By Joshua Schroeder
Why do people start businesses? Where does the motivation and drive to overcome never ending obstacles to achieve an ongoing number of milestones come from? Many people may answer that it is the search for wealth, recognition or the self-satisfaction that comes with being “right” or solving a problem. In my case, all of these reasons definitely influenced my decision to become an entrepreneur, but none of them was or is the principal motivation.
When I decided to start down the path of business creation the only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to embark on a learning process that would be without an equal up to that point in my professional career. I accepted the fact that the only guaranteed payoff would be in the form of an education, weighed the risks, and went for it.
So, while I have no rags to riches story to share, I did want to pass on a couple of learnings that I acquired on two recent startups, one in the US and one abroad.
1. Keep it simple. An idea or concept that seems simple at the outset will undoubtedly become exponentially more complex and thus more difficult to get to launch. Furthermore, the majority of the learning and thus modifications to the concept come after go-live when customers are providing feedback and strategic weaknesses are exposed. The best “beta” is a live one and it is faster and more efficient to modify a simple concept than a complex one.
When my partners and I began developing the idea for our business Man Made Simple, our goal was to simplify men´s daily morning routine. We wanted to offer high quality essentials on subscription or individual purchase basis. You know those products that we men constantly need, hate to buy and always run out of. Undershirts, underwear, socks, shaving…simple enough right? Well, we underestimated the time required to design and produce superior, customized products that would represent our brand and appeal to our target market. It has taken nearly three years to get to the finish line and while we are confident that our brand offers the best in terms of comfort, fit and durability, I often wonder if we should have started out as a t shirt company and grown into a “lifestyle solution.” So, my advice would be to try and keep the idea and the business as simple as possible for as long as possible or you may lose valuable time.
2. Understand your surroundings. If entrepreneurship is hard in the US it can be even harder abroad. Understanding the tastes, preferences and priorities of a particular market in a foreign country can take years. Add to that the difficulties presented by unfamiliar laws, high sector ecosystem risk/poor infrastructure and a limited entrepreneurial community to lean on and you may never even get to the commercialization phase. In my opinion, the best way to acquire this knowledge and cut through the red tape is to find a local partner.
Recently in La Paz, Baja California Sur Mexico I opened the first of what I hope will be many small, fast casual restaurants called J&R Ribs Costillería with a local partner. My partner had no restaurant experience, but had owned and operated a successful bar for almost a decade and knew the market, had supplier contacts, understood the legal framework and how best to get things done at the local level. Without my partner, even a restaurant with a simple menu consisting of only baby back ribs, natural French fries and an organic salad would have been almost impossible to get off the ground. As it was we went from idea creation to opening our doors in six months and we are already looking for additional locations. Given my partners local expertise we greatly reduced the upfront investment and ramp time. I consider this a feat we almost certainly could not have repeated in the US.
In closing, I can say that nothing in my professional career has taught me more than starting and running a business. You may not learn how to calculate your weighted average cost of capital, but you will learn how to take an idea from its infancy to realization, while participating in the creative process… In my opinion, the best business education around.
If you would like to learn more about or follow the startups mentioned please visit the following links.
Man Made Simple
J&R Ribs Costilleria
On Facebook here.
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of his employer or any other person or entity.