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Lessons from an entrepreneur: Start before you are ready

I attended an entrepreneurship summit recently, where I was asked to help select and distribute an interesting award. Attendees were asked to write down something inspiring they learned at the summit and the best entry would win.

The majority of attendees entered the same mantra from an earlier speaker: Start before you’re ready. However, only one attendee went the extra mile and described what that principle meant to him. He applied the knowledge and was named the winner.

I was impressed by that because, of all the so-called entrepreneurs in the room, he was the real deal.

Thinking about this, I decided to look at my own entrepreneurship efforts (some successful and some not) to see how the “Start before you’re ready” mantra could apply to me. Here’s what I learned:

Don’t wait for perfection before launching your idea. In an effort not to fail, many entrepreneurs spend precious time and money perfecting a product or service before launching it to the market. I am no different. When developing an idea I had for a new social network, I was focused on creating the best user experience possible before launching it, when I should have launched the idea and let users guide my product development. Looking back, I wish I would have spent half the time and money on my MVP (minimum viable product) because my early adopters would likely work through challenges with me.

Focus on a few user scenarios first. Entrepreneurs want everyone to love their idea, and this can cause paralysis. Instead of trying to build a product for everyone, it’s better to focus on a few use cases, learn from these users to refine your idea, and then roll the idea out to more users. My reluctance to walk away from my big vision delayed the launch of my social network into the market and also watered down the user experience.

Pick the right investors and meet with them quickly. Even if you’re not yet looking for funding, it’s important to begin conversations early with the right investors. When launching my idea, I made the mistake of reaching out to the investors I know, not necessarily the right investors. Instead of talking to investors who understand B2C companies, I went to my tried-and-true network of B2B investors, spending time with people who would never invest in my idea. Instead, I should have used my investor contacts to network to find the right investors for my idea.

Claim your seat at the table. When talking with investors and other advisors, it’s easy to get pulled off task by following advice that’s not right for your idea. When meeting with advisors, ask yourself what you want to get out of the meeting and stay true to your idea. I ended up following advice that caused me to abandon some major features I had planned for my idea. These features would have driven value to a user, but I was pulled in another direction.

Finally, entrepreneurial success is often about people and execution, but it also is about timing. When looking at today’s great entrepreneurial companies, it’s clear that they had the right idea hitting the right market at the right time. It’s almost impossible to replicate this as a template or best practice. This is why it is so critical to solicit market feedback early and often to further assess the timing and market readiness.

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About Jenny Vance

Jenny Vance is one of the leading women entrepreneurs in Indianapolis. She is the co- founder of LeadJen, a lead generation company, which she has grown to nearly 100 employees serving hundreds of companies across the United States, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500. She also is co-founder of Salesvue (formerly Jesubi), a CRM software…