from the Good Magazine 19 Sept 13 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
The 3 P’s. I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. I’d just moved back to Los Angeles after spending two and a half years in San Francisco while attending Presidio Graduate School – an MBA program dedicated to a triple bottom line perspective (people + profit + planet), and was working for one of my dream companies as a consultant focused on social impact measurement. I’d received the job Offer letter the day I graduated, which I took as a sign that I was headed in the right direction. I enjoyed the work, but my thoughts kept drifting back to the business my team developed for our final project at Presidio—a Yelp for sustainability resources. I saw the problem all around me: 1) people wasting time searching for the best info & resources related to social & environmental impact, + duplicating efforts because there was no central, open-access destination to share.
A starting point was needed, and it had to be crowd-sourced because the space was too dynamic for any one person to keep track of. This belief continued to well up inside of me. I’d wake up at 5 a.m. excited by a fresh idea, I’d turn down social plans, so I could work nights & weekends, and the chalkboard wall in my kitchen was starting to look scribbled on. When the consulting job ended, the path forward was clear: I knew I had to follow my passion, and create a tech startup. In August, we released the beta version of Amp’s platform. The past 1 1/2 years has been an amazing ride filled with many lessons. If I could go back in time and give myself advice, here are 10 things I’d say:
1. Surround yourself with Inspiring people, avoid naysayers. People seek out the information that reinforces their decisions in life. When you commit to following your passion and taking a big risk, it can feel threatening to those who have chosen a safer route. As you express your enthusiasm, pay close attention to who’s trying to squash it, and remember that this most likely has nothing to do with you, but is instead a projection of their own insecurities & fears. Be compassionate, but minimize time spent with these people – especially to start. Surround yourself with the ones who say, “Go for it!” and develop new friendships with other entrepreneurs. Go to events, ask them to coffee, learn how they’ve managed to stay inspired & solve problems. Doing this will permanently change your perspective on life, and alter your conception of what’s possible. I promise.
2. Ask Questions—it’s one of the best ways to Learn. You can’t worry about sounding stupid, and you most certainly shouldn’t try to figure everything out in isolation. Do your research. Learn what you don’t know, by finding people who have the answers, and be direct with your questions. If you don’t know people who’ve had success doing what you’re trying to do, use your network and ask for intro’s. Time is of essence, and I’ve found this strategy to be the fastest way of getting from point A to point B. Schedule time to meet in-person or speak by phone. Email isn’t good for exploratory learning. Don’t pretend like you understand things you don’t. Swallow your pride. People like to help, and you need to build your network of support. I can’t tell you how many “dumb” questions I continue to ask our developers. It’s a necessary requirement.
3. Find a great Partner, because two brains are better than one. Right around the time I decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign as a way to assess demand and raise enough money to build the beta version of Amp’s platform, an Email that was sent out to the Presidio community by a previous classmate caught my eye. What began as a casual correspondence soon revealed a shared passion for Amp’s solution. His thinking consistently impressed me, and his experience managing IT projects from within startups and large enterprise, complimented my market research background. His even-keel style grounded my enthusiastic & extroverted personality. I offered him equity, a Co-Founder role. I feel very grateful for how well we’ve worked together. It’s led to higher quality work, and taught me a lot about myself.
4. Create your Mission & Vision in the beginning. Amp’s mission is to organize the best information and resources available, within the ever-growing Sustainability sector, and be the starting point for individuals interested in harnessing the power of business to drive social & environmental progress. Our Vision is to become the largest peer-reviewed Sustainability Resource directory in the world – dramatically increasing efficiencies & reducing duplicated efforts – at a time when solutions are desperately needed
5. View all Feedback as a Learning opportunity. When an individual stops what they’re doing to think about your company, regardless of what their specific feedback is, take it as a compliment. Never be defensive. Instead, take in what people have to say. Sometimes you have to let it marinate. In certain instances, a thoughtful response is totally appropriate, but most of the time you’ll want to avoid immediately taking up more of their time. Thank them, no matter what they said. You don’t have to ask them for advice – if you don’t want to. There is a noticeable difference between people who give “constructive criticism” in an effort to be helpful, and those who act like “know-it-alls” – in an attempt to build their own self-esteem. Watch for that, and avoid going back to the latter.
Patterns, Fun, Branding, Stay Focused, Celebrate Wins & more in next segment.