The Five Principles of Entrepreneurship

Photo by: David Weekly

Photo by: David Weekly

 I self-identify as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are people who cause something valuable to come into existence. The classic story involves a garage, of course, but you don’t have to be tiny or self-funded to be one. At Peer Insight, I mostly work with entrepreneurs who happen to be employed by large (often behemoth) organizations. 

Here are my top five principles of entrepreneurship. I believe they apply equally, whether you are starting in a garage or leading a corporate venture.

  • Know Thyself: Study yourself through your own eyes and the eyes of others. Get a mentor. Your blind spots will kill your venture, so you’d better know them and fill the gaps with talented collaborators. 
  • Set Limits: Define what’s affordable to you (and your family), and don’t go beyond it. I started my first venture in my late 30s and felt pretty flush: I staked $250k of my money in the business and had the ability to work without a salary for six months. I never exceeded those thresholds. For others, the threshold may be six weeks and $6,000, but the principle is the same.
  • Lead with Confidence + Curiosity: Lots of people will say you must always believe in your business, but that will get you in trouble. Always believe in yourself, but have a healthy skepticism about your business. Confidence + Curiosity is resilient, whereas Certainty + Bravado is brittle. Just say to yourself, “What I know is valuable, but it isn’t enough to get me to where I’ve never been before.”
  • Embrace Rapid Learning: You’re entering the unknown. How else will you measure progress?  Learn through in-market experiments. Knowing what doesn’t work is the first step to figuring out what does work. Just do it fast.
  • Befriend Your Fear: Your “ick” feeling has important information encoded. When it shows up, listen to it and take action. In my first startup, I got a bad feeling about a prospective partnership and asked for an additional week to consider it with my board. The partner behaved as if he was insulted. The next week his firm announced a deal with my only competitor – a deal that almost certainly had been in the works while they were digging into my firm’s IP and business plans!

Did I miss a principle of entrepreneurship that has made you successful?  I’d love to hear it (I’ll embrace it as an opportunity for rapid learning!).