In business, “thinking big” simply means pursuing ideas that maximize the scope of your potential. Likewise, it can mean pursuing ideas that have maximum impact in the world.
Create New Markets
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. —Henry Ford, founder, Ford Motor Company
Blue Ocean Strategy, a best-selling business book, makes a cogent argument that creating new markets known as “blue oceans” is better than competing in overcrowded industries known as “red oceans”.
Work on Your Business, Not in Your Business
If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. — Michael Gerber, author, The E-Myth
Until an entrepreneur’s company runs without the founder, that person is just self-employed, the lowest rung in the hierarchy of entrepreneurs. The unfortunate reality for millions of entrepreneurs is that their business depends on them way too much.
All Risk Isn’t Risky
Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing. —Warren Buffett, businessman, investor, philanthropist
All risk isn’t risky, and entrepreneurs know this rule. Put another way, the reality of becoming an entrepreneur isn’t so much about the high probability or risk of failure as much as your ability to beat the odds. Ironically, the entire world has learned this lesson from the Great Recession.
Don’t Waste Time
Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin. —Victor Kiam, entrepreneur; former owner, New England Patriots
If you lack the sense of urgency to grow your business, evaluate why you want to be in business. Perhaps you are not passionate about the business idea. Maybe your subconscious tells you that the idea isn’t worth pursuing. Maybe the idea isn’t yours and you feel no allegiance to it, or maybe you lack the self-discipline to be an entrepreneur. Whatever the reason, your lack of enthusiasm is not a good sign.
Build a Company That Is Systems-Dependent, Not People-Dependent
Being a start-up doesn’t mean you have to operate haphazardly and without systems. While some degree of organizational chaos is unavoidable, you should still create, think through, and continually optimize your systems so that you are less dependent on people. Taking this step up front puts you further along the path to reaching your goals and allows you to know you’re in the mode of building a company.
Ask for Help
Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it. —W. Clement Stone, businessman, philanthropist
One of the quickest ways to lead a life of mediocrity or utter failure is to think that you can accomplish a major task all by yourself. The self-made man or woman is a myth. Even the greatest business minds of our time had to ask for help. One of my favorite examples is that of Mark Zuckerberg, who asked his parents to help finance his young company, Facebook.
Business Comes First, Family Second
Good things happen when you get your priorities straight. —Scott Caan, actor
One of the biggest advantages of entrepreneurship is independence and flexibility to prioritize. If your business is doing well, you deserve to take more breaks and to spend quality time with family. If not, you should be hard at work, making sure that you can provide for your family and generations to come.
Do What’s Most Important First
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. —Stephen Covey, best-selling author, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
If you are like most entrepreneurs, the lure of crossing something off your task list is too great to pass up. As you bask in the happiness of having crossed off another menial task, the more important tasks are pushed further down your to-do list and often forgotten. It’s ironic how the most important items keep getting put off and therefore become, in reality, a low priority. We fool ourselves into believing that we are actually making significant progress by doing several little things.
Hire a Good Lawyer
A good business attorney will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business. —Cliff Ennico, author, The Small Business Survival Guide
First, when you are ready to start your business, an attorney will recommend a legal entity that is best for you. Do you set up a sole proprietorship, a C corporation, an S corporation, a limited liability company, or a limited liability partnership?
Second, an attorney helps you protect your intellectual property (IP).
Third, an attorney reviews the legal documents your company creates and receives from others to ensure that your interests are protected.
The Business Plan Is Overrated
No business plan survives first contact with a customer. —Steve Blank, Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur
First, examine the competitive landscape to see what companies are already there. What do they do poorly? What can you do differently to create a competitive advantage? Second, discuss the idea with potential customers, asking basic questions that determine how much they would value your product or service, which is perhaps the most important preliminary step to writing the business plan. Third, develop a sketch or basic prototype of the product. If it’s a service, map out vital steps and describe customer experiences
Require Criticism and Disagreement in Your Company
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress. — Mahatma Gandhi, Indian nationalism leader, social activist
When my company was young I committed the mistake of creating a culture in which everyone agreed with me. I only accepted individuals on my team who thought like me or who took orders happily.
Now I actively seek people who will ruffle my feathers by criticizing my ideas. When possible, I make these critics a part of my team. Otherwise, I keep them close by for consultation.
Fire Your Worst Customers
Making the decision to pass on a customer is especially difficult for young or new entrepreneurs who are hungry for business and revenues. However, choosing bad customers can cause a lot of frustration, drain resources, damage your reputation, and eventually put you out of business.
Make Money While Doing Nothing
$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. —Timothy Ferriss, author, The 4-Hour Workweek
Times have certainly changed, but disdain for those who gain wealth from inheriting money, charging interest, or making effortless deals still manifests itself—whether through Occupy Wall Street protests or petty gossip. The average person, especially one who labors physically, abhors the idea of people amassing wealth by doing nothing. It goes against the good ol’ Protestant work ethic on which the United States was built. The idea, often fueled by intense jealousy, makes many people quite uncomfortable.
Outsourcing Makes Sense
If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business. — Lee Kaun Yew, former prime minister, Singapore
Quite simply, the benefits of outsourcing outweigh any negatives as its opponents describe them. Besides, you must do what’s best for your business. Whether you’re sending work to a contractor in Singapore or a vendor in South Carolina, outsourcing is good for business. Any functionality that is not core to your business should be outsourced at the best cost and quality
Move On Fast from a Bad Business Idea
Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have. — Emile Chartier, French philosopher, journalist
So many entrepreneurs hold on to a bad idea far too long. They refuse to acknowledge that things are going south or have no promise, and they go down with the sinking ship. This problem is common among novice entrepreneurs. They tend to think that the idea they have is the only good one they’ve got, demanding an all-or-nothing response with no retreat possible
Don’t let a bad idea derail your plans for greatness. If it isn’t working, move on or adjust quickly.
A Bad Economy Is a Great Opportunity
Many of the biggest companies in history—and smaller ones, too—thrived during a bad economy. For example, Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, was started during a recession in 1975. During that time, unemployment was high and gas prices were through the roof due to OPEC’s decision to increase prices drastically. A few other companies founded during difficult economic times are Disney, IBM, and General Motors.
Entrepreneurs do not allow a bad economy to hold them back from accomplishing their goals. Ironically, poor economic conditions often have the opposite effect; they motivate entrepreneurs more and propel them to success even faster.
Adopt Technology Early
Not only are entrepreneurs early adopters, but they also explore technologies way before they are even introduced to the general public for consumption. Thus, find every opportunity to learn about what technology is the next big thing. This practice pays tremendous dividends.
Ignorance Can Be Bliss
To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence. —Mark Twain, author, humorist
What do a majority of the top-twenty richest Americans have in common? They worked in the industry that they would eventually dominate. Bill Gates was a computer programmer; Warren Buffett was a trader; Larry Ellison studied computer design; George Soros was a trader; Jeff Bezos studied computer science; Mark Zuckerberg studied computer science as well.
The data indicate that in order to be a wealthy individual or successful entrepreneur, you should probably be an expert in or knowledgeable of the industry you strive to dominate, although there are exceptions to that rule.
Adapt to Change Quickly
Change before you have to. —Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric
Change is inevitable, but it is not easy. Change happens when the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change. A business that doesn’t change or reinvent itself periodically will experience the pain of bankruptcy. At that grim point, change is the only option.
Companies that have reached a degree of success are most likely to resist change and to stretch their pain threshold. If something is not broken, don’t try to fix it, right? Wrong. There are countless examples of large companies that dominated the market for long periods, but now are struggling just to stay alive.
Technology Is an Opportunity, Not a Threat
There are countless stories of people resisting technological innovations and getting it wrong. These people claim that Facebook is spooky; Twitter is a waste of time; and Pinterest … what is that? These skeptics are the progeny of Ken Olson. Sooner or later, they, too, will be out of business. Don’t let that happen to you.
Always Follow Up
Success comes from taking the initiative and following up. —Anthony Robbins, author, professional speaker
Common reasons for failing to follow up cripple you. Entrepreneurs don’t miss opportunities; they seize them. The surest way to do this is to follow up with everybody, especially people who can help your business excel.
Have Laserlike Focus
People think focus means saying “yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying “no” to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.
Nonprofit Really Means Profit
Opportunity often comes disguised. —Napoleon Hill, author, Think and Grow Rich
If you think that serving the nonprofit sector is a waste of time, just ask Facebook. The social media giant has profited greatly from its popular Causes application. Causes serves hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations every day, making Facebook millions of dollars in processing fees and from customizing fundraising campaigns. Not only Facebook, but also many other companies consider the nonprofit sector to be an important business segment. Hence, from the very beginning, see how your product or service can serve nonprofits. Chances are that you will realize that nonprofit really means profit—at least for you.
Explore New Adventures for Inspiration
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. —Frank Borman, retired NASA astronaut
It’s hard to believe that a chance trip to Italy brought us Star-bucks as we know it today. There isn’t a major city on planet Earth that doesn’t have a Starbucks. Had Schultz not made that famous trip, who knows where millions of people would buy their coffee in the morning and meet to form a start-up? The evidence is in the coffee, so to speak.
Placing yourself in new environments and exploring new things enables you to apply those experiences to other facets of life. You become a synthesizer, a skill that, honed properly, could be the key to your next big opportunity in business.
Failure Doesn’t Kill You; It Makes You Stronger
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. —Henry Ford, founder, Ford Motor Company
Failure is inevitable in entrepreneurship, but how you deal with failure determines whether you are ultimately a winner.
Seek Partnerships for the Right Reasons
If put together properly, partnerships can significantly boost your business. The key to establishing an effective partnership is best described by start-up guru Guy Kawasaki: “The gist of good partnering is that it should accelerate cash flow, increase revenue, and reduce costs. Partnerships built on solid business principles like these have a much greater likelihood of succeeding.”
Be a Master at Leveraging Resources
If you want to conserve your cash, find ways to leverage what you have to get what you want. As you begin to implement this strategy, be very careful not to overdo it. Choose only certain companies to engage in this type of arrangement. You must be strategic about every deal and understand the motives and desires of all parties involved. A common problem is that once a vendor knows that you are willing to trade or do nontraditional deals, you may be held to that standard or less. Thus, you run the risk of being able to change expectations about types of payment and terms. Also, influencers in the same circles may share the details of your deal with others who under normal circumstances would pay you.
An Idea’s Execution, Not Its Uniqueness, Yields Success
A common perception of an entrepreneur is the idea-generating, dream-chasing idealist. This one-sided view overlooks the equally important part of the entrepreneur that is an unyielding executioner. Facebook’s cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had a big vision to “dominate” communication on the Internet, and he could communicate his perspective better than anyone. He also knew how to make that vision happen—and he made it happen. If you are banking on the merit of your idea and not the efficiency of its execution, you are headed for trouble. You will probably end up like the people who begrudged my success in college, saying, “I had that idea.”
Find an Enemy
Like Apple and Microsoft, there are numerous other rivalries in business. Just to name a few, there’s Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, McDonald’s and Burger King, Ford and General Motors, Verizon and AT&T, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, and the list continues. All of these companies fight one another for market share and world domination. It can get pretty dirty, too, with firms spying on and suing one another. Despite the negatives, these fierce rivalries have a benefit that is seldom mentioned: They fuel a competitive environment that motivates each company to excel. Entrepreneurs should be well aware of this phenomenon and how to use it to their advantage.
Don’t Underestimate Your Competition
Often entrepreneurs focus only on other companies that have very similar business models. To expand on the examples given in the definition, a hot dog company may only research other hot dog companies, a sweater company may only research other sweater companies, and so on. This myopic perspective ignores the competitive threat of dissimilar substitutes and can cause the downfall of a good company.
For example, it could be argued that Blockbuster’s demise occurred because it failed to adequately assess the threat of a substitute, Netflix, which was the first company to offer a DVD-by-mail service. As the price of Blockbuster’s video rental services increased, so did the demand of Netflix’s services, which were so much more convenient than walking into a brick-and-mortar store. Had Blockbuster correctly assessed the threat in the beginning, it would have had a better chance to survive by implementing its own DVD-by-mail service. Instead, it increased its video rental prices and didn’t introduce a DVD-by-mail service until 2004, years after Netflix had seized a large portion of the market.
Ask for What You Want
There’s a big difference between thinking and knowing what is possible versus having the courage to ask for it. If you want something, I encourage you to ask for it. You will be surprised to see what it gets you from time to time.
No Competition Means Your Idea Probably Has Little Merit
No competition probably means you have a bad business idea on your hands. There are several reasons for bad business ideas, but these four are quite common and useful to remember, especially when analyzing a barren marketplace. Therefore, each one warrants your special attention. Often what looks like a harmless path to success is really a dangerous path leading you right off a cliff.
Put Out Fires Quickly
The man who has no problems is out of the game. —Elbert Hubbard, writer, philosopher
To be great in business means to be great at putting out fires quickly. They are inevitable, and one of the biggest fires you’ll have to put out is an urgent customer complaint. Making sure that you resolve customer complaints in the best way possible, so as to ensure that customers stay with your company, should not be something you learn while on the job, if you can help it. Prepare for the fire, and your chances of avoiding a customer conflagration will be much better.
Have an Exit Strategy
Begin with the end in mind. —Stephen Covey
The biggest benefit to planning your exit from the very beginning is that it helps you to make good decisions for your business. If you fail to plan your exit strategy, you can pretty much plan on failing.