How to Start a Business If You Know Nothing About Business

I wrote a guest post over at Penelope Trunk‘s blog Brazen Careerist entitled, "How to start a business if you know nothing about business."

Here were five key points I made. More tips, tactics, and insights in my book My Start-Up Life.

1. Be committed to personal growth and self-improvement.
Start reading books about entrepreneurship. Read about conferences. Reach out to local business leaders and ask for their advice on how to get started. In short, foster a genuine love for learning about the slice of business you are interested in.

2. Harbor a bias toward action.
Learning via books and talking to people can only take you so far. The very best entrepreneurs focus on doing over talking. Learn by doing, learn by failing. Take action. Pick up the phone. Send the email. Show up at the conference. Buy that book. What did you do today?

3. Share your ideas.
If you ask someone to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or if you simply pass on the opportunity to receive useful feedback because you’re scared someone will steal your idea, you are hanging a big, white poster on your chest that says, "I’m naive." In the early stages, you want as much feedback as possible. This means sharing your ideas with others. There is no such thing as a new idea. Besides, it is execution that distinguishes successes from failures, not raw ideas.

4. Keep the customer at the top of your mind.
As you consider various business opportunities, always try to put yourself in the mind of the potential customer. What specific value would they derive from your product or service? What need are you serving? Leave the office and go immerse yourself in the life of the customer.

5. Enlist the support of others.
You can’t do it alone. Find people who can help you. Parents, neighbors, teachers, mentors, coaches. Your network is probably larger than you think. Somewhere in this network is probably a good co-founder for your business, too. Companies with 2 or 3 co-founders do much better than solo warriors. I talk about mentors so much in my book because they’ve been absolutely critical to my success.

9 comments on “How to Start a Business If You Know Nothing About Business
  • This is great advice. Get out and talk to the market. People also need to think about equity and which journey they want to take. Equity Fingerprint is a free business plan resource on equity distribution. If they want to do a facebook, Bebo or Skype they need to raise millions of VC funds. Facebook is up to $38million from more than four investors. Bebo has Benchmark on board. The more “customer engagement” you have, the better the deal with the VCs.
    Hat tip: Geoff Jones

  • Great Advice! I would argue these are good tips for anyone business period, regardless of a startup or fortune 500.

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  • I think #2 is more important than almost anything else. Action alone will sometimes create every other necessary condition just by virtue of necessity born out of action.

  • Also be on the lookout for the seeds of new business ideas inside of your current business.

    I had one of those about five years back. It turned out to be a successful venture. (For a while, at least. I had to close it down last year.)

    But the end of that particular venture has motivated me to find another. So, while I do my daily work, I’m on the lookout for more ideas…

  • How do you start a business if you have no money and your idea isn’t up to rarified VC standards?

  • Nearly twice your age, but half your wisdom!

    I started learning late. But I did fail. And spectacularly.

    That is real learning!

    So I would recommend others take your sagely advice, but also try and learn from the mistakes of others like me.

    I’m a 3-day old blogger, so don’t know the decorum or techno stuff. But if you can link to my blog, please check it out so you can learn “NOT TO DO WHAT I DID” and then when I made my big mistake, discover what I did about it once I had messed up.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


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