Archive | December 2009

Op-Ed Columnist – The New Untouchables – NYTimes.com

Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

I forgot about this piece from Thomas Friedman from back in October. I can feel this new creative, entrepreneurial class really starting to kick into gear around me. It’s not an age or race thing, it’s a state of mind. It just feels like more people are going out on their own to create progress in the world. That’s of course a very good thing.

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Op-Ed Columnist – The New Untouchables – NYTimes.com

Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

I forgot about this piece from Thomas Friedman from back in October. I can feel this new creative, entrepreneurial class really starting to kick into gear around me. It’s not an age or race thing, it’s a state of mind. It just feels like more people are going out on their own to create progress in the world. That’s of course a very good thing.

JFDI

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Image by makoworks via Flickr

I stumbled on to this great blog post by @msuster talking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  His post can be summarized in four letters, JFDI, which stands for Just F**King Do It.

Entrepreneurs make fast decisions and move forward knowing that at best 70% of their decisions are going to be right.  They move the ball forward every day.  They are quick to spot their mistakes and correct.  Good entrepreneurs can admit when their course of action was wrong and learn from it.  Good entrepreneurs are wrong often.  If you’re not then you’re not trying hard enough.  Good entrepreneurs have a penchant for doing vs. over-analyzing.  (obviously don’t read this as zero analysis)

This really resonated with me.  I can get very comfortable with analyzing things.  I can in fact spend months and years analyzing something.  This is partly because I like to research, explore, review, brainstorm and partly because I’m scared of moving forward.  Sometimes I tell myself I’m just afraid of making the wrong move, but either way it’s all related to a fear of taking the next step.  The problem with this is you end up in this limbo world where you are safe from mistakes but also tormented by the decision hanging above you.  The longer the decision hangs above you, the heavier it gets whether you are aware of it or not.  The only reprieve from the weight is to act.  JFDI

In the blog post he talks about an entrepreneur who was constantly in brainstorming mode on his next thing, saying he was stuck because he didn’t have any money.  He was convinced the only way forward was to raise money.  This is a common excuse for inaction among entrepreneurs.  I’ve certainly been guilty of this, although I must confess my preferred stall tactic is to tell myself and others that I don’t quite have the right idea yet.  It doesn’t really matter the reason because at the end of the day they are just excuses. This is one of many deciding moments in the life an entrepreneur, the place where it seems like you are all out of options.  Either you find a way to do it, or you quit.  Mark advises the stalled entrepreneur:

I was blunt (warning: that sometimes happens with me) and told him not to bother and that I wasn’t prepared to help with angels.“Why?” he asked.  I told him he wasn’t a real entrepreneur.  He looked stunned.  I said that he had been talking about doing this for too long.  He still had no website and no prototypes.  But “he didn’t have the budget to hire a developer until he had raised money!”

I said that was my point. “A real entrepreneur would have done it anyway.  He would have found somebody technical and inspired that individual to work for equity or deferred payment.  Real entrepreneurs are contagious.  They are filled with ideas and they get those ideas onto paper.  That paper can be in the form of wireframes or in the form of a PowerPoint plan.  Or worst case your ideas can be conveyed verbally.  But they GET THINGS DONE.  You have the skills and knowledge to do that.”

Blunt but great advice.  If you want something bad enough, you can find a way to move forward, to act.  If you’re focused on the acting towards a result instead of a step towards a result (getting a prototype built some way vs obsessing over raising money to get a prototype built), if you’d JFDI, it would come together some way.  The entrepreneur took his advice:

He took my comments as a challenge.  He went out and found a developer and built a product.  He refined his business plan and he got commitments for $150-200k but needed some lead angels to commit first.  When he re-approached me he had a much better plan and he had a prototype!  I introduced him to some angels and his round was OVER SUBSCRIBED!

You and I have all the knowledge and skills we need to move our businesses forward RIGHT now.  We don’t have to wait for more data, for someone else to help, for outside input, for the “right moment.”  None of that.  We can move things forward right now. JFDI and you’ll not only feel better, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

(Additional thought:  I think self reflection, analysis, outside input, etc are still very important and should be used with the JFDI approach.  I think a good analogy is practice vs real game in the sports world.  There is definitely a time and place to practice and develop your skills, to analyze, to grow and then there is a time and place where you just trust and act.  Get out of your head at the real game and trust your training and preparation will guide you in the right direction)

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How far are you willing to go?

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Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had the pleasure of having front row seats to watch my friend Jason develop his business Jackthreads (check it out, it’s a private shopping community) over the last 4 or so years.  Things are going very well for Jason now as his membership and revenue numbers continue to explode month over month.  More importantly he’s now able to work full time doing something he loves with customers and employees who also love what he’s doing.   The business is now drawing all sorts of interest from investors to partners to customers.  Everyone seems impressed by this thing that seemingly popped up over night.  I can tell you, it didn’t. Jason took the long path here. 

He started out 4 years ago with a totally different business model. He has had more than a few people tell him he was crazy, that his idea was off, that he had no business building something like that from Columbus, OH.   He had all kinds of jobs from bar back to sales consultant to selling towels just to sustain himself while he worked through this concept.  He burned through multiple  programming groups / teams and watched his development process drag on and on. He had to work tirelessly just to get someone to give him a chance to test his concept.   He had more than a few “what the hell am I doing,” moments.  There were more moments where quitting made more sense than going on.   Obviously, he chose to stick with it.

As an entrepreneur, you are going to have lots of “what the hell am I doing,” moments.  It’s a key part of the journey. In fact most cases are like Jason’s, where you must go through the grind of work and doubt until you finally see some traction.  The deciding factor ultimately is how you deal with those moments.  Do you stop as so many do, and as I have done?  Or do you push through as Jason did.  How many moments of doubt, how many “no’s,” moments of frustration, odd jobs are you willing to go through to see your idea to fruition?  How far are you willing to go?

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