Entrepreneurs have tremendous passion and commitment to their idea, their product, their platform, their “baby.” In some cases, their “baby” is more than an idea – they’ve been able to gain localized marketplace traction in the case of products. Traction spurs them on, fuels their passion.
Onward and upward!
Then reality hits…. And the need for funding from sources other than friends and family. Perhaps demand exceeds capacity to manufacture (even your own kitchen can become very small very quickly).
That’s when you look for help: usually in the form of the local business incubator. You become a serial entrant in business competitions which can inject small sums into your operating capital.
That’s when the proverbial poop hits the fan.
That’s when your passion, perhaps your “hobby,” starts to morph into something else.
Your “baby” becomes business. The business. That’s when the “you” in the entrepreneurial question becomes “we.”
It used to be all about you.
Now it’s all about your customers, your understanding of the market place and industry, your ability to forecast and plan raw materials, operations, manufacturing, logistics. It’s about being accountable to your funding sources. It’s all about the him or her or the them.
That’s when you start to circle your wagons. That’s when you tell your mentors and coaches, that well, you’ll consider their advice, but you may just throw it out the window and continue to do things the way you originally planned to do them.
In your head.
Because all this input of scrutinizing your business from the perspective of the marketplace makes you feel marginalized. You feel like a passenger on this bus, instead of the driver. You can’t just continue to go out there and do your “thing” unless you are fully cognizant about how doing your “thing” ties into the marketplace and the voice of the customer.
That doesn’t sound like a hobby anymore. It sounds like work. In fact it is work. It’s your business.
For entrepreneurs who already have at least one day job, that’s when your garage band is tested for its scalability and flexibility into a bigger marketplace than the garage. For your electronic component, that’s when its utility is judged not as an engineering project for your masters degree but as a viable entry into an already-saturated marketplace. For your skin care products, hobby cars, or snack products that’s when you are placed on a major stage and vetted against what decision makers feel will add to their bottom lines.
That’s when your start-up really doesn’t feel like your start-up anymore.
Yet that is what you fantasized about, in your head, when you started out: a large company adopts your component into its manufacturing processes. Zing!
A major cosmetic company adds your product into their environment-conscious product line. Wow!
A mass market retailer adds your hobby car or snack food into their product mix in 14 states. Boom!
The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur is moving yourself out of What’s In It For Me into What’s In It For Them?
The good thing is, there are lots of us to help you along the way and turn you into a world-class entrepreneur who also is a world-class business person.
After all, it’s your idea, isn’t it?
Let’s just make it robust, responsive, scalable, and profitable for today’s marketplace.
Babette Ten Haken works with technically-focused companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups, enhancing team performance for revenue generation. Her popular blog, Sales Aerobics for Engineers® helps bridge the gap between technical and sales/marketing professionals. Click here to read the first chapter of her new book, “Do YOU Mean Business?”