How do I prepare if I want to start my own company?

Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: How do I prepare if I want to start my own company. Follow me on Quora.

  1. Learn sales. This may be the single most valuable skill as an entrepreneur. If you can sell, you will not fail. That’s the mantra. It’s take years to get good at sales. Get started right away! Read books, attend seminars, and most importantly get out and sell. Imagine that every $1 you spend learning sales, will come back to ten fold. Assume you’re terrible at sales and understand that it’s a learnable skill that you can continue to improve upon until mastery. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly selling. You’re selling your ideas, your services and your business. It’s a prerequisite to being an entrepreneur.
  2. Meet everyone. Yes, everyone. At your company, at competing companies, at companies looking to partner with you. Attend all the meetings with outside groups with outside parties. Ask to join meetings with outside companies that aren’t completely in your purvey. Connect with these people on LinkedIn, send them a brief thank you note, and then follow and engage with them on social channels like Twitter, Quora and others. (This is really just the basic of networking, which you should also learn to be very good at. And yes, like sales, it’s a learned skill.)
  3. Make friends with the folks in sales and business development at your current company. Take them out to coffee or lunch. Ask them for advice, what are valuable skills they’ve learned, etc. The best sales people are exquisite listeners, but they also aren’t afraid to talk about themselves. Absorb everything you can. Your life when you start your new company will be sales and business development. Get prepared now for it.
  4. Become a leader. Don’t wait until you start a company to become a leader. Become one now. There’s not a company that exists that doesn’t have extra projects or worked needed to done. Find those pain points in your company. Discuss what you’ve discovered and what you’re proposing to do with your manager or the company leadership. Almost every time, provided it doesn’t encroach on yours or others responsibilities, they’ll be impressed about your leadership and self-starter-ness. You’re going to be busy as an entrepreneur. Get busy now. Take on as much work as you can and aim to deliver outstanding results.
  5. Learn to communicate. Communicating well and effectively is one of the cornerstones of leadership and entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you will have difficult conversations you’ll want to delay or avoid. Don’t. You’ll have to ask for things you might be shy or scared to ask for. Don’t. Get started now. Have the difficult conversations in your company. Now. Ask for a raise. Negotiate discounts with vendors. Schedule a meeting with your boss and outline your goals for your work at the company, ask for feedback, set milestones (albeit for what will be a stay with the company). What will surprise you is that when you don’t procrastinate those difficult conversations, when you learn to speak and as for what you want, it will have a huge impact in your personal life as well. You’ll never what you can get, until you ask for it. Read about Noah Kagan’s Coffee Challenge (How to Earn More Money: By Asking) and how asking got him $2,000 more.
  6. Learn to manage. Your success as an entrepreneur will be predicated on building a team. It’s one of the first things you’ll realize. No business can grow and scale without a proportionate scaling of the team. So pretty soon, you’ll be managing. Managing people well will be one of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur. If you don’t want to manage people, don’t become an entrepreneur. If you want to succeed, then learn to manage. The best way is to learn from experience. So, position yourself at your current job to manage. Ask for that responsibility. A lot of people don’t want it and are happy to pass it on, so don’t be surprised if they give it to you right away. Otherwise, suggest a new project and bring on a couple interns and manage them. That’s about half of management, the other half comes with the next point.
  7. Imbibe knowledge. Read all the books anyone’s ever suggested on entrepreneurship and starting a company. It’s a bit like learning to dance by reading a book. Reality is so different than what you’ve read, but at least you’ll have some basics and steps to fall back on. Find and read the best books on entrepreneurship, business, marketing, sales and anything other relevant topics. I’m in my fourth year as an enpreneur, and I can’t read enough. My goal this year is to read two books per week. The more I read, the more I discovered I don’t know. Warren Buffets estimates he spends 80% of his days reading and thinking. He read as many as 600-800 pages/day when he first got started. Warren Buffet on learning.
  8. Connect. Meet and connect with other entrepreneurs. This may be harder than it seems because if they’re successful, they tend to have very limited time so best to stick within your social circle or attend networking events. People are much more likely to agree to a face to face meeting after you’ve met them than through an email. Ask them questions about their business, their success, challenges and struggles. Take it all in.
  9. Ideate. Brainstorm ideas. Come up with lists of business. Create lists of pain points in your current business or field or just in life in general and how you could solve them. Narrow your ideas down and rank them. Ask your friends for feedback. And listen, selectively. Keep an open mind and be ready to address criticism, but know that not everyone will see your vision or feel that it’s a business or market. Before starting my business, I had lunch with a friend who told me it was a terrible idea. After that lunch I reviewed my lists and re-justified my business to myself and countered his arguments. I launched two months later and had my first customer within a week.
  10. Tell everyone. When you’ve come up with your idea and are ready to move forward, tell every single person you know. Tell your family, cousins, coworkers, friends, acquaintenaces, everyone. This does a few things. First, it absolutely commits you to launching. People will get excited for you,and you’ll now be accountable. When you see them again, the first thing they’ll ask is how the business is coming along. Second, you are going to be amazed at how once you’re committed to starting something, how supportive everyone is. America has a long and proud history of innovators, disrupters, leaders and entrepreneurs. From this, it’s built a very supportive mentality. You’ll be amazed at how many people will offer to introduce you to people in the field or working on similar projects. Follow up with these introductions, and you’ll see how powerful networking can be.
  11. Get inspired. Entrepreneurship is like nothing else. Yes, it’s hard. It might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But without a doubt, it will one of the most rewarding in every way. So find those deep sources of inspiration, those things you can dig up when you’ve quit your job and you feel like you’ve made the wrong decision and you want your old life back, desperately. Read those books and biographies, bookmark those quotes and snippets, file away those images, talks and videos so you can recall them when you most need them. When everything feels stacked against you and nothing’s going your way, you can know then that countless others have done it before you, have faced worse odds, and harder hardships and that you’ll pull through it all to success.

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