A little while ago, I was asked to give a presentation for a group of entrepreneurs. They wanted me to talk about what I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I shared with them 10 very important business lessons I learned the hard way.
Rather than make one really long post, I decided to break it down into 5 parts. I’ll post one part every Thursday.
Work in the Industry You Want to Take Over
My friend Matt told me this true story.
Acton has one of the top entrepreneurship graduate programs in the US. A few years ago, Acton had this extremely gifted student. He was the best of his class and his teachers knew that he was going to make it big.
A year after his graduation from Acton’s program, some of his old teachers were at Starbucks getting coffee and saw this student working as a cashier. The teachers talked to each other about this and realized that if the best student they’ve ever had was working at a Starbucks after graduating, Acton must be doing something very wrong.
They called the kid and invited him to meet with them and the director of Acton’s entrepreneurship program. They told him that they were very concerned that their best student was working at a Starbucks and asked him what they could do better to avoid this from happening in the future.
The kid laughed and then answered, “I’m about to open a huge coffee store chain in Mexico. I’m working at Starbucks because I want to learn the business. I’ve worked two weeks in each area of the company for the last six months. I’ve done everything from serving coffee to planning marketing strategies. I feel I’m much more prepared now to run my new business.”
This guy is a true genius. If you want to start a business in an industry you don’t know, either work in it for a few months or partner with someone who understands the business very well.
Something Good Done Today is Better than Something Perfect Done Tomorrow
A very successful entrepreneur told me this story once:
“When I was starting my business, I needed to order shelves. They had three sizes: small, medium and large. My partner started doing all the calculations to figure out how many of each we’d need. A week later, he was still working on it. Finally, I said, ‘let’s order 25 small ones, 50 medium ones and 25 large ones’. We placed the order and moved on.”
I asked, “Was what you ordered exactly what you needed?”
“Kind of”, he said. “A month later we had to order two more large shelves and there were four small ones that weren’t completely full.”
“So you made a mistake rushing that decision”, I said. “You should’ve waited for your partner to finish the calculations, right?”
“No, absolutely not”, he responded. “You need to make decisions and move on. You can adjust your decisions later. But, something good done today is better than something perfect done tomorrow. We had a business to start and we needed to focus our energy on getting new clients and growing our company. We had no time to figure out the perfect order for shelves. We had important stuff to do.”
This was one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life.
1) Figure out what are the top 2-3 priorities in your business (if you think choosing the right color for your website is a priority, let me tell you: “it’s not!”)
2) Get your top priorities done very well.
3) Everything else should be done as fast as possible and you should move onto the next thing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons. I’ll share two more lessons next week.