“You want to be an entrepreneur? Move out of your parent’s house,” I said.
I believe the first step in becoming an entrepreneur is to prove you can make it on your own. If you can’t support yourself in the world, why should anyone trust you can support a workforce?
I asked the prospective entrepreneur, “What does it cost you to live every month?”
He said, “My cell phone is $70 and my gas is $20 per week. So I guess it costs me $150 per month in all.”
“Who pays for your food, shelter, utilities and car insurance?” I asked.
“I live at home. My parents pay for all of that,” he said.
I think the first step to building a sustainable company is to build a sustainable life. Prove to me you can make enough money to live, and then we can talk about building a startup.
Here’s what happens when you achieve your first life goal of independence.
Prove You Can Work
You know you are great, but nobody believes it. You are standing outside the stadium telling everyone how great you will be when you get on the field. Well, get on the field.
You have to start somewhere. Once you become part of some company, you have a chance to compete and excel.
People will see how hard you work, how well you get along with others, your leadership skills and how smart you are. Then everybody will know what you’ve been saying all along about yourself.
Learn an Industry
The world thinks in terms of specialties. When you join a company, you become part of an industry which is serving a market.
This is the training ground for building experience and credibility. To understand the needs of a market, you have to serve them first. When you learn the market’s existing needs, you will also see the gaps.
The gaps are the startup you’ve been looking for all along.
Establish Functional Expertise
You have to learn and demonstrate a functional strength. People want to know what you are really good at. So is it sales, administration, marketing, product development? What is it?
When you know what you are good at, you know what you are not good at. You need to know these two bits of information to create a great team. Learn how to do this first while on someone else’s payroll, and then start a company and do it for yourself.
Learn from Mentors
You want to become great fast. Find a mentor in the industry and functional area of your choice.
Look for the person who is two levels up from you. The person you want to become. If you fall in love with them, they will fall in love with you.
Not only will you learn from their shared experience, but they will also help you get ahead. Your mentor is the person sitting in meetings you are not a part of. The meetings where the next potential leaders of the company are discussed. You will benefit greatly from this representation.
Build a Meaningful Network
Business, like life, is all about people. It is who you know and what they know that makes all the difference. The value of a relevant network can not be overstated.
If you are starting a company right out of college, the only people you know are college buddies. They know what you know, which is generally not much.
When you work in a business, you will be drawn to the top performers. These are people, just like you in your industry, who excel in their functional area. Your future startup will dip into this talent pool for the fast start you wanted all along. But you have to fill the pool first.
My advice for the future entrepreneur is simple. Move out of your parent’s house and get a job. The startup will come in due time. Then you’ll be an entrepreneur!