Some people make setting up a business seem like a walk in the park, but that's almost never the case. Even if you think you're absolutely prepared, you’re still going to run into problems.
We talked to Nixplay Signage CEO Mark Palfreeman, who's on the cover of leading enterprise technology magazine CIOReview, and asked him about the issues he has encountered while setting up his company. Here's what he thinks all entrepreneurs should keep in mind:
1. Do Adequate and Honest Research.
Too often an excited first-time entrepreneur will try to make the market research fit their big idea or worse, do no research at all. That’s going to cause problems when trying to raise funds as it will be hard to demonstrate a clear total available market (TAM) to the investor.
You’ll have to be intellectually creative if there is no off-the-shelf market report supporting your new product or service, but you should take comfort from the fact that it possibly means you’ve got a genuinely novel product on your hands. Alternatively, though, it may mean there just isn’t a market for your product.
2. An Idea is Neither a Product nor a Business.
The viability of an idea is hard to stress test with your friends, family, peers and potential customers if it’s merely in your head. Get it down in writing and then condense it. Products and business plans can be nuanced, especially if they involve tech. The feedback and constructive criticism from your peers will be much more useful and productive (and less frustrating) if you specify and condense your product or business concepts in order to solicit better feedback.
3. Build a Great Team.
Try to find people who can really help: People who can help figure out what needs to be done and then actually do it. People who speak the truth. People interested in finding and fixing the root cause of a problem. People who love information and data. People who can change their behavior when confronted with new information. People who sacrifice the now for the future.
"Yes, you need to provide the 30,000-feet direction and vision, but they need to pick up the slack at lower altitudes."
Your job as a leader is to help craft a hierarchy and culture where the customer is at the apex and all the great qualities your team possesses are brought to bear service to the customer and not themselves. Your customers should provide the resources to reward your team and stakeholders, not you.
4. Let Your Gut Fill in the Blanks Sometimes.
When you’re starting out on your first business, you barely know anything. There will be times when you are ill-equipped to make a well-informed decision, but a decision must be made nonetheless.
Learn to trust your gut. Your enteric nervous system is linked by a super highway to your brain which is receiving input from your eyes, ears and olfactory senses. The human brain has evolved to pick up on all sorts of indicators at a subconscious level–body language, vocal tone, etc. Our higher brain processing functions can suppress or not consciously register inputs because we’re so focused on what people are saying while also trying to puzzle together a whole heap of other modern day business/tech-related considerations. Learn to harness your mind and your gut [so you can become] a more formidable decision-making machine.
5. Put Your Customers First.
Your ultimate validation comes from your customers. Find them, listen to them, and look after them. Only your customers can provide the long-term resources that your team and shareholders require.
Bonus: Never Stop Learning.
Enhance your knowledge and stay at the top of your game by keeping your mind busy. These six books are required reading for every entrepreneur:
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker and Marshall W. Van Alstyne
Platform Scale by Sangeet Paul Choudary
The Alliance by Chris Yeh, Ben Casnocha, and Reid Hoffman
Learn more about Mark Palfreeman and Nixplay Signage by reading CIOReview's Audiovisual special.