100 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur
by James Altucher: Nine
Ways to Break All the Rules!
If you Google
“entrepreneur” you get a lot of mindless cliches like “Think Big!”
For me, being an “entrepreneur” doesn't mean starting the next “Facebook”.
Or even starting any business at all. It means finding the challenges
you have in your ife, and determining creative ways to overcome
those challenges. However, in this post I focus mostly on the issues
that come up when you first start your company. These rules also
apply if you are taking an entrepreneurial stance within a much
larger company (which all employees should do).
For me, I've
started several businesses. As I've described in the rest of this
blog, some have succeeded, many have failed. I'm invested in about
13 private companies. I've advised probably another 50 private companies.
Along the way I've compiled a list of rules that have helped me
deal with every aspect of being an entrepreneur in business and
some in life.
thinks I shouldn't put this post up. This is going to be a chapter
in a book I am self-publishing in a week or so: “How to be the Luckiest
Man Alive”. But I'm trying to price the book for free on Kindle
so why not? Plus, once I write something, I can't help myself. I
have to put it up.]
the real rules:
It's not fun. I'm not going to explain why it's not fun.
These are rules. Not theories. I don't need to prove them. But there's
a strong chance you can hate yourself throughout the process of
being an entrepreneur. Keep sharp objects and pills away during
your worst moments. And you will have them. If you are an entrepreneur
and agree with me, please note this in the comments below.
Try not to hire people. You'll have to hire people to expand
your business. But it's a good discipline to really question if
you need each and every hire.
Get a customer. This seems obvious. But it's not. Get
a customer before you start your business, if you can. (see,
“the Easiest Way to Succeed as an Entrepreneur”)
me on Twitter.
If you are offering a service, call it a product. Oracle
did it. They claimed they had a database. But if you “bought” their
database they would send in a team of consultants to help you “install”
the database to fit your needs. In other words, for the first several
years of their existence, they claimed to have a product but they
really were a consulting company. Don't forget this story. Products
are valued higher than services.
It's OK to fail. Start over. Hopefully before you run
out of money. Hopefully before you take in investor money. Or, don't
worry about it. Come up with new ideas. Start over.
profitable. Try to be profitable immediately. This seems
obvious but it isn't. Try not to raise money. That money is expensive.
raising money: if it's not easy then your idea is probably
incapable of raising money. If its easy, then take as much as possible.
If its TOO easy, then sell your company (unless you are Twitter,
same goes for selling your company. If it's not easy, then
you need to build more. Then sell. To sell your company, start getting
in front of your acquirers a year in advance. Send them monthly
updates describing your progress. Then, when they need a company
like yours, your company is the first one that comes to mind.
is good. It turns you into a killer. It helps you judge
progress. It shows that other people value the space you are in.
Your competitors are also your potential acquirors.
use a PR firm. Except maybe as a secretary. You are the
PR for your company. You are your companys brand. You personally.
with everyone. Employees. Customers. Investors. All the
time. Every day.
Do everything for your customers. This is very important.
Get them girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Visit
their parents for Thanksgiving. Help them find other firms to meet
their needs. Even introduce them to your competitors if you think
a competitor can help them or if you think you are about to be fired.
Always think first, “What's going to make my customer happy?”
customer is not a company. There's a human there. What
will make my human customer happy? Make him laugh. You want your
customer to be happy.
up. Go to breakfast/lunch/dinner with customers. Treat.
History. Know the history of your customers in
every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history,
investing history, etc.
software development. Nobody knows your product better than you
do. If you aren't a technical person, learn how to be very specific
in your product specification so that your programmers can't say:
“well you didn't say that!”
local. You need to be able to see and talk to your programmers.
Don't outsource to India. I
love India. But I won't hire programmers from there while I'm
living in the US.
Don't buy into the 20 hours a day entrepreneur myth. You need to
sleep 8 hours a day to have a focused mind.
Same as above. If you are unhealthy, your product will be unhealthy.
Fit. DON'T have dating problems and software development problems
at the same time. VCs will smell this all over you.
You need to. Be grateful where you are. And pray for success. You
deserve it. Pray for the success of your customers. Heck, pray for
the success of your competitors. The better they do, it means the
market is getting bigger. And if one of them breaks out, they can
Buy your employees gifts. Massages. Tickets. Whatever.
I always imagined that at the end of each day my young, lesbian
employees (for some reason, most employees at my first company were
lesbian) would be calling their parents and their mom and dad would
ask them: “Hi honey! How was your day today?” And I wanted them
to be able to say: “It was the best!” Invite customers to masseuse
your employees like they are your children. They need boundaries.
They need to be told “no!” sometimes. And sometimes you need to
hit them in the face (ha ha, just kidding). But within boundaries,
let them play.
be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good
and you price it cheap, people will buy. Then you can price upgrades,
future products, and future services more expensive. Which goes
along with the next rule.
is everything. Branding is everything. Get your name out
there, whatever it takes. The best distribution is of course word
of mouth, which is why your initial pricing doesn't matter.
me on Twitter.
kill yourself. It's not worth it. Your employees need you.
Your children or future children need you. It seems odd to include
this in a post about entrepreneurship but we're also taking about
keeping it real. Most books or “rules” for entrepreneurs talk about
things like “think big”, “go after your dreams”. But often dreams
turn into nightmares. I'll repeat it again. Don't kill yourself.
Call me if things get too stressful. Or more importantly, make sure
you take proper medication
employees structure. Let each employee know how his or
her path to success can be achieved. All of them will either leave
you or replace you eventually. That's OK. Give them the guidelines
how that might happen. Tell them how they can get rich by working
employees immediately. If an employee gets “the disease”
he needs to be fired. If they ask for more money all the time. If
they bad mouth you to other employees. If you even think they are
talking behind your back, fire them. The disease has no cure. And
it's very contagious. Show no mercy. Show the employee the door.
There are no second chances because the disease is incurable.
friends with your landlord. If you ever have to sell your
company, believe it or not, you are going to need his signature
(because there's going to be a new lease owner)
move offices if you are so packed in that employees are
sharing desks and there's no room for people to walk.
killer parties. But use your personal money. Not company
money. Invite employees, customers, and investors. It's not the
worst thing in the world to also invite off duty prostitutes or
an employee comes to you crying, close the door or take
him or her out of the building. Sit with him until it stops. Listen
to what he has to say. If someone is crying then there's been a
major communication breakdown somewhere in the company. Listen to
what it is and fix it. Don't get angry at the culprit's. Just fix
Christmas, donate money to every customer's favorite charity.
But not for investors or employees.
lunch with your competitors. Listen and try not to talk.
One competitor (Bill Markel from Interactive once told me a story
about how the CEO of Toys R Us returned his call. He was telling
me this because I never returned Bill's calls. Ok, Bill, lesson
advice a lot. Ask your customers advice on how you can
be introduced into other parts of their company. Then they will
help you. Because of the next rule…
your customers. Or not. But always leave open the possibility.
Let it always dangle in the air between you and them. They can get
rich with you. Maybe. Possibly. If they play along. So play.
any demo or delivery, do one extra surprise thing that
was not expected. Always add bells and whistles that the customer
didn't pay for.
the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where
are marketing dollars flowing and can you be in the middle. What
services do aging baby boomers need? Is the world running out of
clean water? Are newspapers going to survive? Etc. Etc. Read every
day to understand what is going on.
the rest of the article
© 2011 The
Best of James Altucher