After years of repeated and rationalized postponement I am, for the first time, making a sustained effort to start a business of my own. Here’s five things I’ve learned in my first month hustlin’ as a wannabe entrepreneur:
- Play to all my strengths.
It’s a far safer bet for both me and my potential investors to start up a business in an area that I already know well than in an area that I have a crush on.
For some time I’d been kicking around an idea for a start-up in the booming fitness-tech area, which I’m really passionate about, especially since my Ironman adventures last year. However as I talked to friends and advisors it became really clear that this would be a much steeper hill to climb than focusing on an area where I have more direct working experience. So that’s where I’m now focused — in digital music and entertainment.
2. Diversity breeds creativity.
Working with co-founders with complementary skills, experiences and styles can sometimes feel like hard work, but it’s ultimately how the magic happens.
I’ve been fortunate to quickly join up with two co-founders who bring tremendous skills and experience. There’s no way that any one of us alone would have been able to piece together the approach to the opportunity that we’re pursuing, but as a team we’ve been able to quickly find a pattern of working where we challenge and build upon one another’s thinking. We’re still iterating rapidly, but I think we may be onto something really cool.
3. The simple joy of doing vs leading.
It’s exhilarating to get into a flow state of actual work, re-connecting with the skills that built the foundation of my career.
Over the past few years, as I stepped more into more senior leadership roles, I spent less and less time actually creating my own end-deliverables, such as complex analyses and written documents, and more time giving direction, feedback and coaching. I love leading teams, and all the trappings of senior leadership, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy rapidly learning in depth about an emerging technology area, building business models and hungrily pursuing deals.
4. There’s nothing but upside in faking it until we make it.
Any start-up is a first-of-its kind experiment, and while there’s plenty of value in applying accumulated experience, there’s no way that even a well-qualified and balanced founder team can have all of the skills and experience needed to succeed. Without losing the fact-focus and humility, we have to be willing to dream and to sell ourselves as well as our opportunity.
5. My family are both drivers and passengers on this journey with me.
I now know that my health and happiness depends on my family understanding and supporting the start-up journey that we’re on. My wife has given unfailing encouragement and support as I’ve set off on this route, and been a fantastic sounding board. And when I cheerfully briefed them on cash flow restrictions, (no ski trip this year!), my kids didn’t blink. They are eager to hear the latest on my venture and to offer their feedback and ideas. I feel very lucky and I’m very motivated to repay my family’s faith in me.