If you want to make a fortune fast, buy a lottery ticket.
But if you possess some skills, resilience, patience and a preparedness to read the rest of this post, there is an alternative…
Mega-quick bucks, Facebook phenomenons and the teenage trillionaire are almost always urban myths. Behind every genuine success story, even the ones that seemingly appear from nowhere, lie years of hard work and learning from mistakes.
And for every stunning success story, there are way more ugly failures.
So why do so many businesses fail? And should it take so long for entrepreneurs to figure out what a really successful business feels like?
Incorrect thinking and focus
Countless new startups worldwide naively reckon their new gizmo will make a fortune fast or at least be a financial success. Why do they think this? Because they believe their product is: unique, lowest priced, packed with wonderful features, best in class or has the brains of a technical genius behind it. Or all these things.
Unfortunately, woven into this thinking are a range of false beliefs and assumptions that wreak havoc. Why?
Because, so convinced their idea is red hot, the visionary entrepreneur has little or no interest in sharing the brilliance of their thinking with anyone else. Instead, endless hours of secretive work developing a revolutionary new product is the focus. And it’s not just a focus, it’s love. And that love is blinding and the basis for much incorrect thinking and decisions.
So who can put this thinking right?
Tackling love-struck entrepreneurs
For the past 2 weeks I’ve been working in California and Mexico. And whilst in San Diego I happened to meet up with Diana Kander, author of the best-selling ‘text’ book ‘The All in Start-up.’ Now, I’m not the greatest fan of text books for entrepreneurs (because they are typically written for the writer rather than the reader) but I had downloaded Diana’s work to my Kindle within minutes of finishing our meeting.
And whilst squeezed into a Delta Airline economy seat en-route to Mexico City, I devoured every word of her book. It was brilliant.
Unlike the vast majority of material written for entrepreneurs, Kander’s text is a fictional novel mixing a fast-paced plot with rich, engaging and hard-hitting truthful messages. Like so many early entrepreneurs, the central character has made false assumptions about his product and business model; as a result, bad decisions based on incorrect information follow.
The fundamental message of the book is that startup entrepreneurs must engage their potential customers first before creating any concrete product or service. And importantly, the book details how a startup should work with potential customers and pinpoints key tasks to complete and traps to avoid. Even the wording of questions to ask customers and the avoidance of phrases like ‘Would you..’ are carefully referenced. And someone called Steve Blank writes the Foreword.
I’m not going to tell you how the book finishes, but I wholly recommend you get it. And if you work with budding entrepreneurs, get them a copy too. If they make a fortune fast they will almost certainly thank you for letting them into Diana Kander’s world. Chances are they won’t make a fortune fast, but they will be much better placed to start and grow a successful and sustainable business.
On a related note, as part of the Stateside visit I also sat in on a USASBE presentation made by Professor Bill Aulet from MIT. He contended that the demand for entrepreneurial learning was skyrocketing; however, entrepreneurship educators were failing to keep pace with demand and were forced to turn to practitioners to fill the widening gap. Or judging by his excellent presentation (see slide 10), a widening chasm.
And to engage their audience and be effective, practitioners follow Diana Kander’s example. They tell stories.
Such creativity, says Professor Aulet, resonates with the budding entrepreneur’s ‘spirit’, an essential ingredient for learning because it helps to oil the understanding of theory and skills-based work.
For me, without the creative spirit of a contextual story, the subject of business is too dry and fails to engage and spark higher level thinking. And when we fail to engage people in their learning, they go off and do things alone and are in danger of falling in love with their own ideas/products, blinding themselves and ultimately making bad decisions based on flawed assumptions. Stories are not just important, they are vital.
The Story of Evolution
This month and following 4+ years’ intense work (and several mortgages), the team I am proud to be part of launches its new on-line simulation ‘SimVenture Evolution’. This game-based technology builds on all work with SimVenture Classic and allows people to start and run a business for up to 10 simulated years. People learn in an authentic, experiential manner that develops skills and simultaneously captures the creative spirit.
As a result of working with the simulation, (either solo or in groups) users will be able to create and recall in detail stories of running their own company.
The design team very much hope these experiences will raise levels of learning and thinking and thus ensure people are better placed to start and stay in business. And importantly, people won’t see a lottery ticket as the only way to make a fortune.
Key Learning Points: Focusing on the customer first is a critical route to success. Too many failing start-ups fall in love with their product and are blinded and ultimately hurt by false assumptions. By reading Diana Kander’s story you can build a mindset for developing a successful new venture. At the same time, entrepreneurship educators can learn from the experience of Prof Bill Aulet and create courses that are more likely to fully resonate with students.