Starting a business is a jumble of strong emotions. It's liberating, thrilling...and terrifying. The worst thing you can do is to go in unprepared. Are you certain you understand what you've signed yourself up for? There are many experiences that can lead to the desire to be your own boss, but the end result is the same: you have all the power, and all the responsibility.
YPO member Anna Brakenhielm faced the challenge of entrepreneurship with cautious optimism. After beginning her career in journalism and public relations, she transitioned to television producer and executive, adept at bringing exciting new concepts and a female perspective to the small screen. She became the CEO of Swedish media conglomerate Strix. She then founded Talpa Scandanavia, later rebranding it to Silverback and selling it to ITV, the biggest commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom. Eventually, she would have stakes in television, radio, and publishing companies.
On an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Brakenhielm shared the elements to consider before going down the path of entrepreneurship:
1. Explore the Unknown
Brakenhielm encourages young people to take advantage of the freedom of youth. There are great opportunities for learning, she asserts, saying, "I remember when I was starting out, I intentionally did a variety of things to gain more knowledge and experience." You never know where it will take you. She advises, "Learn how something 'should' be done, and examine the convention. Suddenly, you'll find a better way that nobody else is doing." Gather as much experience as you can before you go off on your own.
2. Industry Over Interests
Your personal interests might be exciting, but if you're going to start a company around them, they need to be a good business. Brakenhielm advises, "They should really consider the industry they're planning to enter. They need to do very, very thorough research." Passion alone usually isn't enough. "Be careful if you're starting a company around your personal interests. Very often, the businesses are not scalable," Brakenhielm warns. If you're lucky, your interests lie in a good industry, but if not, re-examine your plan.
3. Recognize the Risks
With any entrepreneurial venture, you need to be prepared to fail. Go in eyes open, or risk disaster. Of course starting a company requires some risk, but you need to ensure the risk is smart, and backed up with numbers. Brakenhielm reflects, "The best is a combination of risk and responsibility. Be grounded, and take responsibility. But also be daring enough to take good risks." She goes on: "Keep your passion, and be honest with yourself." If your business model isn't going to work, better to find out now through careful planning.
4. Get Investors - Financial and Ideological
When you start a business, Brakenhielm advises finding two types of investors: one who can provide the financial resources, and one who can offer wisdom, time, and energy. When Brakenhielm started her first company, she knew she didn't have everything she needed solely within herself: "I didn't have any financial training," she admits. Luckily, she found the fiscal support she needed, explaining, "I always had others backing me financially when I set up companies. I've always been better with other people's money than with my own. You really feel the pressure of risking their money. I care much more when I'm working with someone else's money." Brakenhielm also believes new entrepreneurs need to consider where they will turn for advice. Brakenhielm insists, "You need a big support system around you when you're an entrepreneur, because you are going to be 100% focused on your business. You also need to check if you have the right network. Do you know people who can help you?" Get people to believe in your ideas and who can help you achieve them.
5. Hire Women
Women are only about one-third of all entrepreneurs, but Brakenhielm believes they're well equipped for the endeavor. "Women recognize they need support, and they take responsibility," she asserts. "Women are more in control when it comes to work-life balance. They know that they can't dive into the company headfirst and leave everything else behind." Brakenhielm also believes that "Women sense risk, where men sometimes ignore it." She explains, "When you have financial crises and problems, it's always the women who are the whistleblowers. They're the ones who see the problems early. And that's a very important aspect of diversity." Women are an invaluable resource for any company.
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.