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Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Building a business is hard. Don’t make it harder for yourself by making these avoidable mistakes. Take it from Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s first Chief Evangelist, serial entrepreneur, and VC investor. He’s written 13 books on entrepreneurship, startups and business. Below is an extraction of his 10 tips from a talk at Silicon Valley’s Startup Grind.

1. Projecting based on the 1 percent

How hard could it be to get a little piece of the pie? Guy open by talking about the entrepreneurs who project a huge market and figure that the conservative estimate is to capture 1%. Getting that first 1%, say one million, is no small number. Do you even have traction with your product? Also, no investor wants to hear you only have ambitions for 1% of the market. If your product is worth investing in, it should take significant market share.

Use a realistic projection funnel. Based on your traction and sales, do a more realistic prediction. Do a market feasibility test before prototyping. When you prototype, continually get feedback from your target customers and grow your customer base as you are refining your product. By the time you pitch, you will have real numbers to base your calculations on.

2. Scaling too soon

After raising money, entrepreneurs often put their capital into the wrong resources; they get multiple offices and hire in anticipation of sales to come. As Guy puts it, you have people in Bangalore waiting to provide great customer service to non-existent customers. Because re-hiring later when sales catch up seems inefficient, one isn’t willing to let go of that expanded team. However, your product will never ship on time and your sales will likely never meet your projections.

Don’t hire until you’ve shipped product. Don’t hire in anticipation of growth. Also, the most stable thing to do is to grow a company based on sales revenue and pivot based on market demands. For example, the team of programmers who loved coding began by making Pandaform, but then evolved into a web and mobile development agency that builds products in-house and for clients.

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3. Partnerships…why?

If you have a strategic partnership that translates to opening your sales spreadsheet every day, keep it. Most partnerships are just a patch for a company’s shortcomings. Partnerships entail e-mails, meetings, plans and distractions from selling a product and generating real revenue.

Only sales matter. Guy summarises sales as keeping your investors happy. A startup’s ultimate survival test is to make revenue. Make revenue and you have happy investors, employees, and (a bit more) peace of mind.

4. Treating pitches as silver bullets.

Y Combinator Startup School

    A good pitch may help you win a business plan contest and give a good impression. However, a prototype with real traction is the best way to convince an investor. Guy references bootstrapping to get your startup off the ground. He urges founder to use Rackspace and Amazon Web Services for hosting and social media for free marketing.

    Prototypes are worth a thousand pitch decks. Build a basic prototype and make sales to demonstrate the product you are pitching has potential.

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    5. Slide overkill.

    Despite all the great examples of pitch decks out there, you’ll always have the entrepreneurs who can’t help thinking they’re the exception. They’ll give you 60 slides with 8 pt font. It never works.

    Go with the tried-and-true rule: 10-20-30. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font

    How can your business model in 10 slides and 20 minutes? Think of the limitation as a challenge to crystallise your idea. If your product is unique enough, it should be easy to convey in one sentence. Also, your slides are not your notes. If pitch shows enough concrete numbers, an investor will follow-up. Check out some of the most successful startup pitch decks online.

    6. Making life serial.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if life went step by step: prototype, raise money, hire awesome people, get sales, hack hockey stick growth, then have a spectacular exit.

    Life doesn’t wait for step one to finish before starting the next. Realistically, an entrepreneur needs to be building that prototype, fundraising, recruiting top talent,making sales, and figuring out business strategy. The chicken and egg feeling will never go away. If you are growing, your next opportunity will always be that uncomfortable stretch.

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    7. Recognise that 51% is an illusion of control.

    The moment you’ve taken outside money, you’ve lost control. Walked out of your last fundraising round with 51% of company ownership? As a founder, you are accountable to all your stakeholders. Your investors may not be that involved in running your business, but they can get 100% involved in voting with their feet. You need your investors behind you, and they get behind you when they think they will get $50 per $1 that they invested in you.

    8. Using patents for protection.

    Guy puts it succinctly: patents are for your parents. You’ll make them happy, and if you’re lucky, maybe the company acquiring you in the future will like it. That’s a big maybe.

    Realistically patents do not bring you sales and if a larger company produces something similar, are you going to sue them? Are you really going to spend all your investor money on litigation? Your investors probably wouldn’t want to take on Microsoft or Apple.

    Market share is the best self-defence. Get over yourself. For every product that you come up with, someone else in the world has probably developed something similar. One of Oursky’s favourite in-house products is Filesq, which is similar to many other prototyping and wireframing tools out there. Companies like InVision got market share. We didn’t. They didn’t steal our idea; most product managers and UX professionals wanted the same thing. Life moves on.

    9. Thinking VCs add value (and trying to make friends).

    Your investors are busy people. VCs and angels alike are looking at a dozen portfolio companies and maybe even running their own business on the side. Of course, they want you to succeed and will pick up the phone to connect you to the right person, but they won’t do much more.

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    Earn attention by performing. VCs think you may be a good investment and after closing the round, they’ll hover to see how you do. Your investors are much more likely to engage if they see you’re gaining traction and growing sales. Guy suggests you expect 2-3 hours from your investor. They’re not there as a buffer for your screw-ups. Guy summed it up as a Tindr world.

    10. Hiring yourself.

    He just gets it. From the moment you sit down for coffee, you two can go on and on for hours. You both have the same vision, concerns, working style and, of course, sense of humour. He fits the company culture. He’s hired. By the time you’re on your 10th team member, you’ve got a hundred blind spots and one big HR problem.

    Fill the gaps with complementary people. Hire someone who is different from you and brings in a complementary perspective. Bringing in men, women, people of colour, people with experience, people with inexperience depending on where you are. You need a team that can make, sell, and collect your product. A systematic way to do so is to map out all the different hats you (and your early team members) are wearing. Figure out where each of you are weakest and where the company has the greatest need. Start scouting for someone to fill that gap, even before you’re ready to hire.

    You can check out Guy Kawasaki’s talks on Youtube. Let us know what your best biggest learnings were as a founder!

    Featured photo credit: Drew Bennett via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 18, 2019

    How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

    How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

    Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

    However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

    Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

    Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

    There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

    Better Job Offers

    Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

    People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

    Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

    You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

    Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

    A Shot at Entrepreneurship

    Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

    We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

    13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

    1. Update Your Resume

    You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

    Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

    While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

    There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

    2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

    Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

    That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

    To hone this skill:

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    Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

    Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

    This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

    How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

    3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

    Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

    Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

    To hone this skill:

    Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

    4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

    No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

    Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

    To hone this skill:

    Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

    Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

    These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

    The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

    5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

    Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

    How to hone this skill:

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    Practice being resourceful.

    Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

    Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

    No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

    If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

    6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

    6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

    Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

    The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

    Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

    How to hone this skill:

    Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

    Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

    Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

    What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

    How to hone this skill:

    Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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    Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

    5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

    8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

    Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

    Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

    How to hone this skill:

    Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

    Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

    What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

    9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

    How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

    Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

    How to hone this skill:

    Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

    Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

    The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

    10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

    Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

    How to hone this skill:

    Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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    Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

    Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

    You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

    How to hone this skill:

    All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

    How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

    12. Build Networks and Relationships

    You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

    Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

    How to hone this skill:

    Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

    To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

    How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

    Final Thoughts

    Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

    You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

    Happy career switching!

    More Resources About Career Advancement

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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