Wednesday, November 11, 2020

7 Entrepreneur Stages Help You Assess Your Progress

Liddell_with_Satya_Nadella_and_Jeff_BezosThe road to becoming an entrepreneur is a journey, and it’s not a short trip. In my efforts of assist aspiring business owners like you, I find that too many see it as a short sprint to get over that one hurdle, like finding that innovative idea, or attracting an investor. In reality, I find that there are multiple stages to the process, each requiring a unique mindset and focused effort along the way.

I was pleased to find a new book, “The Entrepreneur’s Faces,” by Johnathan Littman and Susanna Camp, which outlines the key stages and provides examples of real people making the transformation from one stage to the next. Here is my interpretation of the seven key stages that most new venture owner experience, with recommendations from my own experience:

  1. The awakening – realization that you have new insights. Every entrepreneur starts by accepting the reality that you have a rare mindset of joy of discovery, with an intense curiosity about how certain things or people work, or why a new technology hasn’t yet been accepted. Perhaps there is the realization that there is something more to life.

    Many well-known entrepreneurs, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, worked for years in bigger businesses and Wall Street before they had their awakening to untapped opportunities. He saw the potential of e-commerce, and drove Amazon to success.

  2. The shift – break away from dreaming to action. This stage is where I see the most people stuck. It’s hard to make that first step from talking to actually doing. Often people need some outside approval of their idea, someone like me to hone their focus, validate their thinking, or just challenge them to get down to the specifics of starting a business.

    Others struggle for years at this stage, and then just give up for a variety of sad reasons, including fear of failure, lack of confidence in their execution ability, or being surrounded by negative people. The world moves fast today, so don’t let this stage slow you down.

  3. The place – finding a community where you can thrive. Everyone needs a place with the right people, connections, and environment to nourish your dreams. An occasional discussion with a mentor won’t do it. You need to feel the passion of others in the same stage. This place is often called an incubator or accelerator, or just a group of peers.

    One of the most successful incubators is Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. Their claim to fame is simply one of good mentorship and a sustainable, co-dependent ecosystem. You can find other good ones these days in almost every community and university campus.

  4. The launch – deep dive into building a great team. This is the stage where you move from building a product or solution, to building a business. Here you need a team, people with disparate but complementary skills bonded by your leadership, to ship product and go live. Here is where you learn to listen and communicate with people and customers.

    A few years ago, Google went on a quest to understand how the right teams lead to success. What they found was that what really mattered was less about who was on the team, and more about how the team worked together. The right culture is the key.

  5. The money – secure the backing and support to get real. Building a business requires funding – for inventory, marketing, and operations. Landing investments and backing requires a new level of confidence, communication, and risk. Maybe you are more comfortable going slow, with limited resources, or aiming high and giving up equity.

  6. The test – iterate and pivot, based on market feedback. Commitment, tenacity, and agility are key in this stage. You have to be willing to make changes to remove barriers, bottlenecks, and risk. Some people call this failing faster to succeed sooner. Others call it pushing boundaries and rising to the challenges of the market and competitors.

  7. The scale - expand to reach your full potential. Scaling is the holy grail of every new venture – from local to global, from online to brick-and-mortar to partners to mergers and acquisitions, from a private company to a public company, from cash-flow-positive to the next unicorn. This stage of your new venture positions your legacy as well as your exit.

Every one of these stages is critical to success, so maybe you can understand why I and most other advisors and investors don’t get that excited just hearing about your great new idea. We look for evidence of all the other required mindsets, and your execution and leadership skills, to make a successful business journey happen.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 10/28/2020 ***




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