Choose Wisely...


Thinking about launching a new business, selling an innovative product or developing a new technology? Becoming an entrepreneur and quitting your day job can be both liberating and risky. But fear not, there are many resources available to guide and support you on your journey.

In fact, the range of options can be overwhelming, confusing and conflicting. So, remember what the old crusader told Indiana Jones in the movie The Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.” The consequences of making the wrong choices early on can be problematic to say the least.

Select your resources thoughtfully and choose your mentors as carefully as you would choose your physicians. You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for heart surgery, so don’t look for a tech mentor if you’re planning to open a new restaurant.

Some believe that tech sector models work for small business start-ups as well. They don’t. “Create, fund, scale, exit” models don’t work for the passionate entrepreneur who wants to “create, scale, operate and possibly franchise the brand.” The expectations of the founders are clearly different and require a diverse set of resources, specialized advice and business planning.

So, if you’re taking advice, or offering advice as a mentor, remember this: being a mentor is a huge responsibility. Make sure you have the experience and the knowledge before you offer advice, as those words of wisdom could lead a fledgling entrepreneur down the wrong path. Good intentions alone are not enough.

The same holds true for lawyers and accountants. You’ll need specialists who have had experience with start-ups, especially if yours requires patents, licenses or multiple rounds of funding. A good accountant coupled with the right attorney will save you money and keep you out of trouble with the IRS and the SEC.

Honing your business skills will improve your chances of success. Helpful small business workshops and seminars run every week - most touting everything you need to know about starting a business and finding resources. But, don’t get trapped in the workshop-networking comfort zone. Make the rounds and learn what you can. Then overcome those lingering fears and execute what you’ve learned. Having fear is natural, so learn to manage it.

There’s a lot of chatter about not going it alone. “It takes a village,” a team or something like that. I get it. Leverage your strengths and find others to do the rest. But beware, by taking on partners you take on the added challenges of dividing responsibility, resolving conflicts and settling disagreements. So, once again, choose wisely. Good friends don’t always make the best business partners. If there’s a proven and affordable outside resource available you might be better off hiring than partnering. Breaking up is so much easier to do with outsiders.

Physical resources are important too. Working out of your basement or dorm room has its limitations and might not be the most productive or creative working space. That’s why accelerators and incubators are popping up in every major city across the nation. To varying degrees most offer co-working space, storage, offices, workshops and networking. Some offer highly structured accelerator programs with funding for those who attain certain milestones. Remember, one size does not fit all. Look for space and a program that meets the needs of your particular venture.

When looking for financial resources, you have fewer options. While it’s not likely a commercial bank will lend money for a start-up, you never know. Money to buy equipment or other tangible assets is easier to secure than funding for operations or marketing. And, when sourcing for equipment and supplies - never buy if you can lease and never lease if you can borrow. Also, choose vendors and suppliers who will work with you. Ask for lines of credit and favorable payment terms. You never know until you ask.

As your start-up gains traction, you’ll need additional resources and assistance with HR, operations, marketing and more. There are many local firms, agencies and business consultants in the area. Go for the best and negotiate the most advantageous terms for your venture. Everything but quality is negotiable.

Remember just as there’s a risk-reward factor in starting a new venture, there’s a short-term – long-term strategy with partners, suppliers and vendors. Think long term, choose the best and never compromise on quality, value or integrity. There’s too much at stake.

Source: LinkedIn

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