We all go through a phase where business gets tough to handle and we start facing unanswered questions. Like, what to do and what-not-to? How to be a good leader? Or if there could be just one single book that would answer all my confusions at once?
So we now present to you the 65 right-on-spot rules for being a good entrepreneur:
1. Don’t take yourself seriously. People who can make fun of themselves are the most intelligent. Also, talk less but spot-on. Your words should be valued as an entrepreneur.
2. Try not to hire people. You’ll have to hire people to expand your business. But it’s a good discipline to really question if you need each and every hire.
3. Get a customer. This seems obvious. But it’s not. Get a customer before you start your business if you can.
4. If you are offering a service, call it a product.
Oracle did it. They claimed they had a database. But if you “bought” their database they would send in a team of consultants to help you “install” the database to fit your needs.
And almost every superior software product company was a service company in the beginning. Don’t forget that.
5. It’s okay to fail. Start over. Hopefully, before you run out of money. Hopefully, before you take in investor money. Or, don’t worry about it. Come up with new ideas. Start over.
6. Be profitable. Try to be profitable immediately. This seems obvious but it isn’t. Try not to raise money. That money is expensive.
7. When raising money: if it’s not easy when your idea is probably incapable of raising money. If it’s easy, then take as much as possible and sell your company.
8. The same goes for selling your company. If it’s not easy, then you need to build more. Then sell. To sell your company, start getting in front of your acquirers a year in advance. Send them monthly updates describing your progress. Then, when they need a company like yours, your company is the first one that comes to mind.
9. Competition is good. It turns you into a killer. It helps you judge progress. It shows that other people value the space you are in. Your competitors are also your potential acquirers.
10. Don’t use a PR firm. Except maybe as a secretary. You are the PR for your company. You are your company’s brand. You personally.
I’ve never had a good PR company. I’ve had good PR secretaries. But they are cheaper. One time I hired a PR company and they accidentally sent me the contract for Terry Bradshaw. He was paying $10,000 a month. How did they do for him?
11. Communicate with everyone. Employees. Customers. Investors. All the time. Every day.
Employees want to know what to do. And they want to know you are thinking of their overall career. Customers want to know how to keep their bosses calm. Investors want to be your friend and want to know they can count on you when times are tough.
12. Do everything for your customers. This is very important. Get them, girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Visit their parents for Thanksgiving. Help them find other firms to meet their needs.
13. Your customer is not a company. There’s a human there. What will make my human customer happy? Make him laugh. You want your customer to be happy.
14. Show up. Go to breakfast/lunch/dinner with customers. Treat.
15. History. Know the history of your customers in every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history, investing history, etc.
16. Micro-manage software development. Nobody knows your product better than you do. If you aren’t a technical person, learn how to be very specific in your product specification so that your programmers can’t say: “well you didn’t say that!”
17. Hire local. You need to be able to see and talk to your programmers. Don’t outsource to India. I love India. But I won’t hire programmers from there while I’m living in the US.
18. Sleep. Don’t buy into the 20 hours a day entrepreneur myth. You need to sleep 8 hours a day to have a focused mind.
19. Exercise. Same as above. If you are unhealthy, your product will be unhealthy.
20. Emotionally Fit. DON’T have dating problems and software development problems at the same time. VCs will smell this all over you.
21. Pray. You need to. Be grateful where you are. And pray for success. You deserve it. Pray for the success of your customers. Heck, pray for the success of your competitors. The better they do, it means the market is getting bigger. And if one of them breaks out, they can buy you.
22. Buy your employees gifts. Massages. Tickets. Whatever.
23. Treat your employees like they are your children. They need boundaries. They need to be told “no!” sometimes.
24. Don’t be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good and you price it cheap, people will buy. Then you can price upgrades, future products, and future services more expensive. Which goes along with the next rule.
25. Distribution is everything. Branding is everything. Get your name out there, whatever it takes. The best distribution is of course word of mouth, which is why your initial pricing doesn’t matter.
26. Don’t kill yourself. It’s not worth it. Your employees need you.
27. Give employees structure. Let each employee know how his or her path to success can be achieved. All of them will either leave you or replace you eventually. That’s OK. Give them the guidelines how that might happen. Tell them how they can get rich by working for you.
28. Fire employees immediately. If an employee gets “the disease” he needs to be fired. If they ask for more money all the time. If they bad mouth you to other employees. If you even think they are talking behind your back, fire them.
29. Make friends with your landlord. If you ever have to sell your company, believe it or not, you are going to need his signature (because there’s going to be a new lease owner)
30. Only move offices if you are so packed in that employees are sharing desks and there’s no room for people to walk.
31. Have killer parties. But use your personal money. Not company money. Invite employees, customers, and investors.
32. If an employee comes to you crying, close the door or take him or her out of the building. Sit with him until it stops. Listen to what he has to say. If someone is crying then there’s been a major communication breakdown somewhere in the company. Listen to what it is and fix it. Don’t get angry at the culprit. Just fix the problem.
33. At festivals, donate money to every customer’s favourite charity. But not for investors or employees.
34. Have lunch with your competitors. Listen and try not to talk. One competitor (Bill Markel from Interactive 8) once told me a story about how the CEO of Toys R Us returned his call. He was telling me this because I never returned Bill’s calls. Ok, Bill, lesson noted.
35. Ask advice a lot. Ask your customers advice on how you can be introduced into other parts of their company. Then they will help you. Because of the next rule…
36. Hire your customers. Or not. But always leave open the possibility. Let it always dangle in the air between you and them. They can get rich with you. Maybe. Possibly. If they play along. So play.
37. On any demo or delivery, do one extra surprise thing that was not expected. Always add bells and whistles that the customer didn’t pay for.
38. Understand the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where are marketing dollars flowing and can you be in the middle? What services do ageing baby boomers need? Is the world running out of clean water?
39. Don’t go to a lot of parties or “meetups” with other entrepreneurs. Work instead while they are partying.
40. But, going along with the above rule, don’t listen to the doom and gloomers that are hogging the TV screen trying to tell you the world is over. They just want you to be scared so they can scoop up all the money.
41. You have no more free time. In your free time, you are thinking of new ideas for customers, new ideas for services to offer, new products.
42. You have no more free time, part 2. In your free time, think of ideas for potential customers. Then send them emails: “I have 10 ideas for you. Would really like to show them to you. I think you will be blown away. Here’s five of them right now.”
43. Depressions, recessions, don’t matter. There’s $15 trillion in the economy. You’re allowed a piece of it:
44. Talk. Tell everyone you ever knew what your company does. Your friends will help you find clients.
45. Always take someone with you to a meeting. You’re bad at following up. Because you have no free time. So, if you have another employee. Let them follow up. Plus, they will like to spend time with the boss. You’re going to be a mentor.
46. If you are consumer-focused: your advertisers are your customers. But always be thinking of new services for your consumers.
47. If your customers are advertisers: find sponsorship opportunities for them that drive customers straight into their arms. These are the most lucrative ad deals (see rule above). Ad inventory is a horrible business model. Sponsorships are better. Then you are talking to your customer.
48. No friction. The harder it is for a consumer to sign up, the less consumers you will have. No confirmation emails, sign up forms, etc. The easier the better.
49. No fiction, part 2. If you are making a website, have as much content as you can on the front page. You don’t want people to have to click to a second or third page if you can avoid it. Stuff that the first page with content. You aren’t Google. (And, 10 Unusual Things You Didn’t Know About Google)
50. No friction, part 3. Say “yes” to any opportunity that gets you in a room with a big decision maker. Doesn’t matter if it costs you money.
51. Sell your company two years before you sell it. Get in the offices of the potential buyers of your company and start updating them on your progress every month. Ask their advice on a regular basis in the guise of just an “industry catch-up”
52. If you sell your company for stock, sell the stock as soon as you can.
53. Don’t use a PR firm. Set up a blog. Tell your personal stories. Become the voice of your industry, the advocate for your products.
54. Don’t save the world. If your product sounds too good to be true, then you are a liar.
55. Frame the first check.
56. No free time, part. Pick a random customer. Find five ideas for them that have nothing to do with your business. Call them and say, “I’ve been thinking about you. Have you tried this?”
57. No resale deals. Nobody cares about reselling your service. Those are always bad deals.
58. Your lawyer or accountant is not going to introduce you to any of their other clients. Those meetings are always a waste of time.
59. Celebrate every success. Your employees need it. They need a massage also. Get a professional masseuse in every Friday afternoon. Nobody leaves a job where there is a masseuse.
60. Sell your first company. I have to repeat this. Don’t take any chances. You don’t need to be Mark Zuckerberg. Sell your first company as quick as you can. You now have money in the bank and a notch on your belt. Make a billion on your next company.
61. Pay your employees before you pay yourself.
62. Give equity to get the first customer. If you have no product yet and no money, then give equity to a good partner in exchange for them being a paying customer.
63. Don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. Ideas are worthless anyway. It’s OK to steal something that’s worthless.
64. Be ready for change every day. In fact, every day figure out what you can change just slightly to shake things up and improve your product and company.
65. Eat more than you sweat. And, do more than you think.