5 Harsh Startup Realities … and 2 Maybes 0

This list started with The 7 Harsh Realities of Starting a Business posted last week by Neil Patel on his QuickSprout blog. I like his list and I like his post, but I can’t resist the temptation to edit a bit. But first, here’s the five from his list of seven that I’m keeping:

  1. Starting a business is like a roller coaster
  2. Owning a business isn’t easier than working at a 9-to-5 job.
  3. Consumers have to believe you are solving a problem.
  4. You have to make money.
  5. Time is worth more than money.

I have to say that I also worry about possible misinterpretations of his second point. I judge work on two scales, quantity and quality. Although this isn’t always true, in many cases owning your own business can improve the quality of the work, even if it doesn’t change the quantity. And I think it’s easier to do work you like than work you don’t like. So it’s possible that owning a business is easier than working a 9-to-5 job. I’ve left this one on the list, though, because it’s mostly true. Owning a business isn’t about working less. There’s working hard; and there’s working hard at something you believe in and, sometimes at least, like.

And here are the two alleged harsh realities on Neil’s list that I left off mine:

  1. You have to give a lot to get a little.
  2. Coolness is inversely correlated to success.

On giving a lot to get a little, Patel says:

In today’s world you have to give a lot. Whether it is free information or samples of your product, you have to do something to build trust from your customers. If they don’t trust you, they won’t spend money with you.

That’s uncomfortable to me. Is spending, as in marketing expense, pay-per-click advertising or putting a restaurant in a good location, the same as giving? A lot of professional services and content providers give content away to generate sales, but I don’t think that applies to every business.

And that point about coolness? Well, Patel says:

The most successful companies out there aren’t cool or hip; they are actually dull and boring. If you don’t believe me, just look at Twitter. Although it is the hottest company out there, [it] probably will never even make, total, what Exxon Mobil makes in a day. Or just look at Facebook. Unlike Twitter [it is] making money, but [it] can never be the size of Exxon Mobil. We need oil to survive. You don’t need Facebook to survive.

He may be right, but I don’t think that logic works. Business drives a lot more variables than necessity. If Microsoft is bigger than Exxon Mobil, does that mean we need software more than oil? Business is based on a wide range of wants and needs, and coolness helps. Especially in this new world, this millennium, as marketing becomes relatively more about being remarkable and relatively less about shouting at people with advertising. And I’d rather own Twitter, if I had a choice, than any oil company.

But it’s a good post, food for thought, and interesting.


About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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