I launched my business while I was employed full time. It took off, I reached a point where I needed to resign and concentrate on the business full time, and I found an investor, which has given us a year of runway. We deliver beer and gin and tonic on tap. What we are currently experiencing though is a flood of opportunities. Should I try and do everything, and increase my revenue streams, or focus on one thing at a time? — Jonathan
Rule Number One: Focus. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Until the day you give up on the commercial prospects of your first idea, do not chase any others.
As soon as you get into the game you will find plenty of opportunities coming your way. Say NO to everything. Give 100% of your energy to making a success of ONE thing at a time.
Once you’ve made a commercial success of your first product, use that foundation of capital and expertise to chase the next product, ie: G&T.
Don’t stress about missing out. Most opportunities don’t go away. Most opportunities go begging because most people can’t focus on one thing at a time. I get what you’re saying, but what about setting up the Gin and Tonic bottling business for someone else to run with you as the primary shareholder?
If I were you I’d put 100% of my energy into your primary line. When that’s pumping cash, move to G&T. But I’m not you. Only you can make the right decision for your business. Whatever you choose, you can never say it wasn’t your choice.
You mention the book Anti-fragile in Be a Hero. I’ve just finished it and my understanding is that optionality is extremely important. If this is the case, then doesn’t having multiple businesses give you the greater opportunity that one will take off? — Anonymous
You must balance optionality with focus. You can’t succeed without focus. In order to focus, you need to be anti-fragile (ie, have no fear of adverse events). For example, my personal balance sheet is diversified, so I’m not entirely reliant on the success of my business.
That frees me up to be super-focused on my business. Diversification in business is for professional investors, not entrepreneurs.
One of our clients wanted us to develop a solution, but because we didn’t have enough resources in-house we had to approach an outside company to work with us as business partners. However, I am not happy with their contract. I don’t think they’re being fair to us. What should I do? — Portia
At the end of the day, you need partners. The only way to know whether you can trust a partner is to trust her. If the agreement is difficult to understand, they’re probably trying to trick you. If they’re trying to trick you, steer clear. Have a clean, simple agreement. See what happens. If they screw you, move on.
My partners aren’t as passionate as I am, and I often find them to be lazy. I spend a lot of time telling them what they should be doing, or just doing a task myself. Should I cut my losses, move on and start my own business with investors who do add value? — Charles
You need to trust your partners. Trust = integrity x competence x commitment. If you don’t think your partner has integrity, competence or commitment, then the entire equation equals zero. Which means you have zero trust. Which means you can’t be partners. If this is the case, you have no choice: Get rid of your partner, or leave the business and start again.
I have recently started my own wine business after spending 7+ yearsin the wine industry. A question I ask myself daily is whether I spend my time pushing sales over and above building the business platform first. I’ve dealt with a few start-ups from a procurement point of view who send sales consultants to me without the basics in place, and I often find it rather unprofessional. — Richard
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t mess it up by not having a business card or website. Create as credible an impression as fast as possible, while spending as little money as possible. Personally, the first thing I do before I start selling is register a URL, design a logo, build a website, and print business cards. WordPress is easiest for URL registration and web hosting. If you want to design a logo and a website there are plenty of freelancers around. For business cards, the best is www.moo.com (they deliver to South Africa, get the Luxe option). Only then do I start selling. Only once I’ve sold something do I worry about fulfilment. Of course, the golden rule is Keep Your Promises. If you sell something and then don’t deliver the goods, you won’t find it easy to sell again.
Listen to this
Alan’s audible book Be a Hero: Make Life an Adventure is now available on amazon.com and Audible.com
Read by Alan himself, Be a Hero is a collection of stories on how to make your life an adventure by changing your mindset and tackling adversity.
Go to amazon.com or audible.com to download your copy. Be a Hero is also available in Kindle and paperback through Amazon.com.
Read ‘Be A Hero’ today