I'm an entrepreneur, currently flying over the North Atlantic on my way Shanghai, but I'm dumb. Last month I spoke at Columbia University during the Ivy Oasis "How to Build a Strong Startup" event. Here is what I said and learned:
1. Courage: Entrepreneurs have it. The things we do to get businesses up and running, stable, and eventually successful is far more than most can not only stomach, but live through. The risks we take, either with our own money or others, is gut-wrenching and if you're not prepared for that you won't succeed.
2. $$$ Doesn't' Matter. It is scary. If you're watching your own money fly out the door and not much is coming in that's terrifying. When it's someone else's and you have a board to report to that's terrifying. Then when it starts coming in faster than it goes out, get ready for the feeding frenzy, it is almost as terrifying. There is no respite.
3. Stress: If you're brave enough to do it, be ready for failure. Almost every speaker at the event spoke of failure. This isn't the same as the failure you accept when you fail a test in high school. This is you. This is your baby. It is failure in front of everyone. When "fake it till you make it" doesn't work and you've failed it hurts. Put on your big boy/girl pants and know that you have actually succeeded. You have just done something that most people are not courageous enough to do. You're Rocky Balboa...but you lost to Apollo Creed. Courageous but not victorious. You'll get 'em next time....where's the Russian???
4. Network: We all hate it. If you meet someone who says they love networking hit them. Networking is terrible. It is also the best way to build a client base, earn trust, and establish yourself and your business as a trusted source. Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings or be a member of the young professionals community in your area. Do It.
5. You're Not Alone: speaking for five minutes before our panel with Jason Saltzman, founder of AlleyNYC, I realized I'm not alone. If you do the four things above, and have the courage to start your own business, connect with others who are trying to do the same. It is incredibly helpful to hear their stories. I work out of Jason's AlleyNYC; they have offered these types of opportunities since the Alley's inception. I have not taken advantage of this and regret it. When I get back from China on the 18th I will. Talking to Jason before the panel was incredibly helpful, we're all in the same boat with a startup, and we need to help eachother out and in the words of Vanilla Ice "Stop, COLLABORATE and LISTEN."
Lisa Chau and Canberk Dayan put together an incredible panel of entrepreneurs, educators, and business people. I was fortunate enough to be one of them; I was also fortunate enough to learn from them. That may be the best piece of advice and I hadn't thought of it.
No matter how smart you think you are, in order to be successful admit you're dumb and learn from others.