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Dal LaMagna Headshot

Dear Graduate

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Your studies are complete, and as you start the mad dash to find a post-grad job, I hope you don't mind me offering a piece of advice that you may not have considered:

Now is one of the best times in your life to start a business.

One of the harder problems about being an entrepreneur is letting go of the security of the job you might have with some large company. Chances are this isn't your problem. You are not stuck in some job. Your resume is clear. You have little time (besides school) invested in a career.

Coming fresh from school, you have a number of advantages that would serve you well in starting a business. Your classmates are one of the great resources you have. This network of friends is fresh. Your body of knowledge is current. Your former professors are more likely to be available now for advice and they aren't likely to charge you a consulting fee. And your level of energy and enthusiasm is very high now. Take advantage of all of this now that you can.

There's still a lot of doom and gloom talk about the state of the economy. But it's important to remember that a period of economic of expansion has always followed recessions. No matter what people might be saying, the country is coming out of a recession. Plus many Americans are more inclined to do business with their neighbors than some large corporation.

By starting your own business, you can also play an important part in the economic recovery. The country needs jobs to fuel the expansion. The patriotic thing to do is go out and create jobs not just take them.

Take the plunge and start your own business now. Graduates of the Harvard Business School are doing just that.

So my advice continues. Be organized - or forget it, be focused - on one product or service, be frugal - buy only what is essential and then buy used not new, and be patient - you will not make a million dollars overnight. A reason I failed at a series of my business attempts is that I thought I could. Do one thing, but do it better than anyone else. If you are thinking of working with a partner, find two partners - three of you will always be able to make decisions.

Keeping score is an essential part of every game especially the game of business. Write down all your agreements; keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones and produce an income statement and balance sheet every month.

While you are at it you can avoid some of the mistakes I made that are detailed in my book Raising Eyebrows, A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right. Find something you can do with the limited amount of money you have or can easily get. (Go to my blog: Financing Your Dream Business to find out how I financed Tweezerman, my big success.) Don't procrastinate. Pick the right business.

Make sure you can make or source the product you plan to sell. Make sure you can sell the product you plan to offer. Take calculated risks but don't gamble. Don't expect powerful people to empower you. They will more likely exploit you; that's how they became powerful. (Read my blog My Worst Mistakes.)

Once your business is successful enough to support you then you can take it to the next level. Start with delegating the work and hiring people you empower.
(Read Take Care of Your Employees and They Will Take Care of You.).

Finally practice responsible capitalism. What this means is that your enterprise will benefit you but also your employees, your vendors, your customers, and your community. Why? Because not only will you feel so much better when you succeed my experience tells me you will also do better.

Congratulations on your graduation, and good luck to you in your future.

Dal LaMagna