but you run out if it is only passion, and not a great solution to your target audience’s problem.
Bad Advice #2.
The Freedom Myth of Being an Entrepreneur
What woke me up to the reality of freedom as an entrepreneur was my first venture, where I published a magazine and had to sell it, and the idea, to people.
This took more time than any job, and my weekends became a quieter time to focus and work. I do love running my own business so this doesn’t matter to me, but what bugs me is wannabe guru’s selling the myth of freedom.
If you own a business, you have to make it run, and watch that it doesn’t own you. I learned that running my agency, with 20 plus employees and doing 80-100 hour weeks on average.
Now I loved the experience, but I also learned I lost most of my lifestyle. I was always working, and if you like that, which I did, you can do it.
Yet when I see people treat their startup like some lottery ticket, as if there is a script that has been written for them that will come because they deserve it, it just makes me laugh.
Karma is not something you deserve, it’s cause and effect. As an entrepreneur, you have to be the cause, always.
Gurus love to frame this as a being free from a job, from bosses, from all these negative things about having a job. That sells books and gets people into being an entrepreneur because they believe that it will be better than a job.
Then you become an entrepreneur and realize the long hours, lack of family time, dedication to the goal, leadership you have to show others and direction you have to give, and ultimately that you are responsible for everything.
Even worst, because you had a job, you turn it into a job. That’s death for any startup, because when it feels like a job, you’re likely close to the end.
So what’s my good advice, the solution? Be wise, be aware, and be in love with solving the problem. Don’t let the business run your life, and set some boundaries if you can.
I’m big on integrating my lifestyle with my business, which is why I’m not back in the grind of software startups like I used to, and still love to mentor. If that jazzes you, there’s nothing better than working with a team.
Just understand you should love what you do, but passion is an emotion, and it comes and goes. What really tells you that you are right is that feeling when people get it, start buying, and start talking about your business because it helps them.
That is where it gets magical, where you are connected to their needs, not your dream. And freedom, like the song goes, is just another word for nothing left to lose…
If you don’t know what to do if your business fails, if you don’t have a Plan B, you’ll never be free. True freedom is selling your business, or building a business that lasts for a long time and helps people.
Freedom is a goal, not a given part of being an entrepreneur.
And that said, I’m unemployable by birth, and my zest for startups fuels success because I know it’s a journey, and you have to define it each step of the way.
It’s easy to say you want to make millions, how will you make your first thousand? How will you break even, get positive cash flow, and start growing?
Answer these questions and you’ll know what passion is really about, solving your business problems, and the one key problem your customer has…because you likely won’t solve more than one, and that one should keep you very, very busy.
What do you think? What’s your challenge as an entrepreneur?