Over the course of my life, which is now spanning nearly 6 decades, I have had the privilege of founding some incredibly exciting startup companies as well as participating in a few absolute diabolical disasters. As I think about the primary difference between the successes and the failures, I am struck by one overwhelmingly consistent element that was present in each of my stunningly brilliant fiascoes: I was totally unaware of that which I didn’t know.
Not knowing what I didn’t know, but needed to know, and should have known, was a dreadful dilemma. After all, how can you act on what you don’t know? How can you use what you don’t have? If you can’t see the ditch directly in front of you, how will you avoid falling in it?
So here are a few tips from this seasoned entrepreneur in the startup world. I hope this will help your discovery of what you don’t know (but better know!) to achieve success in your startup company:
Successful Entrepreneurs Pitch Like There’s No Tomorrow!
VC and Angel Groups are not just a source of capital; they are a source of knowledge as well. Start pitching early, before you need funding. Pitching your idea to seasoned investors and entrepreneurs is a great way to learn about your business.
Firstly, if they are any good, your pitch group will tear your presentation apart. They will ask uncomfortable questions, challenge your assumptions, attack your strategic plan, and perhaps even malign your idea as absolute lunacy. There is nothing like candid, truthful feedback, no matter what form it takes.
Secondly, you will learn a lot about your business from these proverbial inquisitors. Some of the best advice my entrepreneurs have received has been in the “shark tank” as they endeavor to be brave in the face of investor sharks. I have never met a group of investors who were not only willing but also exceedingly generous in their feedback to founders. They are happy to share their decades of wisdom in focused counsel to sharpen and shape the future of coachable and eager entrepreneurs. There is little doubt; a few encounters with seasoned investors will open your eyes to aspects of your business you have never seen before. Good for you; your blind spots are starting to lift!
Did you know? Agora’s entrepreneur training program and in-country Venture Villages include our own pitch preparation shark tank with seasoned investors. Find out more.
Successful Entrepreneurs are Not Lone Rangers
Being a startup founder is hard work. Oftentimes, it is lonely work. You may have assembled a great team, but the buck stops with you. Your startup’s future success or failure—and the impact you have on the surrounding community—is ultimately on your shoulders. When it comes to founding a company, there are simply too many variables and touchy decisions to consider making them on your own.
Moreover, founders more often than not possess narrow and limited experience. Great founders realize they do not know all the answers. That is why successful entrepreneurs reach out and develop strong mentoring relationships with competent and caring entrepreneurs who have walked the same path before
How do you find such a mentor? For starters, consider Agora’s coaching program. We can connect you with a world-class coach who will walk with you all throughout your startup journey.
Successful Entrepreneurs Find Accountability
To help you implement what you do not know, but are newly discovering, there is nothing like having an accountability partner. He/she is there to do one thing only: hold you accountable for the things that you have committed to do. Your accountability partner does not need to be a professional advisor, mentor, or coach. It could be your friend, spouse, or business partner. You just need someone who you trust to hold your “feet to the fire” to implement what you say you will do. Knowing that there is someone who is holding you accountable to do what you say you will do promotes focused endeavor. You’ll be amazed how much more productive and effective you become when you know you will have to give an account of your work and actions.
In short, successful entrepreneurs know that ignorance is NOT bliss! They take proactive steps to know what they do not know. They work hard to discover their blind spots, build collaborative teams, and travel the startup road in good company. They take along a plethora of mentors, advisors, colleagues, and friends who help illuminate the path ahead. Most importantly, they hold themselves accountable to do what they say they will do.
In any business, the stakes are high. In socially conscious business, they are even higher. You can’t afford not to know what you don’t know…so find a way to learn it!