A long time ago, when iPhones still had headphone jacks and Tesla only had one electric car model, I was seriously thinking about getting into entrepreneurship. Even though I had spent years working as a venture capitalist and watching many of my friends and associates starting their own businesses, I was confused about where to begin.
I knew only one thing for sure: that entrepreneurship would allow me to take control and directly tie my hard work and the outcomes of my hard work. In other words, if I succeeded or failed, it was up to me. I could never have such a direct impact in the corporate world. Doing so part-time - as a 10% Entrepreneur - would also allow me to limit risk and increase my chances of success.
While my idea was a simple one, once I got started, I realized something critical: Although becoming an entrepreneur is more complex than taking your childhood lemonade stand to the next level, it’s not as unreachable as many people believe. In order to get started and set yourself up for success, however, you need to take these five essential steps.
1. How to figure out what you want to do
Most entrepreneurs start working on in venture from one of these two positions:
- You have this big idea that keeps you awake at night, or
- You have no clue at all about what you’d like to do.
Either way, your work is just beginning. If you have a great idea - or a potentially great idea - it’s time to start due diligence. How should you engage in this opportunity? What do you need to know in order to figure out if it even makes sense? How can you get started in a low cost way to figure out if there is demand for your product? If you’re looking for help and ideas, I recommend reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. His book shows you how to test small ideas as cheaply and quickly as possible in order to test them out in the real world.
You’ll also want to think carefully about how best to engage in your 10% idea. For example, if you’re a passionate foodie, but have never cooked anything beyond a fried egg, maybe starting your own restaurant isn’t the way to go. Instead, consider becoming an Advisor or Angel in a food-related business. This is a great way to get started, to learn, and to figure out how best to increase your engagement in the future.
If you’re a member of Team: No-Clue, don’t worry. Each of us has something we can bring to the table as a 10%-er, including you. Just remember, that you want to find a 10% that stands at the intersection of what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. What your good at will make your successful and what you enjoy doing will make sure that you clear time in your schedule to make progress.
2. Assess your resources
Once you have your idea on paper, it’s time to evaluate your resources - namely, time, money, and skills. Other resources you can contribute include:
- Hard and soft skills.
- Your network of contacts.
3. Educate yourself, but don’t fall into analysis paralysis
I firmly believe that one should never stop learning new things, be it by taking a small course online or learning on the job. Thanks to the internet, we’re lucky to live in an era with almost infinite access to knowledge. If you lack skills in a given area, make an investment of time and, if necessary, capital, to sign up and get started.
4. Set goals, but be open to change
Ask yourself: What do you want to achieve with your 10%? Are you looking to save money for a down payment for the house of your dreams? Do what you love? Be rich?
All of these are valid reasons, but they’re moot if you can’t back them up with SMART goals, that is, activities that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and based on a realistic timeline. Of course, as times change, so can goals, so feel free to revisit and adapt these as conditions change.
The final and most important step you can’t skip is the one where you roll up your sleeves and get to work. There is no perfect time to start or perfect business idea. You will only know if a project is worth your time and energy once you get started. So, go out, get started, and begin learning.