Thursday, April 16, 2020

You, the Startup Founder, are the Engine of Recovery



COVID-19 has affected people in different ways.  Some are working from home, and many, tens of millions, are jobless in the US. 

So, what can you do, whether you’re jobless or want to help those who are?

You may find this the perfect time to start your own business or freelance work, especially if you have an inkling of where the economy may be going and some ideas on what people may want.

Here’s what I told my buddy who’s got some ideas and wants to start his own company:

First, anyone considering starting their own business should start with a live and kicking demand or request.

In other words, do you have customers already lined up to buy your services?  If you do, you've already found your first customers you can build on. 

If you don’t, work on nailing those before you decide to start and certainly before you leave your job.  This is important since you'll know what services people are willing to pay you for. 

If you’re out of work and want to see if your idea is going to take, pitch the idea to someone and see if they’ll buy.  Spend some time thinking about what you would sell and what the value would be, but don’t think too much.  There’s nothing more valuable than just pitching the idea, getting feedback in the way of a paying customer or someone who says your idea sucks because of X.  If they say you need to fix X, then go back and come up with how you’d fix it, then pitch it again.  Do this like an experiment until you find your first paying customers.  Then go and build it with that paying customer’s money.

Second, realize that you will have to either do many things that are done by people in your company or hire out for those services.  If you want to run operations only, that means you either have to buckle down and do the sales as well or hire someone to do it.  The same goes for finance, taxes, legal matters, HR, delivery and everything else. 

As an employee you have a huge support structure that includes your company's soft/hard assets and team members.  You lose all of that when you go on your own.

Third, if you're going to do it, you have to commit to 3 to 5 years of experimenting to figure out how to run your instance of your company to get to success, whatever "success" means for you.  You may make little to no profit those first 3 to 5 years, which is usually the result of constant experimentation to figure things out.

Fourth note goes hand in hand with the previous one.  You should have some financial reserves or a way of getting cash for your personal expenses and running your business.  You may have savings, investment accounts or money you borrow from early Angel Investors (think your family and friends).

If you don’t have access to any cash, then find a way of getting some by selling something smaller right now that people want?  How about sewing and selling some COVID-19 masks?

You need to have enough to sustain you and it needs to be barely enough to make ends meet.  Anything more and you're wasting it. For this reason, I actually recommend against any borrowed money or investors when you start.  You want the pressure of knowing you have to find creative solutions rather than just throw money at it.

Last, expect lots of ups and downs, emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially.  This is why so many people say you must love what you do to go out and do it on your own.  If you don't, the lows will overwhelm and crush you.  You must know that the work will be a very fast and furious roller coaster ride. Nevertheless, in the words of Bill Hicks, you must also remember that it's just a ride.

I'm not trying to say there are no good times, only that starting your own business or freelance work is not easy.

It has its rewards in that you get to figure out when you want to work, how much you make, and where you decide to spend your time.  All of that means you'll BE your business more so than as an employee.  You'll live and breathe it at every moment and you must love doing it so that you can enjoy it all the time.

Now.  Go out there and make your ideas come to life, because our economy, all of us, our society NEEDS new ideas and people who have a vision of where we’re going and the will to take us there.

Work your ass off and make it happen.

After all, it’s not the government or big companies that employ the majority of the people.  They don’t have the biggest effect on the unemployed.  You, the startup founder, the small business owner who has an idea that lasts...YOU are the engine of our economy and recovery!