The Axioms of Entrepreneurship

Recently Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, founder and CEO of WatchMojo, wrote a brief post about the Lies Entrepreneurs Tell.  In the article he makes the point entrepreneurs are “always in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean they need to be BS-artists”.  Their common lies include  “I have no regrets” or “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it any differently”; “It’s not personal, it’s business”; “We’re not raising money”; “We’re not looking to sell”; and “I’m your biggest fan.”

Ashkan has an interesting point – entrepreneurs can be so damn good at “selling” that they begin to say things that aren’t exactly true.  This may be due to a few factors: we actually believe the words we are saying, we feel the means justify the ends or we just want it so bad we are willing to cross over the line into fallacy in order to get what we want.

Regardless, I agree with Ashkan.  We can at times can get carried away with the approach we take when it comes to business interactions.  Yet after reading the post I started thinking… if those are some of the lies of entrepreneurship, there must also be some truths, ones in which are germane to the success of an entrepreneur.

Build For Value

We are seeing a comeback in tech IPO’s and this can have a negative side affect on the business world: young founders dream of (and build) new startups mainly for the ultimate payday.  This is a grave mistake.  M& A or IPO desires directly out of the gate – meaning the only reason they are starting the company is to quickly flip it or go public – is a scary sign of misalignment.    Making certain decisions to maximize revenue and profits to the determent of users can be traced back to this unfortunate thinking.  These are results of building for money, not value.

The best entrepreneurs start (and end) their journey with value in mind.   What exactly is value and how do you find it?  I believe it starts by searching for a big problem in the world, a problem which if solved would open up new markets and even more opportunities for others.  Value means your product or service actually is meaningful in a persons life, and adds something rather than just take something away (time or money).  The irony is if you can focus on value first and you are able to clearly articulate what your company adds to the world, people will come knocking with money to spend.

Have A Standard

Imagine that… setting a standard and living by it!  This must permeate your company, from how you hire to how you interact with the press.  When hiring, who do you look for and why?  Knowing the answer to the question will save you from a lot of headache down the road.  We’ve all heard A players hire A players; B players hire C players, etc…  This is true because A players have standards for not only themselves but the people they look for to join the team.   A players are strong enough to pass on someone who does not stand up to their standards.

Applying a standard when building products and defining and business models most definitely leads to better outcomes.    Are you a trend setter or a trend follower?  Did you start the whole Daily Deal mania or did you just tag along because it seemed easy?   Notice who is the market leader and who isn’t.  Having a standard when developing a business means there are certain things you will not do because of certain beliefs.  It means having a backbone and saying “hell no” at times.  One of the best business building standards I have observed in current market leaders is the resistance to “trends” or “buzz word models” just because they are popular; they stay the course and  lead their market.

In addition to business model, another must have is user experience standards.  Simply put, it your product enjoyable to use?  Does it elicit positive emotions and experiences or is it hard to navigate and tough to understand?  Unfortunately, design and user experience is not something that just happens naturally in technology products.  Having a standard like limited number of swipes for certain actions and least amount of words on each page as possible are just two standards which can drastically enhance your users experience.  Standards in user experience will help your product stand out in a very large sea of…. well, crap.

Think Before You Speak

Entrepreneurs are notorious for blasphemy.  We tend to just say what we think and feel right at that exact moment.  And there’s the problem… no real thinking goes into the words coming out of their mouths most of the time.  Your words will be held against you whether you like it or not.   As Ashkan eluded to, lying or not being truthful during business practices, although common, should not be acceptable.  The truth will always come back around whether you are talking to media, speaking to employees, chatting with acquaintance or in a “discussion” with your significant other.

Simply taking a few seconds before you blurt out the next statement can steer the conversation (and your career) in the right direction.  You’ve heard of damage control – where you have to take precious time from your already busy schedule to smooth over a sensitive situation caused by a misread tweet or a too-much-passion-in-the-moment comment?  You got it, that’s time not spent on value adding tasks your startup desperately needs.  And you cannot afford it.  Just think before you speak.

Be Original

An amazing phenomenon is happening right now: there is a burgeoning of creativity happening on the web right now yet originality is waning.  What do I mean?  I see more copying, emulating and flat out ripping off happening each day as information flows freely.  This is not good for innovation and IMHO it’s just annoying.  Being original is one of the best ways to be discovered.  Original thoughts and personality created a Jack Dorsey.  They also created a Steve Jobs… and other unique personalities in the tech world.  Be yourself and be someone who is unique; it goes a long way.  Just look at one of the newest billionaires Andrew Mason…

Originality in business models and product characteristics create unique offerings that help set your company apart in the market, leading to media coverage as well as investor interest.  We don’t need more Daily Deal sites, we need more innovative ideas for local commerce that actually add value and help merchants succeed, growing local economies.  So look into abyss, seek out problems, ask why, iterate around a new solution will help in becoming a unique and original business.

Although as entrepreneurs we have a tendency to mislead and lie on occasion, we also have tried and true Axioms into which wisdom and success can be found.  These are just a few I came up with quickly as I read Ashkan’s post.  Are there others you cling to as you strive forward?

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