I was watching a Major League Baseball game last week when a rookie came up to bat for the first time. As he was facing one of the top pitchers in the majors, and I'm sure most of the fans expected him to strike out or at best ground out to the infield. After taking a couple of pitches and "meeting" the crowd's expectations, he took a swing at a fastball and hit a tremendous home run out of the park.
Beginner's luck? Maybe. But I prefer to believe that this athlete was well-prepared, he had learned the right skills, he had studied the competition (he knew something about the pitcher and what kind of pitches he would throw), he was physically ready for the big time and he was mentally and emotionally up to the challenge.
The same thing holds true for rookie entrepreneurs. Getting the right start in a new business is more than "beginner's luck." It's even more than simply inventing and developing a great product. A company founder needs to possess the full package. The business needs to be prepared to achieve the stated goals, the knowledge of the marketplace (customers and competition) needs to be sound and the go-to market strategy on target, and the team must possess the mental and emotional toughness required during the startup phase.
If the entrepreneur has all of this going for him or her, his first time up to bat can result in a business home run rookie or not.
For entrepreneurs, being prepared to do business is just as important as it is for athletes to be prepared to play ball at a high level. That includes:
• Concentrating on what you do best. Keep the business simple, focus on your core competencies and outsource the remaining parts of the business.
• Controlling costs. Keep your overhead as low as possible, even if that means not having the world's nicest work space to begin with.
• Focusing on a few key customers. Good service will go far as you utilize these first customers as references in helping to build the business.
• Building strong supplier relationships. Find suppliers who will work with you and who understand the challenges facing the new enterprise.
Mental and emotional preparation can be equally important during the start-up phase. Remember our batter as he faced his first big league pitcher? He was mentally prepared to be successful. Each new founder wakes up one morning to the startling realization that the business is no longer a dream, but a stark reality. Within the first 30 days, there will be payroll to meet, suppliers to be paid, contracts to be signed and customers to satisfy.
Many seasoned professionals talk about the total commitment that must be made to the new enterprise. Be prepared to spend long days, sleepless nights and most of your conscious time thinking about the business. In this respect, starting a business is a total commitment.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that the entrepreneur should sacrifice everything for the business. You need to create some balance in life, and I always urge new entrepreneurs to decide early to block out time to enjoy quality time with those that you love. But starting a new business is not like starting a new job. It's going to be more demanding of your time, resources and energy than anything you've ever done. You've got to be mentally and emotionally prepared for that level of commitment.
But if you're prepared ... well, that baseball rookie showed us what can happen.
Gary Williams is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].