Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own. They spend decades in pursuit of something that someone convinced them they should want, without realizing that it won’t make them happy.
When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.
When you make it a dream come true for yourself, it’ll be a dream come true for someone else, too.
But if you think true love looks like Romeo and Juliet, you’ll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly. If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you. If you think revolution needs to feel like war, you’ll overlook the importance of simply serving people better.
When you’re onto something great, it won’t feel like revolution. It’ll feel like uncommon sense.
We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.
We all have lots of ideas, creations, and projects. When you present one to the world, and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing.
Present each new idea or improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying, “Wow! Yes! I need this! I’d be happy to pay you to do this!” then you should probably do it. But if the response is anything less, don’t pursue it.
Don’t waste years fighting uphill battles against locked doors. Improve or invent until you get that huge response.
Anytime you think you know what your new business will be doing, remember this quote from serial entrepreneur Steve Blank: “No business plan survives first contact with customers.”
Most business owners I knew would tell you about their businesses by talking about their second round of funding, their fancy encrypted replicated load-balancing database server, their twenty-person development team, their nice Midtown office with a pool table, and their weekly promotion parties. When you asked what the business actually did, they couldn’t explain it clearly. Then they would talk about LOI, ROI, NDAs, IPOs, and all kinds of things that also had nothing to do with actually helping people.
Necessity is a great teacher.
Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests.
Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people.
It gives you a stronger foundation to grow from. It eliminates the friction of big infrastructure and gets right to the point. And it will let you change your plan in an instant, as you’re working closely with those first customers telling you what they really need.
Your idea doesn’t need funding to start. (You also don’t need an MBA, a particular big client, a certain person’s endorsement, a lucky break, or any other common excuse not to start.)
Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?
Important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.
Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big boring company.
Every time someone raved about how much he loved CD Baby, it was because of one of these little fun human touches.
Never again promised a customer that I could do something that was beyond my full control.
There’s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realize that if you take time off, your business crumbles. To be a true business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.
Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it.
People also assume that you want to be big-big-big—as big as can be. But do you, really? Huge growth means lots of meetings, investors, bankers, media, and answering to others. It’s quite far from the real core of the business. Happiness is the real reason you’re doing anything, right? Even if you say it’s for the money, the money is just a means to happiness.
Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator.
- Some people want to be billionaires with thousands of employees. Some people want to work alone.
- Some want as much profit as possible. Some want as little profit as possible.
- Some want to be in Silicon Valley with Fortune 500 customers. Some want to be anonymous. No matter which goal you choose, there will be lots of people telling you you’re wrong. Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.