Today’s entrepreneurial landscape is much more friendly to new ideas, but it’s still not easy launching a new business from scratch. In addition to your unique idea, you’ll need startup cash, business know-how, a willingness to take risks—and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grit.
John West, Chairman of Hire Velocity, a top RPO Recruitment Firm, shares his unique insights and recommendations gleaned from decades of experience as an entrepreneur, performance mentor, and investment capitalist for high-growth businesses.
- Build real life experience first. Most new businesses won’t end up being “unicorns”, that is, companies worth $1 billion or more like Facebook, when they are started by someone who lacks real world experience. “I am a probability guy and the odds are a billion to one that you will create the unicorn right out of college! The odds for success are much higher if you go out and get some real life experience.”
- Follow your own path to success. “Many entrepreneurs have an anti-establishment bent and get frustrated working for others. Life is a journey, and you grab the best opportunity available at the time. The neat thing about it is that there are so many different paths.”
- Make sure you have enough cash. Running out of cash is the best way to see your idea die. “Cash is the oxygen you breathe. [When I started out], I kept a spreadsheet that modeled my business and its cash flow. If you run out of cash, it’s lights out.” Today, there are lots of accountants and/or tools to help. But, either way, keeping tabs on your cash is paramount.
- Have a viable business before you approach investors.
- “I am very involved at Florida Funders, which is an exciting crowd sourcing platform to fund early stage businesses. But we do not fund wild ideas.” First, you’ll need to prove your concept and demonstrate that you have customers. “Even Angel Investors want to see some traction.” You’ll also need a predictable revenue stream. Even if you haven’t generated a lot of revenue yet, you’ll need to sell your revenue vision to investors who hear about ideas all day long. Make sure yours feels like it’s on solid financial footing.
- Learn from everyone you meet. “Not every mentor will be a lifelong relationship. Sometimes it is just one meeting and other times it will develop into years of guidance.” When it comes to generational differences, don’t overlook the value that the younger generation brings to the table, including creative ideas and insight about what Millennials want in products and services. Similarly, don’t dismiss recommendations from seasoned connections. They may have been through situations you can’t foresee yet, and their knowledge may be valuable now or tucked away for later.
- Be flexible to enable growth. Your team will change as your business grows. “Most of my failures have come as a result of failing to pivot fast enough when things were not going the way they needed to or I was slow to move a team member to a new position or out of the company.”
- Develop a global mindset. “The world is a better place as a result of the global flow of ideas, talent, products, and services.” Be sure to embrace the need to have a global perspective in your markets, talent and outsourcing opportunities.
- Entrepreneurship holds solutions for the future. “Companies like Uber make the most of the resources we already have so we can make the world a better place. It excites me more than just about anything.”
The vision and determination of entrepreneurs keeps the world moving forward in the areas of innovation and discovery. West advises those entering the marketplace to keep believing, even when you’re not sure the business will survive. “If you don’t believe, you won’t get through the tough times.”
Watch the full interview to hear more entrepreneurial inspiration from John West.