I published the first part of this article a few days ago— if you have not read it yet, I highly recommend reviewing it as well.
Here are another six mistakes, out of twelve, first-time entrepreneurs often make that you can avoid:
No matter how good your product or idea is, to get your startup off the ground, you are going to need help.
You will need help finding the right people to recruit, mentors or advisors, people who can help push your strategy forward, and people who will be your first customers.
Life is all about people, and so is business. The more extensive your network, the farther your reach is.
If you fail to tend to your network before embarking on your journey, then you will have to build a network during your journey. But trying to build a network of solid relationships takes time, and doing that during your journey may slow you down.
Ensure you are always nourishing relationships and expanding your network of domains (finance, marketing, sales, etc.) in which you are not the expert. The best way to do this is by simply helping others — and the best part is that it will also make you feel great that you’ve been able to help others.
Whether you are planning to raise capital for your startup or planning to bootstrap to your first sale, you must understand that it will take time to get there.
If you get lucky and can flawlessly execute a novel idea with a superstar team, raising the capital will take you four to six months. Otherwise, it could take a year until you see some money in the bank. Similarly, when bootstrapping, it could take six to twelve months before you might actually earn a decent wage from your startup.
You should, of course, strive to move as fast as possible, but you and your family should also be mentally prepared that things will take time.
So, you must ask yourself if you can go for a year without a salary. Have you put aside enough savings to support your family financially for that length of time? How will you ensure the continuation of proper health insurance during that period?
Do your financial planning properly by considering every future expense, and put some extra money aside for unexpected circumstances.
Finally, another aspect you should be prepared for is that you will be less available to your loved ones. You will be working harder and sometimes at unusual hours. Is this something you can accept? Is this something they can accept? Make sure that you and your loved ones are prepared for this sacrifice.
At the beginning of your journey, each meeting or call might give you some sense of accomplishment or progress, but that might be false.
Meetings and calls are part of the business hustle you need to do to push things forward, and they might introduce new opportunities. Still, they are a waste of time if they do not help execute a strategy of getting from where you are right now to your next milestone.
Someone might suggest introducing you to some acquaintance they think might help. But they do not know exactly your strategy and priorities and obviously would not be able to rank how helpful such an intro would be.
Strive to schedule and prioritize meetings that offer you the most value. Time is very precious, so make sure you spend it wisely.
Going back to the jungle journey analogy, wouldn’t it be simpler if you had a guide with you for the journey, someone who has already cleared his/her way through it in the past and knows all the Dos and Don’ts?
For the jungle journey, that would be a guide; for the entrepreneurial journey, that would be a mentor.
Your mentor does not need to be an expert in your startup’s domain, though that would be preferable. Yet they need to be someone who has successfully walked down the entrepreneurial road (or is a few miles ahead of you on their own journey) because the principles, the Dos and Don’ts, are fairly similar, especially at the start.
So, how do you find a mentor? Well, I believe your mentor will find you, not the other way around.
Your future mentor might be someone you have previously known or someone you have not yet met. Throughout your journey, you will be seeking help and advice. Some people you meet will offer advice, and you will start forming relationships. The relationship that will lead to mentorship is when the mentor feels they have a good personal connection with you and that you are worth their time because you have the potential to succeed.
And what is an indicator that such a connection is forming? Look for someone with whom you feel you have a good connection and who proactively says something such as, “Hey, I’d be happy to help however I can — just let me know, and we’ll schedule another meeting.” And they actually follow up with you.
Oh, and the mentor will ask nothing in return. And this brings us to the next mistake:
You will likely meet someone who will offer you their services at the start of your journey, telling you they can make the network connections, open doors, and guide you strategically. And that may be true, but before trusting them, make sure they were recommended by someone you know. Yet some will ask for an hourly retainer AND significant equity in your future firm.
Getting the paid assistance of advisors for a one-off job is fine. Bringing in an advisor for equity is also fine (as long as you know that they will be committed to the weekly time frame that was agreed on and that they can bring a lot of value over the next three to four years). But an advisor that asks for an hourly rate AND wants equity is likely someone trying to take advantage of you.
Two things that you should keep in mind:
- If you have found yourself a good mentor, someone who has gone down a similar path, then it is very likely that your mentor could offer the same value as the advisor or even more. This is especially true when you’re just starting your journey (down the road, things may be different).
- When investors see an advisor on your cap table from day one, and he/she is not a second-time entrepreneur or a familiar and high-value known executive, they might question your ability to execute.
So, be careful when picking advisors, especially when they ask for equity, and stay away from those who ask for both equity and an hourly paid retainer.
As you start sharing your idea and vision with others, you will run into many naysayers. Each one will have some explanation as to why your idea is not worth pursuing.
Some are just not familiar with the domain you are operating in. Others cannot comprehend how fabulous your novel technology is. And there will be those that will try to fit your idea into some familiar pattern, and when it does not, they’ll be prone to rejecting it.
I suggest listening to them but take everything with a grain of salt.
There will be harsher rejections that will feel like a punch in the face, like prospects hanging up on you, investors telling you that your idea is plain stupid, people in your network that start ghosting you after one call, etc.
You will have to endure tens and hundreds of rejections before you see the first signs of success. Do not take anything to heart, do not falter, and do not despair — the road to success is paved with rejections.
Finally, it needs to be said that you can’t always get everything properly prepared before you start your journey. Sometimes you just need to start moving, mostly because the timing is right, and any further delay would lower the chances of success. In such cases, you would need to find what you need or figure things out as you go along.
Best of luck on your journey!
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