Principle #1: “Walk Your Own Path”
What is the right business for you to start?
In this principle we’ll dive straight into into the different types of startups and the different routes that people take into entrepreneurship. We’ll examine our motivations and get clear on our “good idea criteria”. We’ll explore what types of business we are each best positioned to start, we’ll discuss the difference between startup projects and fully-fledged businesses, and we’ll seek to demystify the entrepreneurial process.
There is no one way to build a business – choose your own path.
If you behave as if there is just one way to build a business, you will put a huge amount of pressure on yourself. The clearer you are about the most viable businesses for you, the more you will save yourself difficulty further down the line. Define success for yourself. Stay strong – it is hard to maintain your definitions of success in a world that is constantly bombarding you with other people’s ideas for how things should be done.
What should you focus on at this stage?
- Figure out your motivations and set clear intentions for the coming months.
- Get honest with yourself about what type of business you are best positioned to start.
- Explore different startup journeys and types of businesses.
- Understand the difference between an entrepreneurial project and a business.
Run towards something
You want to run towards something you care about rather than away from something you don’t care about. There are many good reasons for starting a business, but escaping a negative current reality shouldn’t be the only one…
Clarify your objectives
There are a few obvious reasons for wanting to start a business and most of us share the main ones.
What are your top 3?
- Money / Security?
- Purpose / Passion?
- Independence / Autonomy?
- Impact / Change?
- Skills / Challenge?
- Personal Growth?
Ensure you’re up for the ride
Starting a business can be hard. The main reason for this is that you’re trying to create something that doesn’t exist and see it impact the world in a positive way. The more you can be clear on the sacrifices you’ll make and the challenges you’ll encounter on this journey, the more you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for and be able to prepare yourself.
Avoid the trap of never starting
The fear of spending +5 years and lots of money building something that doesn’t work is the main reason most people don’t start. A few things to bear in mind:
1) it has never been cheaper to get something started
2) you don’t have to make a five-year commitment in order to begin experimenting with ideas and projects
3) the only way to really know if something might work is to move from thinking to doing.
Define success for yourself
The more you look into startups, the more you’ll feel the pressure to build the next runaway success. Are you building a rocketship (that will require lots of funding), a lifestyle business (I want to become a digital nomad), or a reliability business (I need it to pay me within 3 months)?
Embrace unpredictable outcomes
Your motivations, your definition of success, and the opportunities that you can take advantage of will all change as you start turning your ideas into realities. Successful entrepreneurs accept uncertainty, act on what information they have access to today and trust their ability to create whilst reacting to unfolding events.
Invest in your future self
The decisions you take today will impact who you become over the coming years. You are not the person you are going to be in 5 years time. Don’t beat yourself up for not being an entrepreneur today, the only way to become one is to keep taking one step after another along this path.
Create surplus time and money
Find a way to create a surplus of time or money (ideally both!) to give you the breathing space to build. The no#1 cause of startup failure is running out of cash. The longer the runway the more likely you are to find the way that works.
Tactics here include:
- keeping your day job to fund your startup
- negotiating down to a 3 or 4-day week
- finding regular freelance work
Choose the right founding story for you
There is no one way to leave employment and start a business. Some people go all-in, quit their jobs, and live off savings or raise early-stage investment to keep them going whilst they build. Others start their business from the safety of their jobs and work evenings and weekends until they have reached certain key milestones. And others still go part-time, take a sabbatical or do freelance work to stay afloat whilst building. What works is what works for you.
It is a lot harder to build a business solo. Business partners are there to pick you up when you’re down and to share the successes when they come. The power of two people obsessing about a problem is much greater than simply 1 + 1. However, you can’t simply shop for a business partner – you have to build an authentic and trusting relationship over time. Start side-projects with different people by all means, but commit to a formal co-founder relationship with more preparation and lots of clear expectation setting.
Distinguish between projects and businesses
Startups can take years to turn into businesses. However, successful startup projects can be launched in a weekend. You will feel the pressure to build a business and you will beat yourself up that your idea doesn’t look anything like one. Relax about building a business and focus on launching a successful startup project. If version 1 is successful you may decide to undertake the hard work of turning it into a business. But first, focus on the project.
Avoid the job trap
At the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey you may feel like you have 10 jobs that you have to do at the same time – all of which are poorly paid (or not paid at all!) and none of which you can delegate. You can’t go on holiday and you can’t switch off. Whether or not you want to be at the helm forever, in order to avoid creating a job that you can’t escape from, you want to be building towards a business that can operate without you.
Start where you are
The test for a good startup idea for you is going to be determined by Who You Are (location, passions, interests, resources), What You Know (existing skills, industry knowledge, macro/micro understanding of trends or concepts) and Who You Know (strong relationships, membership of communities, access to networks).
Join The Tribe Forum for Q&A on the Startup Paths principle.
- How do you set up a social enterprise?
- How do I figure out whether I even want to start a business? (coming shortly)
- What different startup types and startup journeys are there? (coming shortly)
- Why is it dangerous to focus on billion dollar businesses?
Have a question that hasn’t been answered yet?
Jump into the forum and ask away (just click “New Topic” in the top-right of the screen. Write your question as the Topic title, with your context / explanation as the Description).
Tools & Resources
>>> View the full Startup Tribe Toolkit.
Concepts and Frameworks
– Effectuation – A thinking framework that serves entrepreneurs in starting businesses, providing a way to control a future that is inherently unpredictable.
– Bird-in-hand – The first principle of Effectuation (also known as “start with your means”). Ask yourself: Who are you, what do you know, and whom do you know? Then, imagine possibilities that originate from your means.
– The E-Myth – This is quite a seminal book on entrepreneurship that argues that most entrepreneurs work in their businesses rather than on them and – through doing so – create jobs for themselves that they can’t escape from.
– Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to drive your career and create a remarkable future – Seth Godin’s call to action: whether you’re building a business or not, the only way to build a career on your own terms is to be a linchpin.
– Anything You Want by Derek Sivers – 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur. There are no rules for building a business: “When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.” Awesome little book.
Articles, Videos & Podcasts