James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, blogger and podcaster who has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr and says he has failed at 17 of them, wrote a blogpost titled “The 100 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur”
He starts out by saying that to him, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean starting the next “Facebook “or even starting any business at all.
It means finding the challenges you have in your life, and determining creative ways to overcome those challenges.
Here are some of the rules he gave, which I think can be applicable to the Nigerian setting:
- It’s not fun. I’m not going to explain why it’s not fun. These are rules. Not theories. I don’t need to prove them. But there is a strong chance you can hate yourself throughout the process of being an entrepreneur. Keep sharp objects away during your worst moments.
- 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.
- Get a customer. This seems obvious. But it’s not. Get a customer before you start your business if you can. So many people say to me “I have an idea. Can you introduce me to VCs?
There is a HUGE gap between “idea” and “professional venture capital”
In the middle of that gap is “customer”.
- 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.
In other words, for the first several years of their existence, they claimed to have a product but they were really a consulting company. Don’t forget this story. Products are valued higher than services.
And almost EVERY major software product company was a service company in the beginning. Don’t forget that.
- It’s OK 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.
- Be profitable. Try to be profitable immediately. This seems obvious but it isn’t. Try not to raise money. That money is expensive.
- When raising money: If it’s not easy then your idea is probably incapable of raising money. If it’s easy, then take as much as possible. If it’s TOO easy, then sell your company.
- 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 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 on that comes to mind.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do everything for your customers. This is very important. Get them girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Help them find other firms to meet their needs. Even introduce them to your competitors if you think a competitor can help them or if you think you are about to be fired. Always think first, “What’s going to make my customer happy?”
Note: EVEN if that means introduce them to a competitor. If you are the SOURCE, then everybody comes back to the source.
- 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.
- Show up. Go to breakfast/lunch/dinner with customers.
- Know the history of your customers in every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history, investing history, etc.
- Micro-manage. Software development. Nobody knows your product better than you do. If you aren’t a technical person, learn how to be specific in your product specification so that your programmers can’t say: “well you didn’t say that!”
- Hire local. You need to be able to see and talk to your programmers. Don’t outsource to India.
- Don’t buy into the 20 hours a day entrepreneur myth. You need to sleep 8 hours a day to have a focused mind.
If you are working 20 hours a day, then that means you have flaws in how you are managing your time. You can argue about this but it’s true.
- Same as above. If you are unhealthy, your product will be unhealthy.
- Emotionally DON’T have dating problems and software development problems at the same time. VCs will smell this all over you.
- Pray. You need to. Be grateful where you are. 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.
- Buy your employees gifts. Tickets. Whatever.
- Treat your employees like they are your children.
They need boundaries. They need to be told “no” sometimes. But within boundaries, let them play.
- Don’t be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good and you price it cheap, people will buy. 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.
Write a blog about your industry and be very honest about all the flaws (even your own) that is currently in your industry.
Authenticity is the best branding.
- 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.
- 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.
The disease has no cure. And it’s very contagious. Show no mercy. Show the employee the door.
- Only move offices if you are so packed, that employees are sharing desks and there’s no room for people to walk.
- Have killer parties. But use your personal money. Not company money. Invite employees, customers, and investors.
- 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’s. Just fix the problem.
- Have lunch with your competitors. Listen and try not to talk.
- 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…
- 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.
- On and demo or delivery,
Do one extra surprise thing that was not expected. Always add things that the customers didn’t pay for.
This is such an easy way to over deliver I’m surprised people don’t do it 100% of the time. They do it maybe 1% of the time. So this is an easy way to compete and surprise and delight.
- Understand the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where the money is flowing in and how you can be in the middle. Are newspapers going to survive? Etc. Etc. Read every day to understand what is going on.
- Don’t go to a lot of parties or “meetups” with other entrepreneurs. Work instead while they are partying.
- You have no free time. In your free time, think of ideas for potential customers. Then send them emails: I have 10 ideas for you.
- Depressions, recessions don’t matter. There are billions of money flowing in the economy. You are allowed a piece of it. FedEx, Microsoft, HewlettPackard, and many huge companies started in recessions or depressions. Leave economics to the academics while they leave good business to you.
- Talk. Tell everyone you ever knew what your company does. Your friends will help you find clients.
- 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.
- Pay your employees before you pay yourself
- Don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. Ideas are worthless anyway. It’s OK to steal something that’s worthless.
- Don’t save the world. If your product sounds too good to be true, then you are a liar.
- Execution is a dime a dozen. If you have an idea worth pursuing, then just make it. You can build any website for cheap. Hire a programmer and make a demo. Get at least one person to sign up and use your service.
- Say yes to any opportunity that gets you in a room with a big decision maker. Doesn’t matter if it costs you money.
- If you are making a website, have as much content as you can on the front page. You don’t want people to have a click to a second or third page if you can avoid it. Stuff that first page with content. You aren’t Google.
- If your customers are advertisers find sponsorship opportunities for them that drive customers straight into their arms.
- If you are consumer focused: your advertisers are your customers. But always be thinking of new services for your consumers. Each new service has to make their life better.
- 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.
- Sell your company 2 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”.