Founders: Do These 3 Things First
If you’re new business is showing some healthy vital signs and getting some serious chatter, chances are that just glancing at your to-do list is enough to give you a headache. It’s easy to be impatient when you’ve got a great idea you’re dying to get out there in a big way, which is why it’s so important to set priorities. Before you do anything else, make sure you:
Make Real Sales or Pre-Sales
Selling a product or a service that doesn’t yet exist is one of the most powerful tools in the entrepreneur’s arsenal. Need to convince a potential investor (or significant other) to invest in your business? Go sell 100 of your widgets before they’re even made.
This can be a little scary, but if you can sell a meaningful quantity of your product or service before you officially have something to sell, your probability of success goes through the roof. There is a caveat: You have to sell it for a real price - either the actual market price that you anticipate needing to make a profit, or, if you insist, at a slight pre-order discount.
Says Mike Markarian, founder of ValRev, “The ultimate test of whether you’re on to something is if you can convince someone to pull out their wallet.” Even if you fail, the practice of getting in front of potential clients or investors is invaluable.
Never Eat Alone
One of your best resources is the people around you, so start taking advantage! It’s the simplest way to get feedback, build allies, and find advisors.
Many entrepreneurs feel the need to keep an idea a secret, because... someone might steal it? The “big reveal” won’t be as exciting? Whatever the reason, it’s not good enough. Success in business comes down to execution. Talking to people is the best way to find the answers to questions you may not have thought of. That can be super-handy when you start meeting with investors, and keep you from getting blindsided by an unexpected line of questioning.
Surround yourself with people whose ideas you value, and who may see things from a different perspective. You may be surprised by the new ideas that arise from talking with someone in a completely unrelated industry. On rare occasions, you may get connected to the perfect client or investor - someone you would never have met otherwise.
Use What You’ve Got - Locally
Every community has some resources to offer entrepreneurs. If you’re not sure what yours has to offer, ask local business owners what they’ve found helpful. In Chattanooga, Tenn., where one of my companies is based, we’ve got organizations such as CoLabs, Lamppost ventures, and Gig Tank, as well as foundations such as the Lyndhurst Foundation.
“The interesting thing about most entrepreneurs is that they love to give back,” says Sheldon Grizzle, Founder of CoLabs. “They understand how hard it is to start something from scratch, and they will rarely turn down the opportunity to help the next wave of founders improve upon their ideas.”
Organizations like these exist to help new entrepreneurs flesh out their ideas, perfect their pitch, win grants, and get in front of angel or VC investors. Although they can’t and won’t do all of the work for you, community resources can give your new business the boost it needs to get off the ground.
BENJAMIN WALD | Columnist
Benjamin Wald is a successful technology entrepreneur and investor. Ben?s passion for social impact, software and education support his ambition to change the world through technology. He is now the Managing Partner of Spartan Systems.