At the onset, entrepreneurs dream of the freedom that being their own boss will give them. They are looking to escape their 9 to 5 jobs, where their fate is determined by the companies they work for. Somewhere along the way, the entrepreneur may feel tied down to the business, unable to get away. A marginal business further exasperates the matter. This was not their dream, this is prison.
So what’s the matter? And more importantly, how can they fix the situation?
The goal of every entrepreneur should be to make their presence irrelevant at the company. A business needs to take on a life of its own. This single mindset shift is what’s needed by many entrepreneurs. They get trapped into doing the skilled or technical job themselves. If the entrepreneur’s background is software programming then they do the coding themselves. If their skill is woodworking then they spend most of their time creating the wooden pieces. No matter the skill needed to develop the product or deliver the service, they spend the majority of their time doing it.
They get stuck on the product or service, and neglect the business of the product. Yet, what most start-up investors know is that they product or service itself only accounts for about 10% of the success of a new company, it’s all the other aspects, the business of the product that account for most of the success. So start transitioning away from the skilled work and start building a business.
Let’s look at how successful CEOs spend their time. Most dedicate more than 40% of their time with customers. If entrepreneurs aren’t talking to customers, finding out what they want and need, then they are stuck on the start-up’s premise trying to implement features or build a widget.
Entrepreneurs need to build a business with as much intent as they do build a product or create a service. If the start-up is looking to be funded, these successful CEOs spend 80% or more of their time working on funding. Notice, a CEO seeking funding doesn’t have time to do anything other than funding and interact with customers. CEO does not stand for Chief Everything Officer. CEOs are leaders; they need to set the direction and tone of the new business.
A CEO can’t be a leader unless they have followers. For a start-up to give you the freedom you so desire, it is necessary to hire, manage and fire others. The first step is for entrepreneurs to think about what work really needs to be done. Does the work have an impact of revenue? Is the result of the work used somewhere else in the company? What worked can be eliminated, automated, or outsourced? It’s difficult to hire people for positions when you know little of what that position entails. However, the one position most entrepreneurs know well is the skilled or technical position, and is therefore, the easiest to hire well.
Entrepreneurs need to realize they will fail their way to success. They will make many mistakes and yes, those mistakes will be costly. It’s how you move forward that counts. This is why the experimental start-up phase is so important. It’s a way of organizing and prioritizing all those business experiments so the entrepreneur can get to the right product and the right business model as soon as possible, one that makes the new business flourish and thrive.
About the Author
Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three start-ups and helps entrepreneurs transform their ideas into new businesses. Cynthia is the author of Startup from the Ground Up and Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success. Cynthia writes regularly at Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog. and provides in her video series information on Business Startup Success.