CEO Sunday: Making The Leap – Learning To Swim
Below is a guest post by Greg Moran.
Having been involved with three startups, I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me how to prepare for starting a company. How do you tell when you’re ready or if your idea is good enough? So how exactly do you prepare for the startup life or founding a company?
From my experience, you’ll never be fully prepared, you need to make the leap and jump in… even if you may not know how to swim yet! The honest truth is you can prepare and analyze whatever you idea is from every possible direction, but there will always be things that you never saw coming or never estimated in your business plan. The best entrepreneurs I know decided that their idea, for whatever reason, needed to become reality and then they jumped. There are far too many people unhappy in their jobs waiting for the right time, or the perfect idea or whatever. The timing is never right and you are never prepared; you just have to jump in and swim like a madman. Here’s how I learned to swim.
Realize you can’t do it alone; you need support
The biggest mistake you can make in the startup world is thinking you don’t need support and letting your life take a hit. You cannot be an entrepreneur or startup CEO without the support of your family. Anything else that I may have done to put myself in a position to succeed starts and ends there. The pressures of the start-up life can be intense. The roller coaster ride is never ending. Without support at home with whom you can share your concerns, celebrate the wins or just relax, the likelihood of success falls dramatically.
If there is a second to your family, it’s fitness. Stay in shape and always make time to build that fitness. The stresses are just too great without taking care of your body. Family and fitness are key drivers to the startup life. Ignore or neglect them at your peril. You are never that busy.
Being flexible is a key for any entrepreneur/startup founder. It can be very difficult but realize that it will take some amount of failure to succeed. Any startup begins with a set of assumptions. You test those assumptions over time in the market and most of them (or maybe all) will be wrong. They are guesses. You iterate, test again, iterate, test again, and maybe you will come close. Mentally prepare to accept a failed test and try again and again and again. Most startups, after some growth, don’t resemble their original plans at all. There is nothing wrong with that. Be prepared to be flexible.
For my current business I can say this was vital. We officially launched our fundraising efforts for Chequed.com in October 2008, the same day the Lehman Brothers went under. That same evening we held an investor event asking for money. The economy was collapsing…epically…and we were looking for angel financing for a startup focusing on hiring! We immediately had to reset our plan, deal with the fact that we were going to operate on a fraction of the investment dollars we hoped and grind it out. We survived by simply being real about what we could reasonably expect and took it much slower than the original plan.
As a parting note I wanted to give some advice that I wish I had known when I began in the entrepreneurial world. I actually received this advice in my third startup, unfortunately I did not receive it in my first two. Operate as if you are going to pass institutional due diligence any day without notice. This means having your crap together. Hiring top talent, keeping your finances straight and clear with no conflicts, and anticipating the concerns of major investors. It’s not easy to do and often can seem a waste in the beginning, but it’s worth it.
Greg Moran is the President and CEO of Chequed.com, a Predictive Employee Selection technology suite as well as a respected author on Human Capital Management with published works including Hire, Fire & The Walking Dead and Building the Talent Edge. Greg can be found on twitter @CEOofChequed.