Startup Entrepreneurs – 10 Thinking Points

“The answer is 10.”  Ted Sable, Ernst & Young

Growing up in Ernst and Young, we were afforded some of the most unique training resources in the world. One such resource was Ted Sable; an EY instructor who taught us soft skills around a subject called management development.  Now, Ted was an amazing instructor and his interpersonal skills were some of the best I’ve ever seen.  Realizing he was before a bunch of subject matter experts on accounting and tax who always wanted the answer, Ted would start a session with the above quote.  His point was people never really paid attention until they got to the answer so he would give the answer upfront, thus removing the apprehension and starting on the path toward a journey of enlightenment.

So, 10 is my answer; it is a list of thinking points for startup entrepreneurs.  As always, this is not developed based upon some empirical study but from lessons learned serving entrepreneurs in all phases of a business lifecycle. So here it goes:

  1. Business Model Versus Business Plan – I have blogged on this point in the past; you have to focus on the why (model) versus the how (plan)
  2. Vision Versus Passion – another subject of a recent blog.  You have to be convinced of the concept and have sufficient passion to breathe enthusiasm into the team without getting blinded along the way.
  3. Ownership Versus Reward – using your stock book as a checkbook is an easy way to invite long-term trouble.  Remember, you can’t get that genie back in the bottle.
  4. Short-Term Approach Versus a Long-Term Plan – people look for sustainability and not quick hits.  Trying to recruit team members or investors when you have something that may not last is a sure path towards failure.
  5. Collaboration Versus Lone Wolf – people invest in teams and not a genius.  Keep your ego in check and surround yourself with good people. Don’t go it alone.
  6. Mistakes Can Be the Key to Success – keep in mind, Churchill said that in order to succeed, one must fail 10,000 times.  “The Outliers” had a similar message.
  7. Team Versus You – always have an honest assessment of the capabilities of all team members including yourself.  Understand who is growing and who is not and be prepared to step aside at the right time.
  8. Talk to Smart People – more importantly, listen to them.
  9. Take smart money over the best deal – currency is fungible; great advice is not.  Always look to maximize your return, not only with economics, but with intellectual capital.
  10. Hire a Smart Advisory Team – follow and work with mentors and advisors who “get you” and make sure they are adding value and not just riding your coattails.  Smart advisors help keep you out of trouble.

So, there you have it; just some thinking points which, hopefully, will help you complete your successful journey.  Keep it posted somewhere to remind you and don’t be surprised if, when you get off the rails a bit, you don’t look back at this and see exactly where you went wrong.


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