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4 Quick Tips On How To Be An Effective Entrepreneur

Are you an entrepreneur? If so, you’re an amazing breed of person.

I coach a handful of you and I thoroughly enjoy brainstorming the creation of new businesses with each and every one of you!

There are a few entrepreneurial tips I have to help you along the way.

Benjamin Franklin (center), working at the printing press, may have been America's first entrepreneur

Benjamin Franklin (center), working at the printing press, may have been America's first entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Tip #1: You Will NOT Find New Creative Ideas From Advisors

Once you have your business idea and are rolling with it, you are walking around 24/7 living and breathing this new baby.

And you’re going to run into numerous people…potential investors or employees or people in general trying to tell you what to do (let’s call this group “Advisors”).

These advisors are going to throw a bunch of creative ideas at you.

First lesson: don’t sweat their ideas too much. If you’re into your new idea, you’ve probably thought about their idea in some form already.

You should focus on utilizing these advisors in other ways (see below).

Entrepreneur Tip #2: What You DON’T Do Is More Important Than What You DO Do

Those who hang around with Steve Jobs say that one of his most important skills is his ability to determine what NOT to work on (whether it’s a product or a feature).

Just take a look at at the outside of Apple’s iPhone and you’ll get what I mean: it has a couple of buttons, a switch, a jack for your headphones and a glass screen (think of all the features and functionality that other mobile devices have).

Mr. Jobs had to choose NOT to add a great many things to this magical device.

Or take In-N-Out Burger…they didn’t add a single item to their menu for some 15 years (and that first item was 7-Up soda) — again, think of all the things they turned down (chicken nuggets, coffee, juice, salads, etc.).

You the entrepreneur have the same tough call to make: you have a thousand ideas and you’re going to have to pick a precious few to work on at any one time.

Entrepreneur Tip #3: The First Thing You Do Will NOT Work (Try The “Law of 7″)

While you’re going to have to pick just a handful of things to work on (whether they are business ideas or product features), I have found it useful to use The Law of 7.

The Law of 7 states that you will have to try up to 7 things (around 3 to 7 things is usually about right), and work on them very hard, to find just one success.

This is similar to the Pareto Principal in which 20% of what you do typically creates 80% of your value.

But I wanted to name my own theory so I’m gonna call it the Law of 7.

Here are some Law of 7 examples:

  • Venture Capital — VCs look for 1 in 7 of their investments to make it big
  • Advertising Partners– I find that you typically have to try up to 7 advertising partners to find one good one
  • Advertising Creative — I find that you typically have to test up to 7 different advertising creative to get one that works really well.
  • Blog postings — About one in every 7 of my blog postings seems to really pop…while the other 6 are just so-so.

So you entrepreneurs out there should keep in mind that you may need to try about 7 different versions of your business idea to find one that carries you for awhile.

But you don’t have to believe me…check out these famous companies and how they attempted to make one thing while ending up producing something else:

Let me give you examples of the first things that different companies tried:

  • Microsoft — It was founded to develop BASIC interpreters (operating systems and later applications turned out to be Microsoft’s killer products)
  • Hewlett Packard — Its first product was an audio oscillator (calculators, mini computers and printers made this company famous)
  • Craigslist — This online classifieds service (the largest of its kind) began as a simple email distribution list of local San Francisco area events sent out by “Craig” Newmark.
  • Facebook — The world’s largest social network for people of all ages was initially a network just for Harvard students and alumni.
  • Apple’s iPhone — The big breakthrough for Apple’s iPhone was actually tablet computing….Steve Jobs mentioned this to AllThingsD: Apple was working on the tablet computer (the iPad) in the early 20oo’s and Jobs said that when he saw a prototype of the iPad, he decided that the touchscreen was a perfect way to design a new phone (so he deprioritized the iPad and instead made the iPhone the priority).

Entrepreneur Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid To Start Small

I made the classic entrepreneur’s mistake when I launched the music Web site Mojam: I attempted to make it very big, very fast, with a small amount of resources.

This was 1998 and I believed the Internet was going to allow a new music brand, much the way television allowed MTV to launch.

So I positioned Mojam early on to be the “MTV of the Internet.”

The only problem was that I had only a small amount of money and no real strategic assets.

So, after studying the music market I found that the music industry consisted of three main markets:

  1. Recorded music — Mostly CDs back then
  2. Merchandise — T-shirts, posters, etc.
  3. Live music — Mostly concerts

So, I switched gears on my “MTV of the Internet” strategy and instead focused on the one part of the market that the Internet seemed to ignore: Live music.

No one was doing much in the live music space back then and our team was able to acquire a small database of music events and launch a concert listing service.

Interestingly, Wolfgang’s Vault, the company that acquired Mojam, was in the other two markets: recorded music and merchandise.

So, they were a better bet to take Mojam and go after the bigger music market  (closer to the “MTV of the Internet”).

So, if you have little in the way of resources, go after some small wins.

Don’t forget: Craig took an email list of San Francisco events and turned it into Craigslist and Mark Zuckerberg took a Harvard alumni network and turned it into Facebook!

There are many other tips to help entrepreneurs — I hope you found these four helpful.

1 Comment

  • Russell

    These are helpful tips. As an entrepreneur currently building my 4th company, I think that the most important tip for an entrepreneur is to not get too anxious and “squeeze the stick” (in hockey, when a player isn’t playing very well, they tend to try too hard, known as “squeezing the stick”, which normally results in them playing worse). Let things happen in their own time and be comfortable with the quiet lulls in-between. Trying to force things to happen just makes you look desperate and your potential customers will smell that a mile away.

    Russell Cullingworth
    Centre of Excellence for Young Adults http://www.ceya.ca