Saturday, May 18, 2013

Inspiration Without Perspiration is a Dull Startup

Genius-is-perspirationI’m fully convinced that both inspiration and perspiration are always required in a startup. Yet many people seem to be stuck on one end or other of this equation – all perspiration with no dream, or all inspiration with no reality. Success is the right balance of both for fun and profit.

Aspiring entrepreneurs ask me why their great idea hasn’t sold; they talk about it endlessly, and they expect others to do the development, finance, and marketing work for them. Those at the other extreme don’t look up from the grindstone long enough to notice whether all their work is producing sweat equity or just sweat.

Starting a business may be fun, but it’s not easy. No matter how many times you’ve done it – the stresses are tremendous. It can also be very inspiring, as you watch your dream morph into reality, or as you feel each little element of success:

  • Watch your team develop new skills. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing the results of your mentoring and leadership. Your own learning should be the biggest inspiration of all.
  • Your solution fills a real market need. Truly satisfied customers are a joy to every business person. Watching the orders come in, or the product moving off the shelf, is the feedback you have been looking for.
  • A business model that works. You have figured out how to undercut your competitor’s price, and still hold your margin. Taking that first salary after a long dry spell is an inspiring moment, and a great celebration with friends.
  • Love that sustainable competitive advantage. Working on that unique design, or completing the breakthrough for an innovative patent, are moments of inspiration that you will never forget, especially if they become your competitive edge.
  • Bask in the success as it happens. Maybe it’s that first customer testimonial, or that first congratulations from someone you respect, or seeing your story in the newspaper. You knew all along that you could do it.

Of course, never forget those ongoing perspiration items that seem to haunt you every day:

  • Create intellectual property. Incorporate, register your domain name, trademarks, and copyrights, then patent if possible. Reserve the same names on the leading social networks and blogs.
  • Marketing is top priority. Start even before the product is ready. Word of mouth advertising and viral marketing cost big bucks these days so budget for it. It takes leverage, effort and money to get in the public eye and stay there.
  • Reign-in expenses. Review every expense with a miserly hand. Do not delegate this task! Make every effort to do things “in house”, rather than rely on outside services, accountants, and law firms.

Though innumerable factors are a part of every success, it’s arguable that the ratio of effort to inspiration can make the difference between just spinning wheels, on the one hand, and ideas that never come to fruition, on the other.

Some say the Internet is a metaphor for our brains. Both are networks. Maybe inspiration is feeding your brain as much information as possible and then figuring out how it connects when the time comes. Perspiration is the lubrication to keep your senses open to all the possibilities.

Marty Zwilling


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