BBBT IV -The Startup Garden – Finding Your Calling
Our Interview continues with Tom Ehrenfeld, author of the book ‘The Startup Garden’.
Q. Probably the most unique chapter in your book is ‘Finding Your Calling’. Most small business owners out there seem to have gotten their start while continuing to work for their former employers. Is there any advice you can give someone who wants to start a new business and yet continue to work for their employer regarding the impact on ethics, lifestyle and general business success? You also speak about finding something that you are passionate about. Can you elaborate a little about why this is important to succeeding in business and what it helps a business owner do?
A. Just keep in mind that successfully launching a company pulls together a huge array of disparate activities, and you don’t have to do them all at once. Sure, if you’re opening a restaurant you gotta have the food and permits and people and so forth ready for opening day. But many ventures can get started iteratively, on the cheap, in a modest manner.
And the best place is often your own back yard, more or less. Why not start with what you know? Many great entrepreneurs, going back to founder Tom Watson of IBM, developed skills and contacts and technical expertise at a large company, and used these resources to launch a new venture. I think the core lesson is: act honorably and honestly about what you are doing. Don’t steal trade secrets for personal gain!
But remember that most opportunities have more to do with process, opportunity, iteration, emerging markets. It generally takes the resources of a large corporation to successfully harvest the promise of a capital-intensive new technology. It’s more likely that you have spotted a place in the market that’s underserved, or a niche that’s not attractive to your company. Don’t get hung up on just one idea.
Also, the key to being open, to working your day job completely, to respecting propriety, is this. Don’t burn bridges. Large companies are phenomenal sources of valuable relationships (in terms of potential angel investors or even corporate stakes.) They are often the first place to go
when seeking customers or partnerships. There are so many potential benefits to maintaining healthy ties with your old company that it rarely makes sense to be less than honorable.
About passion. For the sake of startups, I think that passion must be viewed in the context of intimacy. We tend to be most passionate about the things that we know and care about on a personal and direct level. That we know and experience and are directly involved with. This knowledge, and attention, generally points us towards, for want of a better word some ‘thing’ that can and should be improved, changed, or invented. Most entrepreneurs are the best customers of their company’s product or service. So heed your passion, and harness it.
– Do you want to know what Tom Ehrenfeld knows? Of course you do! For a limited time only The Small Business Blog(TM) will have a direct link to Tom’s book “The Startup Garden”. Go there now before the link disappears and you miss your opportunity. It’s FREE to get there. Just click here and get your copy today! Do it now, don’t miss out! -ed.