Today, accessing information is easier than ever before. The internet—and almost universal access to it—has meant that hundreds of millions of people can share their ideas, opinions, and stories at the drop of a hat.
Unfortunately, this also means that spreading and popularizing bad ideas or notions is also easier than ever. The truth is, when it comes to starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur, there are a number of clichés that you will come across and that you need to be aware of, so that you do not fall prey to them.
Palo Alto Software’s founder, Tim Berry, discusses these clichés in his latest video on Vimeo: Startups and Entrepreneurship: Beyond the Clichés. You can watch the full video near the end of this post or read some of the key points we’ve extracted from it. If you’d like to reach out to Tim to discuss any of these ideas, contact him on Twitter @timberry.
6 Common Clichés about Startups and Entrepreneurship
Cliché 1: Be your own boss
The reality is that your customer is your boss, your client is your boss, and, if you need money, the money is your boss. While you may be in charge of your own company, your success is still down to whether or not your customers or clients want what you have to offer.
Cliché 2: You are president and chief bottle washer
In order to survive, a business needs to have somebody to make the product, to deliver the service, to manage the money, to manage the brand, the social media, and so on. And, the idea that you have to do it all yourself couldn’t be more inaccurate.
If you know you hate bookkeeping or are really bad at selling, don’t think you can’t be an entrepreneur. Rather, acknowledge that you can’t do everything. You will need help.
The “principle of displacement” dictates that everything you do rules out something else that you can’t do. If you’re going to succeed, your going to have to resist the temptation to do it all yourself.
Be realistic. What can you actually do? What can you afford? What will have the most impact? Bill Cosby, the great comedian-thinker-academic said: “I don’t know the secret to success, but I do know that the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.” This is a core truth in small business, and it’s the antithesis of the idea that you have to be the president of the company as well as the bottle washer.
Cliché 3: Just do what you love
This cliche alone causes perhaps more heartache, misunderstanding, and frustration than any other.The truth is that you cannot always do what you love, not unless people will pay money for you to do it.
You have to be realistic. Will people pay you money to do that thing you enjoy so much? Will they pay you to play your guitar, to make food, to fix their cars?
In addition, consider whether or not you have the resources to do what you love. If you want to open a high-end restaurant, but you don’t have the right background or credibility to get outside investors, perhaps you’re going to need to be flexible about how you do it. Maybe you have to work your way up to managing a restaurant before an investor will consider you.
You also cannot forget that you must fill a need. Doing what you love is not enough.
Consider: in about 1993, Apple released the Apple Newton. It was meant to act as a digital calendar, notepad and contact log. However, it ultimately failed because it did not meet their customers’ needs. It cost too much (over $1,000), it weighed a lot, and it had poor handwriting recognition technology. The good old $5 pen and paper route was still a better way for customers to achieve their needs.
All of this changed in about 1997 when U.S. Robotics’ Palm Pilot was released. It cost a third of the Newton, weighed a third and had a handwriting recognition system that worked. The technology had caught up with the idea.
Cliché 4: Passion, persistence, perseverance
This cliché implies that stubbornness makes for success. The reality remains—you still need to fill a need, otherwise passion, persistence and perseverance may as well be synonymous with banging your head against a brick wall.
The truth is that “stubborn” isn’t enough, and these three things have become a cliché partly thanks to what is known as “survivor’s bias,” or research that excludes failures from results. In this case, it’s all the successful entrepreneurs that said you needed passion to succeed. What about the entrepreneurs that had these qualities, but were unsuccessful? Or the unsuccessful ones that persisted with an idea that didn’t work?
You simply cannot forget the structural problems. This includes things like pricing. If you price too low, you are sending a message and today, more often that not, it’s those startups that aim for the highest market that are the most likely to succeed.
Cliché 5: The big idea
Culturally, we’ve come to overemphasize the “big idea.” The reality? Ideas are a dime a dozen. And the truth? Good ideas get copied. Think of the Volkswagen beetle and the Mini Cooper, which both updated the old version.
You need think no further than Volkswagen Beetle and BMW’s Mini Cooper to see this in action. Not only did Volkswagen and BMW update an old model because it worked (copying an old idea) but BMW’s update was a direct consequence of seeing the success Volkswagen achieved by updating their old version.
Both Apple computers and Google did the same. Neither company was creating something new. Computers like the MITS Altair came before Apple, and there were many search engines before Google. The difference was the execution. These companies executed on the idea better than their predecessors.
The same is true of Starbucks. The coffee shop was just about the least original idea. The difference? Their execution.
So, copying isn’t a bad idea, so long as you can do what your competitors are doing better than they can. And, you have to ask, how do you filter ideas from opportunities?
This brings us to our last cliché, which is essentially the answer to the above question: you use the business plan as the filter, but you do not use the big, wordy, old-school business plan, you use the lean business plan.
Cliché 6: The big business plan
The business plan is the filter between ideas and opportunities and every business can benefit from creating one.
That said, the notion that you have to create a fully mapped out big business plan is wrong. The best approach is, in fact, the “lean” business plan. This is not an academic report, it’s a strategy, and it is the management tool that you will use to grow your business.
Beyond the clichés: What do you do?
To find out about how you can go beyond the clichés and about how to maximize the likelihood of your business succeeding, watch Tim’s video. He will go through, in detail, the four core steps that are fundamental to lean business planning, with diagrams and data to help you understand the concepts.
What do you think?
Have we missed any clichés? Is there anything you hear, time and time again, that is simply wrong? Share your thoughts with us in the comments so that we can address them in our content!