A little over a year ago, I left Microsoft, or rather Microsoft left me. After a few weeks of vacation, I registered my company, Aetheis. The demons of entrepreneurship had been tickling me for a while and I was finally going to be able to put my 10 years of entrepreneurship at EFII, my previous company, back into use.
Chance does not happen! I recently came across this article: Stuff They Don’t Tell You Should you start a company? While it is aimed primarily at the creatives of advertising agencies, it is full of common sense as to the decision to leave the company that feeds you and launch your own business.
So, to illustrate the title of this post, which I unashamedly borrowed from the Clash, here is my version of « What if I create my own company?” It is often said that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. For sure, you must have a certain amount of madness, be strong, have a lot of perseverance and be ready to work long hours. So, if this who you are, let’s continue together.
Cash Is King
That’s rule number one. Without cash, any entrepreneur will quickly close shop. Financial control is essential. You need money to live and you need money to run your show. Even when you start with a comfortable capital, money tends to disappear very quickly!
The goal is not to deprive yourself beyond reasonable, but to be somehow reasonable. It often means, at least at the beginning, reducing your lifestyle, being frugal, weighing your investments and always making sure that the bank account stays in positive territories. You may need your banker at some point. It’s better to show him or her that you know how to manage your pennies.
You don’t have to be a financial management artist. However, one of your first expenses will have to go to an accountant. Choose one that is used to startups and listen to him or her (but not too much, you need some madness as well)!
Customer Is King
There are already two kings: cash and customer. The faster you’ll receive cash from your customers, the better off you will be. This means that time will have to be spent on prospecting and selling.
Whether you have a digital business and use mostly digital marketing tools or have a more traditional business and must go after customers is irrelevant. The important thing is to move your butt and go prospecting. If you believe that because you’re awesome, customers will rush to your door, you prepare yourself to go from disillusionment to disillusionment.
But you’ve never sold anything! This is the number one skill of any entrepreneur. Second investment after the accountant: a salesperson’s training! Between you and me, selling is not difficult, it’s a matter of perseverance, each “No” bringing you closer to your next client’s Yes. This being the case, with a little bit of technique and sales talk, you’re going to be fine.
Before I created EFII in 1993, a friend of mine, Michel, answered my fear of selling by telling me that starting a business also means hiring employees who would complement what I didn’t know how to do well. He was not entirely wrong. It also means that if you have a good friend who would sell refrigerators to Inuits, you can ask him or her for advice and why not hire him or her, or start the business with him or her. Results: Don’t overlook prospecting and creating your lead pipeline.
Be Curious, Make Choices And Focus
I usually have at least one new business idea a day. Opportunities are all around you, every day. Not all ideas are good, however. Inherently, they are, but in reality, sometimes the obstacles are too high, if not totally unavoidable.
An idea may require too much cash and you don’t want to put a financial partner in the equation now. Another may require administrative authorizations and that will need a lot of effort and time. Another, finally, is so crazy that it may not work.
Great! Write down these ideas in a special digital or paper notebook. Spend fifteen minutes writing the big steps of their achievements, the obstacles to get around and the time when you think you’ll spend some time on them, then forget about them, for now!
You can’t do everything. To return to the first rule, cash is king, your number one goal is to create a company that makes money. Focus on this goal before developing your other ideas. I know it’s frustrating but starting a business means dealing with frustrations and making strengths of it.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Well, but how does this differ from a top job in a large company? It’s all about control! At the head of your own business, you have control. In someone else’s business, even in a management position or even at the head, you have only limited control. In the end, if you don’t care about depending on others, then entrepreneurship is probably