Second Act: Advice for Domain Experts Turned Mature Entrepreneurs
KARL R. LAPAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE NIIC
“In fact, the romanticized narrative of the young, mostly male, high tech wizard accounts for the smallest constellation in the universe of entrepreneurs – only about five to seven percent.” Carl Schramm reminds us all of this important fact in his new book Burn the Business Plan. So why is it, most communities are focusing so intensely on the Millennials (who are not starting businesses today anywhere close to the rate of their older demographic) when more seasoned business people are putting their domain expertise and market insights to work by starting companies? We should not forget this important entrepreneurial segment.
Here are four truths about starting a business that might be helpful to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to re-invent themselves in a “second act” or as Bob Buford reminds all of us who are aging and figuring out how to go from success to significance — Half-Time.
Know that managing uncertainty is the name of the game
Nothing is certain in business. But one thing’s for sure: you won’t likely get ahead by playing it safe. A conservative approach might have served you well in the corporate world, but entrepreneurship doesn’t follow the same set of rules-and that can serve you well. Seek out trusted advisors like The NIIC to guide, encourage and support you and your business through the choppy waters of a startups’ life cycle.
Commit and do it
If you’re at a standstill about a tough decision, ask yourself whether your business survive the worst-case scenario. Once you realize it’s likely not a life or death situation, it’s easier to make a tough decision—and stick to it.
Invest in learning and active/”close” listening
Your role will naturally evolve as the company does. Priorities will shift as you advance further in years. It’s important to take into account this eventuality into account by hiring the very best people and empowering them to take ownership. A solid team means you’ll be able to focus your attention on other matters— and pave the way for the next generation of leaders.
Strive for flow (flow is the new balance)
As a mature entrepreneur (coined by Schramm), you likely have the moxie to know how to temper hunger and drive with relationships, connections and strategy. Take market engagement activities, for example. Introduce a minimally viable product, and let your potential customers help you figure out the rest.
Don’t get too fixated on the details and wait too long to get your widget into the hands of your customers. Instead, identify a pain point and deliver a solution—no matter how stripped down it has to be. Then, tune into customer feedback and add features and functionality as determined.
Bottom line: Take risks, be bold, and lean on the right people and the rest will fall into place. Remember, the research and the value of wisdom and experience are clear —”The chances of a new company surviving rises with the age of the entrepreneur.” We all know it takes more than “war” stories, pizza, beer and coffee to build a sustainable venture.