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Deck Stacked

Safety to Start-Up: Stacking The Deck in Your Favor

While it’s appropriate to emphasize the need to understand the fear that’s holding you back from pursuing that amazing new endeavor, it’s equally important to understand how to maximize success for first-time entrepreneurs. So, let’s change the narrative away from fear and learn from the brave souls who dive into the shark-infested waters of something new and different.


What motivates new entrepreneurs to move away from a safe career and to invest his or her precious time in a new bold crazy venture? And even more importantly, how do these entrepreneurs maintain that ambition once a new reality – and one that’s not always so rosy – is created.


From countless conversations with people thinking about starting something new and countless meetings with emerging and established entrepreneurs, a few common themes have started to emerge for predicting success. There’s no secret recipe for having the fortitude (read: insanity) to successfully start something on your own, but here are three telltale predictors that fear might be in the rearview mirror and success in front of you.



Future Man

The Future of Venture Capital

The real question for venture capital isn’t if change is coming, but how change will impact the start-up world. So, let’s pull out a dusty tool from the management consulting toolkit and breakdown both the “as-is” and “to-be” VC model.


Venture capitalists are pioneers of the finance industry, and let’s remember that VCs are the group jumped in to serve entrepreneurs when the rest of the finance industry wouldn’t touch high-risk markets with a ten-foot pole. Banking counterparts refused to innovate or fund start-ups, largely because bankers were too busy making money performing traditional services like debt, underwriting, issuing securities, and executing mergers and acquisitions. But the pioneers of venture capital ventured into the unknown and put their necks on the line to help entrepreneurs, particularly as the world of scalable tech businesses formed. Working hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists helped legitimize the start-up world.


So, let’s move away from the notion that venture capitalists are crusty old men with money and no innovation. That’s oversimplified at best and borderline divisive; all innovation is not coming from entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists, without a doubt, are innovators in their industry.


Hidden Risk

The Hidden Risks of Venture Capital

As both an entrepreneur and someone who spends a lot of time supporting other entrepreneurs in the startup world, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to growth and investing. When it comes to venture capital investing, one thing has become very clear: change is coming. The venture capital world of tomorrow will look a lot different than the venture capital world of today.


Let’s start by acknowledging that today’s model of venture capital is broken. According to a May 2012 Kauffman Foundation Report, less cash has been returned to venture capital investors than has been invested in venture capital since 1997. Ouch. We continue to see and read how and why the current  model has failed and it’s tough to disagree that the industry is challenged in the aggregate (read about it HERE, HERE, and HERE).



Lead With Purpose. Lead Like a Grandmother.

Managers don’t want to know about your personal life. It’s a best practice for managers to not learn much about their employee’s personal life so that it does not interfere with professional decisions.


What a load of garbage.


When I was a young engineer, my manager shared this piece of advice with me while communicating how the head of the office ran things. At the time, it made a lot of sense to me in a classic engineering way: professional decisions should be professional; if you don’t know about personal situations, you can’t be biased by these situations.


There’s logic in this thinking, but no truth. You see, managing a team isn’t a linear job – even if us engineers sometimes like to think that way because it’s easier – and better yet, justifiable. The truth is the circuitous and unpredictable path of knowing the people on your team, their motivations, and their personal goals makes it much easier to create a situation that works well for everyone involved.


This isn’t to say that as entrepreneurs we need to know details about our team’s weekends plans or we need to stay up to date on team dating travails – but understanding the entirety of what makes people tick matters. As evidenced by the cell phone we carry with us everywhere, a clean separation between work time and personal time is a casualty of the post-industrial era. The inseparable state of work and play complicates leadership, and requires a new approach to successfully managing a team.


Woman Dancing

Conquer Your Fear and Move On With Life

Fear is a paralyzing beast that lives in all of us. It spends every hour of every day working to keep us locked inside the soul-sucking cage we call our comfort box. Dramatic? Maybe. Just don’t dismiss the impact fear can have on your life and how fear can stop you from doing the amazing things you’re capable of.


But how can we conquer this fear? How can we be comfortable in an environment where we expose ourselves to fear? We get there by believing our true job is to expose ourselves to fear. We get there by believing that you’ll only be good at your job once you’re comfortable enough to not only dance with fear, but move beyond fear. Here, in the world where we are comfortable with fear, is where innovation, creativity, and infectious positive energy live.


Over time, I’ve identified a few tangible ways to get more comfortable overcoming fear. You’re guaranteed to feel awkward as you try these activities, but that’s a sign of personal growth. And I promise that over time these activities will become more comfortable. And as I like to say: with discomfort comes growth.


Businessman Deep in Thought

What’s The Real Reason You Haven’t Started The Business You Dream About?

Odds are you’ve thought a lot about creating a new business on your own. You’ve read books and blogs, shared ideas with friends, and probably even discovered that someone else brought “your” ideas to life. Yet for some reason, good or bad, you haven’t made a clear decision to start or not start a business. And if you’re like a lot of people I know – you’re no closer to a resolution than you were last month.


I recently spent some time with my friend Joe helping him decide whether he’s ready to leave the friendly confines of a well-paying corporate job to join the uncertainty of a start-up. As it turns out – the reasons he thought were driving his decision to potentially start a new business weren’t the real reasons at all. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not just Joe and this also pertains to you.


For me to discover the truth behind why I was or was not creating something on my own – it took years and the benefit of hindsight. As a strategy consultant with Accenture, I lucked into the amazing opportunity to create a new business selling a technology solution to Caterpillar dealers globally. Even after launching this new business, I was reluctant to leave the safe harbors of a steady job and work to create something new on my own. Two years at a top MBA program and over 3 years in management consulting, including a successful business launch, and I told myself I wasn’t ready. Worse yet…I believed it.


But enough about Joe and me. Let’s look at the good reasons why people don’t enter the start-up world. And to be clear – there are a lot of good reasons to not create something on your own. I tip my cap to those of you who actively consider life in a start-up and choose another path for good reason. After all, life doesn’t begin and end with careers that use words like co-founder, cap table, burn-rate, runway, pivot, convertible note, accelerator, incubator, and hoodie.