In 2009 I left my corporate job at Google to start my own business. I capture helpful thoughts to share here.I update this when I have extra time (rarely) or want to add/modify things. This is just me thinking out loud along the way!
In no particular order … here is my start up advice (i.e. the rules of starting up). As I am in tech, this may be slanted towards me starting my .commie but I believe most of this holds true for people that just want to start a business and work for them self! … which I encourage.
No Facebook Unless For Business
As cool as it is to stay connected to all your friends forever and ever and ever, Facebook is a time suck and when you’re *starting up* time is everything. Additionally it tends to distract your focus from what you were trying to achieve. FWIW, I break this one all the time, but am working on changing this thus rule #1 … the best thing to do is to not use Facebook at all as it distracts your focus.
Acceptable uses could be maintaining strong business connections, business networking, business research.
Only read the news you need to know via Google Reader via your phone when in line / and or killing time (i.e. again at a Dr’s office)
Reading is great, don’t get me wrong, and staying up to speed on industry news is critical to working in tech, but this can kill time, especially if done at the beginning of the day. Batch this for the end of the day or even better end of the week. Go through it on your iPhone when you’re in line. If anything is really critical, it will get to you (you just won’t be the first person to know). Also change your view, to list instead of expanded. You’ll just be reading the headlines to see if anything jumps out of you and you’ll be digesting a lot more, faster.
Focus on SEO from the beginning
*If* you’re starting a web site that I imagine you’ll want people to find, focus on SEO from the beginning. This will help you not have to re-engineer things later and this is free traffic people. Of course user experience comes first (don’t forget that) but don’t do stupid things that go against the SEO grain. It’s well cited that one of Yelp’s biggest wins was the fact that it benefited greatly from SEO early on … Google has changed significantly since that though, so be aware … you can optimize, but you can’t guarantee search results unless you pay for them via Google AdWords or similar service.
Embrace the mountain
If you’re going out on your own you better not be afraid of the mountain. It’s gonna be big and I hope you’ve been here by yourself before or you may freak out and come down before you get to the top. Don’t freak out. More on climbing.
Be confident, enthusiastic and passionate
You’ve got to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you’re not convinced, good luck convincing anyone else. An entrepreneur should radiate how passionate and jazzed they are about what they are working on.
Get In Your Head
People are going to try and throw you off. Competitors are going to try and intimidate you. Naysayers will punch holes in your plans. Jealous people will smirk at what you are doing. Don’t let them knock you down. Get in your head, be strong and focused … i think this is properly called ‘Flow’.
Build Bridges, Don’t Burn Them
Always work to build strong, authentic, trustful relationships. The last thing you need when you’re struggling is people against you, so stay on good terms with everyone, especially those in your industry. There is a way to disagree with people and still be respectable.
Talk To People About Your Idea
Stealth Smealth. Get out there and talk to people about your idea. Chris Dixon does a good job of explaining this in one of the blog posts at the bottom. He is very successful entrepreneur/investor.
Be A Professional
Be on time. Be respectful. Be collaborative. Be a professional. More on my thoughts on Professional vs Amateur .
Remember That You Are Your Brand
If you’re a one man shop, you are definitely your brand. As you expand, your team is your brand. Highly recommend you keep that in mind.
Work From Your Heart
If you work from your heart, your passion will follow and you will be successful. I truly beleive this. All of our hearts are different, so focus on your heart and your passion not someone elses!
Don’t Be Greedy
My brother Johnny loves to say this pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered … he ran a *very* successful hedge fund in Birmingham, Alabama … not New York City.
If you are reading this, you can do it … you’ve already started the process. Look back on your life at all of your successes, believe in yourself! … Here are some more thoughts from me on you can do it!
Learn From Your Mistakes, You Will Make Mistakes
Starting up is no different than real life … learn from your mistakes. *Every* successful entrepreneur has a failed venture … *every* successful entrepreneur knows this … it’s in a lot of books!
Be Original With A Twist
Everything is recycled … before there was Google … there was Yahoo … there was also this thing called AOL web crawler.
If you *really* want to build a business, i hope you *really* want to do this, because it may not happen in a week, a month, a year or 10. Most start-ups fail, like most restaurants, etc.
Recently I heard Richard Branson speak. A nice line was ‘… at a young age I learned the art of dedication’.
If you are in tech, there is no doubt technology changes. If you are not in tech, i have some news for you, technology is not going away … at least not after the Industrial Revolution … so I highly recommend you embrace ‘learning’ … if you are reading this, I have no doubt you are a great learner! … my new friend Nik (he is smart/successful) just lectured at NASA about ‘our’ need to keep learning (as well as other things) … back to rule #14.
Understand The Exception
Rules can be broken, but the key is understanding the exception … the key is understanding the rule well enough to understand the exception.
I’ve learned this the hard way sometimes. Focus is everything. Clear your head & focus on the task at hand. Evan Williams (Founder of Medium,Twitter & Blogger) said it best in some advice he shares here.
Conscious Business – I wish someone would have given me this book when I was 25. I learned a lot from Fred. Sheryl (COO) of facebook.com had many people in her organization go through Fred Koffman’s company training.
The 4 Hour Work Week – Tim is a smart dude that makes some great points and is entertaining.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – People think this stuff is common sense .. the least common of the senses is common sense.
The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth – This is more of a philosophical book written as an allegory that I think will aid in your journey.
The Four Agreements: : A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Again a philosophical book I think will aid in your journey.
Recommended Blog Posts
Elad Gill on Entrepreneurial Traits … Elad sold his company to Twitter.
Steve Blank on the the Entrepreneurial Revolution … he is a professor at Haas School of Business and has several great books.
Chris Dixon on why you should talk to people about your idea! He is in tech, but please don’t focus on the idea being in tech … an idea is an idea.
Formula for Entrepreneurial Success
Colin Powell has wonderful thoughts on leadership … if you are starting your own company, you are ‘leading’ it … try this google search. Warning, I once was told by my old bosses boss that I’m not Colin Powell for following his rules ;-) … my brother Alexander turned me on this.