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From Idea to IPO: Getting Started

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"The way to get started is to stop talking and begin doing." ~Walt Disney

It all starts with movement. Getting your idea and seeing it go is a tremendous amount of work, but to start merely requires action.

There are so many terrific ideas that never take flight. Usually because of the fear and uncertainty that paralyzes people.

Those that move have an advantage, even though movement in itself hardly equates to success.

But one thing is for sure...

Your idea will NEVER succeed by standing still and furthermore the "Right Time" in your life will come exactly never; so keep that in mind when you are making decisions on how and when to move an idea forward.  

But is there a "Good Time?"

  Everyone has different life circumstances and those are the key determinants for our decisions.

Those circumstances may also serve as the rationale for us to wait or do nothing.

However, there certainly are better times to act. But can you identify those times?

This isn't so much a "How To" statement as it is a self-actualization statement, but here are some of the factors that should be considered.

  • The Idea: How well vetted is the idea? Have you done your homework to discover the market opportunity, time to market, resources required and your ability to provide the resources?

  • Timing and Transition: Are you currently in a full-time role? Can you make the time during your off-the-clock hours to do the research required? Not diving in 100 percent during this phase may allow you to save additional financial resources for when you decide to make a full run at it. It also gives you time to flesh out the idea to make sure it is ripe.

  • Cash Requirements: How much money will it take to fund the idea? Have you considered the "Entrepreneurial Rule of 3?" Everything takes 3x as long, is 3x as hard and costs 3x as much. Note this as a benchmark as you consider your legitimate startup costs.

  • Commitment: This may be the most important, but if you talk to entrepreneurs who have had big or even moderate successes, they all determined a point where they fully committed to their idea and relentlessly pursued success. There is no room for "Wishy-Washy" when it comes to realizing your goals.

The items outlined above may have an impact on timing, but first and foremost they reflect preparation. Regardless of whether you are 100 percent working on the venture or just moonlighting these items need to be at the forefront of your business plan.

As Fran Tarkenton once said "If you wait for the right time or the good times to start a business, you wait all of your life."  

Dealing With Fear and Uncertainty

  Even acknowledging that the "Right Time" may never arrive, that doesn't necessarily make it feel right.

There is something incredibly uncomfortable about change and that is further exacerbated when your decisions effect more than just yourself.

For instance you have a family, bills to pay and mouths to feed.

The idea of leaving what is comfortable, even if perhaps unfulfilling is gut wrenching.

That is why so many potential entrepreneurs never take the leap. They keep producing for those that have already taken the risk and can provide that bit of stability.

But to deal with the unknown, is the only way that the potential of the idea can be fully realized.

If you talk to most entrepreneurs that have seen an idea come to fruition, they will tell you that they were scared.

You will hear words like afraid, nervous and horrified.

But you will hear something else...

They will tell you that the uncertainty and fear served as a catalyst to get them moving at break-neck speeds towards their goals.

The funny thing is, many entrepreneurs never fully outgrow this because they have built something that they now must sustain and grow. And as we all know, what got us where we are today will likely not get us to where we want to go.

"In order to succeed your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure" ~ Bill Cosby  

The Role of Failure in Starting

  While action is the first step, it isn't everything.

Your idea may be the best ever and your preparation may be flawless. You may be unexpectedly run over by a bus that you never saw coming.

Think about Friendster's rapid growth and demise. Then MySpace. Are Facebook's days numbered?

You would never guess it, but if history is a reflection of anything then the real answer is yes.

Even of the Fortune 500 only about 10% have been able to stay in that rank for the 58 years since it was conceived.

So with that kind of turnover among the most successful companies think about the volatility of startups.

When it comes to startups that are self or seed funded nearly 90% fail and even those that get to Series A still fail at a rate of nearly 50%.

Meaning this...

Failure isn't completely avoidable, but that isn't a reason not to get started.

Tony Hsieh, the outspoken CEO of Zappos nearly crashed and burned on more than one occasion before and during his tenure at Zappos.

Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Oprah all had monumental failures before succeeding.

So if your last venture didn't work or the one you are about to try falls on its face, remember, you are in pretty good company.  

Shifting and Persevering

  While the list of epic failures by some of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time may give slight comfort to some, it won't pay your bills and it doesn't augment risk.

But here is something to consider.

The failures are the character builders, but the reason none of the great successes are remembered as failures is because they eventually succeeded.

Beyond learning from failure, the key is the ability to shift (agility) and persevere as you will run into hurdles, roadblocks and other metaphoric limitations.

To be a successful entrepreneur you are able to, either by force or through vision, change direction when you see an insurmountable challenge.

For instance Paypal was originally designed to be a mobile payment application to run on a "Palm Pilot."

I can think of 10 reasons why that would have limited Paypal, but they determined the limitations of that plan and then a better course of action and look at what they have become.

For those that don't want or need to change direction, it comes down to a willingness to persevere; and in some cases an entrepreneur has to do both.

Next time you talk to what you consider a successful entrepreneur ask them about a time when they couldn't or didn't think they could make payroll, or a time when they couldn't fill an order that was going to put them out of business.

What did they do, and how did they overcome these moments?

Most will tell you raw determination mixed with momentary creativity. But the bottom line is they persevered.

That is why you are asking them for their story and not the other way around.  

With Movement comes Commitment

  Fear, Failure and Perseverance. Nothing really novel here, but that doesn't change the ingredients.

Great ideas are, well, great.

But execution is what separates those that become and those that talk about becoming.

When deciding to chase your dreams, with the first steps must come a great commitment to achieving your goals.

Nonetheless you have to start. And if you start you may as well do the job right.

"Unless commitment is made there are only promises and hopes, no plans" ~ Peter Drucker