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Ten tips to help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed

December 12th, 2012
Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson

Starting a business is always risky, but the potential rewards are considerable – and not just for the entrepreneur.

The success of small businesses is crucial to our economic recovery. This puts added responsibility on the shoulders of entrepreneurs risking their life savings on ideas that seem wild today, but may be mainstream in five years. 

Melissa Thompson, CEO of Talk Session, which is driving healthcare technology innovation in the startup world, understands the personal risk entrepreneurs face first-hand and offers ten tips based on her experience to help them succeed:

1)     A-team: Take your time to find the best team possible.  Recognize your strengths and weakness.  If you play to your strengths and find supplemental talent to round out your team, everyone wins.

2)     Isolate Your Focus:  The startup story is one of four main parts.  These are what investors and supporters want to see.  The process: a) isolate one problem that exists that has not been successfully solved, b) create solution, c) formulate an execution strategy, d) determine it’s value and potential.

3)     Don’t cross the Baker’s Dozen:  A synonym for “baker’s dozen,” is “devil’s dozen” – a phrase that arose from 13th century bakers hedging the potential of accidentally short-changing clients, which would result in their hands chopped off by an axe.  Thankfully, like technology, “digital execution” has evolved over time.  Keep a do list and limit it to twelve or so.  It feels good to have tangible evidence of productivity.

4)     Let Failures Fuel You:  Failing on a daily basis is part of the startup territory. It is imperative that you control your emotions and not displace your anger on your colleagues.  Mistakes can feel like a crowbar to the shin and as the leader it is your duty to coach others through keeping their mistakes in perspective.

5)     Everyone Has a Boss, Never Forget: Part of the reason you are starting your own company is so you don’t have to work for a boss.  But in reality, everyone has a boss.  The President of an investment bank has to answer to his or her Board, shareholders and high-net-worth clients. Even retired self-made billionaires likely have to answer to their spouses.  So regardless of one’s “CEO and founder” status; maintain humility, treat people kindly and manage wisely – both up and down.  The way you treat others sets the tone for your entire company. 

6)     Don’t Code Where you Cook: Working from your home can be purgatory – it blurs the line between work and play and hinders productivity.  If you don’t have office space there are alternatives: shared office space or desk-for-a-day rental services.

7)     Report Card on the Fridge 2.0: Celebrate something you did well every day, week, and month.  Particularly when leading a team, these small celebrations go a long way to inspire and motivate the team.  Creative gifts trump expensive ones, and emailed compliments on top of verbal ones often get forwarded to significant others’ and parents with pride.  Think of it as the modern day “report card on the fridge.”

8)     Bring passion: Find people with similar missions.  The company you keep will drive your venture forward and you’ll enjoy the journey every step of the way.

9)     Learn From Those Before You: I recommend that every aspiring entrepreneur read the books Rework, written by the founder of 37Signals, Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, and Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahnemann.  I wish I read these before I started my venture, as it would have saved me a lot of time and money. 

10) Reboot Your Mind, Body, and Laptop: Since you are not making money until your venture succeeds, you have a 24/7 job.  However, make sure you close your overheated laptop every now and again, hit the gym, laugh with friends in person, and return to technology with fresh motivation.

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