Many people I know want to someday start their own businesses, including myself. We look at all the famous entrepreneurs of the world and dream of someday to be able to be the same. We are fascinated by their life stories, about how they started in their garage and built a multi-million dollar business. Some of us even might have innovative ideas for new businesses as well. In our work place sometimes we are given the responsibility to lead a project or lead a new product development. But how do we embark on a venture, be it a new business, a new project or a new product? What do we need to start something new? If you do not have a clear vision at the start then you will probably fail.
It is important to know the critical success factors so that you can focus your resources on them and in case of a new project it is important to have a clear understanding of the deliverables and the end results expected. It is good to define metrics to measure the success factors at the beginning so that we know when we have reached our goal. It is important to have role clarity within your team. i.e. It should be clear from the get go who will do what within your team. Also it is crucial to identify the stakeholders and to identify the preferred medium of communication with them.
Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist and the author of the book ‘The Art of the Start’ has some good advice for anyone starting something new. You can watch his speech given at TiECon at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3755718939216161559#
His first and in my opinion one of the most important advice is starting something that makes meaning rather than something that makes money. This doesn’t mean the product/company/project shouldn’t make money. It means that the main focus should be to make something meaningful. It may be improving the quality of living of people or fixing some wrong in the status quo or preventing the end of something good. He argues that if you build something meaningful it will make money as well.
He also talks about having a specific and simple business model and about starting something that has both high value and uniqueness.
Also in his advice he talks about hiring ‘infected’ people and having ‘soul mates’. By ‘infected’ people he means having a team that is truly passionate about the company/product/project. It is not necessary to have people with lot of irrelevant qualifications. But it is crucial to have people who are passionate. By ‘soul mates’ he means having someone beside you who compliments your weaknesses. As examples, he mentions about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak complimenting each other and also about Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
Another point he talks about is lowering the barriers to entry. To be successful the learning curve of people using your product should be a small one. You should never ask your client to do something that you wouldn’t do. He elaborates on these points by giving examples of complicated forms that are given to customers by some companies to register for their product. He asks the audience how many people know how to change the time in a VCR.
Most of Guy Kawasaki’s advice is relevant to entrepreneurs starting new businesses. It is equally relevant to an intrapreneur who is a “personwithin a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation"