Career Advice, Watercooler

Starting Your Own Business? Five Pieces Of Real World Advice

Most of the startup advice one reads in journals and magazines is basically “and the world is round” advice from the College of Obvious Things. Like the young whippersnapper in his first three-button suit and lace up shoes who interrupts the strategy meeting with “I am for profit,” this advice makes true entrepreneurs cringe.

If you are about to take off with your own business, by all means read everything you can on the subject.  It is legal to learn from others who have traveled the startup journey.

Here are five examples of advice from my little book “StartUp, 100 Tips To Get Your Business Going,” that might be new, useful and even counter-intuitive.

  1. Be friendly, but not so much. This advice is actually hard to pull off, especially with employees who are more skilled and older than you.  I believe it is one thing to be nice or friendly even, but it’s quite another to hang with them and drink beer all day on Saturday.  Your call.  Your perceived friendliness will be an issue with someone not in the group.  You want to be over-the-top fair with everyone.
  2. Get excited about the little things. Many of the incremental improvements in a new company are fairly small and seemingly insignificant.  The entrepreneur needs to be able to get satisfaction out of these daily achievements.  They intuitively know that little things done well add up to a successful bigger event, a launch of a new software release, for example.  But along the way, you still must be able to get excited and more to the point, show it to your team.
  3. Realize your sales people don’t work for you. The sooner you realize that all good sales people work, truly, for the customers and not for you, you will understand more about sales people than 90% of all non-sales people.
  4. Ignore little things I knew we were well on our way to a good culture when one of our young sales reps brought his dog to work.  He didn’t even ask.
  5. Don’t go with suggestion boxes.  They suck. I know there a lot of management gurus who recommend having suggestion boxes spread around a business, in person and even online.   If you need a box to generate such response, some other communication process needs fixing.  If you ask for suggestions, you have to react to each and every one.  Odds are, some will not be do-able.   Some are stupid.  Now, you have a negative moment in your company.  You have to tell the person that no, we are not getting a trampoline for those who need an after exercise break.  (An actual suggestion for me, once.)