Archive for March 2011
When I first launched a company, PowerDown, I had no clue how to start a business. I wish I had a step-by-step guide as to what it takes to be successful.
Now, I’ve broken down nine interesting points that I was surprised to learn. While I don’t claim to be an expert, I can at least provide some guidance to whip your business idea into shape.
The aim of PowerDown was to increase energy efficiency in the residential sector by addressing human behavior. Essentially, we were looking for innovative ways to motivate people to save electricity. People who signed up for PowerDown participated in a competition to save electricity that was administrated by us, and the resulting energy bill savings were donated to a charity that was hand-picked by the participants themselves. My lessons to share:
1. You don’t have to be a “risk taker” to be an entrepreneur. Since the economic crisis started in 2008, all jobs are technically “risky.” Corporate jobs are no longer secure. Everybody has a friend or a family member that has been laid off. In terms of entrepreneurship, it turns out you don’t have to be the “bungee jumping type” to be successful. If you do enough research, starting a business is a lot less risky than it seems. If you plan and strategize enough, you can redefine the meaning of “risk.”
2. “Stupid” questions aren’t so bad. Be bold, ask tons of questions. It is the only way to learn from those who have been there before us. If the question is actually stupid, people tend to have short term memories and will probably forget you even asked.
3. Seek opportunity from other people’s comments. My mom always had a unique outlook; she used to tell me, “Don’t believe anything you hear. Most people are ‘liars’, even if they don’t mean to be.” Everything we say is biased. When forming an opinion, try to figure out where the other person is coming from.
4. Practice makes perfect. While at college, a mentor of mine encouraged me to test my idea about a new way to save energy in the “real world.” He said, “Now is the time to be completely honest with yourself. You don’t have to worry about failing since no one will know.” We put our business plan to the test by having dorms compete against each other to see how to save the most energy. We learned that rivalry does spark behavior change. The kids took a mundane topic and turned it into a fun, competitive game.
5. Read, read, read. If you are contemplating starting your own business, read everything you can about that industry. Check out industry journals, industry association websites and newsletters. Use the Internet to do market research and study trends and demographics.
6. Find your place. I got many conflicting messages about how I should find “the right idea.” I was told to never follow the flock. If you are pursuing an idea that is already “popular” then you are too late to the game. Do something different. Be different but not so different that it becomes weird.
7. Create your own luck. If you think 100 percent luck will make you successful, stop reading. I know that hard work increases my chances of luck. An old boss once told me, “Make the 100th call, even if all the others were failures. It just takes one.” Strategic, disciplined work eventually got me where I wanted to go.
8. You have to be in “love” to find the perfect idea. We all have heard over and over, “Find something you love to do, and you will be successful. What if you don’t have a “true love”? Then try to figure out what your real passion is. Don’t try something you will lose interest in quickly. You won’t have the stamina to stay with it when obstacles arise.
9. What is more important – a genius idea or excellent execution? If you have a good idea, your clients might help you turn it into a “genius idea” with some of their input. Potential clients can help you flesh out the details of your business plan and turn a good idea into a homerun. To be a success, you must help your clients solve their problems with creativity and competence.
So what are you waiting for? Find an idea now and be brave!
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