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Start-ups: Style, Simplicity, Story, Simultaneity

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coffee, diary&citymap by France Gipsy via FlickrThe perils of necessity start ups

In 2011, we are going to see more ‘necessity start ups’.  A necessity start up is what it says on the tin. The proprietor would prefer to be employed but finds themselves in a situation in which they must make a living.  And they know what I am going to write next.  The odds are stacked against them.

I’ve been involved in a number of start ups and still find it psychologically hard.

Here are the 4 things I find hardest and what I do to ‘work around them’.  You could try them to see if they work for you.  I’m telling it how it is, so don’t be frightened – just try.

#1  If it were so easy to make a living, ‘deep pockets’ would be in there already

For example, in the mining world, there are gold deposits for the taking. The reason the deposits have not been taken and remain available to the smaller players is that the ground is unstable, the mine is prone to flooding, etc., etc.  In brief, the costs are likely to exceed the returns.

Or as the old saying goes, there may be a gap in the market but is there a market in the gap.

Necessity entrepreneurs are not going to make as much money as they used to and nor will their niche ever allow them to.  The simple but not so easy trick is to think differently about money.  Take pride in paying yourself the minimum wage only and give yourself a bonus when you can afford it.  That’s life in real business.  You don’t waste then money that you took such trouble to earn. You spend every $ wisely and yet with great pleasure.

Changing your mindset in middle age is hard though. Here is the trick.  Keep a diary of your frugality and watch how to jettison the mentality that sloshing cash around makes you the ‘big man’,and how you start to find small business really enjoyable. You’ll stop judging your success by the amount of money you have to spend to buy your lifestyle; and you’ll start judging yourself by your personal style?

What did you do today that was sincerely stylish (and independent of money)?  What did you try and what did you really enjoy doing?

#2  Working in a poorer company is harder because you have to make do with many fewer resources

In a large corporate, so much is done for you.  Like a student whose mum has always done his cooking, suddenly you have to fend for yourself without instant photocopy repairs and other armies of people to do everything from raise capital to deal with angry customers.

The skill of a necessity entrepreneur is knowing the simplest way to get anything done with the fewest people possible.  You’ll feel sad at first because so much of your life has been about complicating everything!  You’ll wonder how you managed to fill your days with such complications and how you have so much time now to do whatever you  like!

The trick?  Keep a diary of all the hacks you have discovered to do anything and everything easily. And count up how much time you have to do what you really believe is worthwhile!  Enjoy having free time to go for a walk and spend an hour with someone who needs the company.

# 3  We have to tell a story of being an owner, not an employee

This is a tough one that took me a long time to explain.  We all invest in our story and many people ‘sold themselves’ as a dutiful wage laborer for a long time.

Selling oneself as a business person is hard for two reasons.  First, we don’t have the track record.  Second, and more importantly, we have invested in the story of ourselves as employees and we are reluctant to water that story down – just in case.

A necessity entrepreneur needs to keep a diary of all the tasks they performed that day as a business owner.  If you try to write your story ‘in one go’, you will freeze.  You need to get a diary and write up each night what you did as a business owner.

I have not done this before but as an experienced work psychologist, I know this will work. You will start to see results within an month and within a year, you will wonder why you ever had an issue.  A daily diary of your tasks as a business owner.

#4   Doing and taking the risk of doing at the same time is quite hard

Very simply, at work, we are often doing what the boss has asked us to do.  Emotional responsibility and  execution are split.  If the task doesn’t work, we can blame the boss – at least emotionally. The boss will blame us too, of course.  And then we can have a competition of who is to blame.

A lot of energy goes into the blame-shifting game.  We need this energy now to cope with the possibility of making bad choices.  This is a new game and we don’t have teacher to guide us through.

Our diary each night should include a list of our technical work and the risk we have taken.  We need to revamp our mental models into bundling risk and task.  It comes ~ but only with practice.  I haven’t done this either, but I am going to because it will work.

Four steps to taking-off as a first time entrepreneur.

Grab a diary. An A5 will do. And every night, write up your day under four headings.

  • Style (that is not dependent solely on chucking cash about)
  • Simplicity (doing tasks simply without oodles of equipment and people)
  • Story (what I did today as a business owner)
  • Simultaneity (being the blame-bearing boss and the long-suffering employee at the same time!)

And let me know how it goes!

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