What if you knew the things you know today years before when you just started? Think about how far you could have been!
Let me share with you, young and aspiring entrepreneurs, my journey towards entrepreneurship.
My name is Maia, and I have always had a desire to start something of my own.
I studied entrepreneurial studies at UC Berkeley. I got employed in a startup company in Silicon Valley after that. And today, I manage a digital marketing agency that helps companies with websites, content, and marketing.
Through the years, I have gained experience in my craft and grown as an entrepreneur. Both in terms of practicality around starting up a company. I also picked up good advice along the way from experienced people in the field, and it improved my way of thinking.
Here, I want to share ten tips with you:
1. It’s not the ideas that matter; it’s the power of execution.
At Berkeley, this was what I remember best in one of our lectures: In today’s competitive landscape, it is 1% about an idea and 99% about execution. If you think that others can steal your idea and outcompete you when it comes to execution, then you are not the right person to put the idea into practice.
My professor emphasized, “If you’re the only one in the whole world who has the idea, then it’s not a good idea.”
Some people believe that great successes come from a unique idea. And many people believe that unique ideas must be kept a secret because it is your “secret sauce for success.” But it’s not the case.
If you have a good idea with great market potential, many others will have the exact same idea as you, and you have to compete with these other players when it comes to implementation.
And let’s say you were the first one with an idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will make a success with it.
Facebook was not the first social network in the world, and Amazon was not the first marketplace. It’s not about being first, but being the best at execution.
All you have to do is gather the best team and have the best battle plan to win the execution battle. Only 1 in 10 start-ups succeed, and it is the implementation that matters.
Before you put your idea into action, you need to talk about it first to anyone who wants to listen. That way, you get to test your idea against the market and gain valuable input. This will help you create an even better implementation plan. Should someone steal your idea, it is a positive sign because it means that the concept is good.
Should it be that you have such an ingenious idea, you should prevent and protect your idea from full disclosure. You can patent to protect yourself, but do not stop talking about your it.
There are many investors in Silicon Valley, and most of them would never invest in someone who does not talk about their idea. They believed that those who kept their ideas secret did not understand what entrepreneurship was all about and would never succeed.
2. What do you want to do yourself? And what do you want to outsource?
Some entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves—website, accounting, sales, marketing, administration, etc. And yes, in a startup, you have to do a little bit of everything. But it is not profitable in the long run that you should use your labor to do things you are not an expert in. The most beneficial thing is to get a role where you can contribute the most and outsource other skills you need. If you’re not yet capable of hiring, outsourcing a freelancer is a great option, or ally yourself with a business partner.
On the other hand, some entrepreneurs want to do far too little themselves. They have an idea, and they are looking for a partner who will implement the idea (for example, develop an app) and build about 40 percent of the company. They have not thought so much about what they should contribute to earning 60 percent of the company. This is often because they overestimate the value of the idea itself.
3. Those who make great success are just people
A lesson I learned from Silicon Valley:
Those who create something great are just humans. I met several great founders who had a lot of courage and strong beliefs that anything is possible. But they were only people with their strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, etc.
It gave me a strong belief that “If they can do it, I also can achieve it.”
4. Know about Janteloven and why it’s important to not follow when it comes to business
In Norway, we have something we call Janteloven, “The law of Jante.” It’s that inner voice, coming from you or others, telling you that you shouldn’t believe and act as if you were “somebody.” You shouldn’t think that you are better, know more, and you should humbly find your place in society.
Starting a company means you have to be anti-Janteloven. You have to believe that you possess the power to achieve great things. There will be ups and downs, and when you’re in your darkest moment, that belief will carry you through all your hardships and lift you once again.
5. Find the right people
One of our guest lecturers at Berkeley was a young woman who had created a million successes. She started the company right after she graduated from Standford University. When we asked her how and why she succeeded, she replied:
“Because I hired the right people. I only hired people who are smarter and more experienced than myself.”
Some entrepreneurs may be reluctant to hire smarter, better, and more experienced people than themselves. Because then they feel insecure, and sometimes it’s just the ego that stops them from making the best decision.
Here’s a powerful quote from David Ogilvy, “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
Never be afraid of hiring people who are better than you! As a leader and entrepreneur, it is impossible to be well-versed in every area of your business. Hiring people who excel in the specific areas you need help with will challenge your perspective, and they will be your most powerful asset.
In a startup, it isn’t easy. Because you are entirely dependent on finding the right people to succeed. At the same time, you have limited capital and money flow.
6. Do we need a business plan?
Most of the founders I met in Silicon Valley had no business plan. They were more “Just do it” type of people and did not have time to write long-detailed plans before starting something.
What you need is a clear idea of what you want and some feasible short-term plans.
And then you need such a financial overview that you have the control that it all goes around financially.
7. Prepare for ups and downs
Being an entrepreneur is not a glamorous life. My experience is that you work around the clock for a lower salary than you are used to. You do not have many colleagues; you do not have much support, face rejections and disappointments, are always terrified of failure, and do not get things served the way you get in a regular job.
Depression is far more prevalent among entrepreneurs.
It is often a somewhat awkward period to go through before things start to get nice. 9 out of 10 startups fail because most people do not have the strength to go through this.
But why bother then? For me, it’s about self-realization that I want to create something. Create a product, create a good workplace.
Many entrepreneurs have a product they are really passionate about. So much so that they will go through fire for this product to enter the market.
You should find a strong inner motivation for why you want this so that this vision makes you persevere when the downturns come.
8. Build networks
It is a great advantage if you can start selling through networks. Through networks, you can find good sparring partners, get the idea tested, find new people.
For my part, it is far easier to sell through networks, and I also feel it is far easier to deliver good products and services to someone I “know” in advance.
9. All the practicalities
Before I started a company, all the practicalities were overwhelming for me. I was constantly thinking about how I should set up a company. But it’s actually not that difficult.
Start simple. Maybe you can start with a sole proprietorship with easy-to-use online accounting software that integrates with your bank.
10. Invest in marketing
I work in marketing, so I have no doubts about its importance. If you work with external parties here, I recommend finding someone who takes you and your business seriously.
Launch your website as it is the backbone of your online presence. A website extends to every aspect of your marketing strategy. Also, having a website gives your prospective customers a clear idea of what you offer. Usually, this is what “makes or breaks” your business. A website is about functionality, design, SEO, and a large extent about content. And that’s where all your marketing efforts lead to. So, it’s crucial that these all should play together in a good way.
As an aspiring entrepreneur and a newcomer, you may have a limited budget. Therefore, you must think of getting the most value out of every penny.
There are also countless opportunities you can invest in to market your business, including content marketing, campaigns, and social media. And it is not always easy to know what to invest in and find good partners in the various fields.
At Contenting, we sell “Subscribe to a Marketing Department.” It’s a marketing as a service that helps business owners with website, design, content, campaigns, and SEO.
Here you subscribe to a certain number of hours a month, and you get access to a whole department of developers, designers, content producers, campaign specialists, and SEO specialists.
This means that we make all our expertise available for a certain number of hours a month, for a fixed sum. Our expertise includes marketing strategy, content production, design, illustrations, animation, social media, advertising, etc.
You can scale up and down as your needs change, put on pause or stop whenever you want. This gives you the flexibility you need to be an agile startup.