I started the A Group a decade ago with an idea, but no capital and no investors. Thankfully it worked. It is still working and growing into a vibrant and profitable business that currently employs nearly 30 people. While the growth has not been exponential, it has been steady. We were profitable from day one and continue to be so. We have grown even during the toughest days of the recent recession. There are a lot of lessons we are still learning but a few foundational ones we have gotten right. I’m sharing some of these lessons in this series on entrepreneurship.
A good idea. Nothing is more important than your new venture’s premise for existence. Is this a good idea? That’s sometimes an elusive question. Intuitively I think so, but how can I quantify it? Ask. Ask the right people, however. I know your mom and husband might think your idea is just the best thing ever since sliced bread, but the opinion that truly matters is that of those whom you are going to impact. Often a little money, a good idea, and a lot of hard work will get you going. The opposite is also true: a bad idea with a lot of money behind it will just take longer to die.
Focus. Understand the space you’re going to play well and your target audience. The more comfortable you are with your business, the more likely you are to succeed. What you don’t know will often hurt you. Years ago, an entrepreneurial friend wanted to develop a medical building where multiple doctors would lease space. He asked advice from a veteran developer who immediately told him it was a bad idea. “Too risky. I wouldn’t do it today. And I have a lot more money and experience,” said the mentor. My friend disregarded the advice and went on to build the facility and file for bankruptcy not long afterwards.
Flexibility. Opportunity might shift the scope of your new venture. But it needs to be the right opportunity with the right payoff. Early on at The A Group., we worked on a project that did not fit perfectly in a business model. But we knew that it had the potential of using what we had learned to date and helping develop a new, more profitable business opportunity. It worked and we now have a successful new product line for our technology division.
What best business advice you have received or offered?