Easy Startup = Hard Success

Easy Startup = Hard Success

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Running a successful business is not rocket science. If that were the case, we would not have a thriving corporate world. But it’s not as easy as falling off a newspaper either. If that were true, we would all swim in the dough and have the time of our lives, which we are not. If your job seems too easy, you will have a hard time doing it.

What about all these millionaires in their twenties that you read? You know, self-proclaimed gurus and experts with all the clever articles on 5 habits, 7 hacks or 10 quotes that will lead you directly to the land of unicorns? I’m going to tell you a little secret: they’re all full of them. No kidding.

Somewhere between Elon Musk, working 100-hour weeks at the head of two companies and lying on a sofa with a MacBook in your lap, this is the right place for business success. And the closer you get to the old one, the better your chances of succeeding.

The trade-off for commercial success is as follows: The easier it is to start, the more difficult it is to succeed, and vice versa. There are all kinds of variables in this equation, including education, experience, skills, network, passion, persistence and intelligence. It’s a long list, but they all contribute to your competitive position in the market.

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And I have a simple analogy that explains how to best prioritize all of these factors and become a successful entrepreneur. Ready? OK, here it is: repairing small engines. Now don’t panic with me – I promise it will be a good read with a huge payoff in the end. To promise.

I may be working in Silicon Valley, but in my spare time I am a lumberjack. No kidding. I live in the mountains where I drop trees, cut them into rings and use a gasoline splitter to cut them into firewood. It’s a fun hobby. Last weekend, I tried to run the splitter and – didn’t you know – the damn motor won’t start.

I tried all the easy things but nothing worked. I checked online and found tons of information and troubleshooting tips, but they were all over the map. It’s great if you have all the time in the world and nothing else to do, but it isn’t.

Then I spoke to my stepfather, who has decades of experience with this sort of thing. It helped me understand that the carburetor was dirty so now I at least know which direction to go. It will not be easy, but it is not rocket science either. I am sure I will do it one way or another.

Now imagine that, after doing it once, I decide to make a living by repairing small motors. The problem is that there are literally dozens of mechanics and stores nearby that can do it better and many people, like me, who choose DIY.

In other words, the competition will be tough. Really difficult. Even if I improve over time, what is my differentiator? Whatever I come, I will still launch it with everyone. My market share will be low and profit margins slim. Income growth will be difficult.

So I ask you, is this a smart way to do it, professionally? No way. And yet, that’s exactly what many of you are doing right now with easy online business, a blog, direct marketing and a bunch of social media accounts.

Here’s another option. What if I have a real passion for this kind of thing? Then I could pursue a degree – maybe even a higher degree – in applied physics or mechanical engineering. Then I will go out and work for a company that designs and builds motors. I will learn the tricks of the trade, build a network and be exposed to many customers.

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And you know what? I bet that one day, I will meet a big customer problem that is not resolved or well served by the industry, I find an innovative solution and I create my own business. I’m going to start with a niche product and develop it from there. And since I will be so experienced and knowledgeable by then, I am sure I will fuck myself.

Now that would be the best way to do it.

I promised you a big gain at the end and here it is, five points to remember to become a successful entrepreneur:

1. Easy problem + Easy solution = Great competition + No differentiation = Poor business. In other words, easy start = difficult success. Unfortunately, most solopreneurs and small businesses fit this equation.

2. Online content is everywhere on the map, there is too much information and, as everyone has access to it, there is no competitive differentiation. It’s not good.

3. Mentors can help point you in the right direction, but only if they have concrete experience of what you want to do.

4. The schooling is excellent, so you understand the underlying fundamentals of your field, but even then the smart book can only lead you so far.

5. Real-world work experience fills all the gaps in practical learning, networking and opportunity. This is where you build good relationships, meet big customer problems and find innovative solutions.

Conclusion: starting a service business based on readily available information can be easy, but success will be difficult, really difficult. Education, mentoring and experience can be difficult, but they make it even easier.

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