Words of Wisdom #2

So, we got quite a response from the last Insider/WOW’s that went out last week. It’s pretty cool to see other entrepreneurs (past and present) responding with their own WOW’s and lessons learned AND encouraging us to share those lessons with others. On that note, if you have your own WOW’s that you’d like to share with the MouseDriver Community, please feel free to respond to this email or to post it on the discussion forum (www.mousedriver.com/forum). That way, you’ll be able to share knowledge with all sorts of aspiring entrepreneurs…not just the two of us!

Words of Wisdom (in no particular order)
A Single Product is NOT necessarily a Company: There is a market for every product idea. Doesn’t matter if the idea is the stupidest idea on the planet, at least one person in the world is going to buy it. The key is understanding how big that market is and how you’re going to get the product in the customer’s hands. The one big question that you need to ask yourself before embarking on this crazy ‘bring your product to market’ adventure is: “Am I trying to build a sustainable company that will be around for the next 5-15 years OR am I trying to make a little bit of money and experience the satisfaction of seeing people actually go to the store and buy my product?”. For the most part, a single product (that does not have legit line extensions) does not equal a sustainable company. Meaning…the chances of you bringing a novelty product like MouseDriver and being able to grow/sustain the company for a lengthy period of time are pretty slim…in most cases. So, if you go into business knowing that your idea probably has a 2-3 three year time frame, develop a strategy that accounts for that time frame. While Platinum Concepts, Inc. was certainly a company (in the legal sense), our MouseDriver experience was more like a project. We knew it wouldn’t be around forever, but sometimes we lost focus of that.
Do Everything Yourself: Initially, especially if you are bootstrapping or are low on funds, you should be doing EVERYTHING yourself. That means that you’re in charge of accounting, operations, marketing, selling, answering the phones, taking out the trash, mailing things, etc. Essentially, you should use your own resources for as long as you can to create value and prove your idea. While many highly educated entrepreneurs might feel that answering the phones or taking out the trash is below them, our genuine advice is to get over it. Until you understand all aspects of how your company works and the processes involved (no matter how menial), you won’t know what type of person you’ll need to bring on….especially from a sales perspective. Stuart Nachbar of College Central said it best with this WOW: “Do all of the initial sales yourself for at least a year or two. You can’t consider hiring a salesperson until you personally know why customers bought your product.” While we had all intentions of bringing on early employees (admin types), we could never afford it. Fortunately, we are much better business minds because we had to do everything ourselves. It’s an appreciation sort of thing!
Develop Your Network: This one is pretty self-explanatory. One of the first things that you’ll learn when going into business for yourself is that the opportunity to network and meet new people increases significantly. Because you’re doing everything yourself, you get to meet people from all walks of life. Whether it’s the customer living in Butte, Montana, the sales rep in Orlando, the professor in Boston, or the production manager in Reno, you have the opportunity to grow your personal and business network. It’s quite amazing really. Think about it. When are you ever going to have the chance to meet so many new and interesting people? Case in point: We’ve probably met several thousand people through The MouseDriver Insider simply by keeping people updated of our progress. In the end, the Insider subscriber base became our biggest asset and best source of advice, insights and knowledge. All because of our desire to meet new people and share our experiences.
Don’t Get Too Emotional: As an entrepreneur, you’re going to be emotional about your company because it’s your ‘baby’, so to speak. And that’s a good thing. But, keep in mind that business is no place for emotions. In the course of business dealings, negotiations, meetings, etc., the naysayers are going to cut you down, they’re going to piss you off and they’re going to, at times, come across as totally irrational. Our advice: take a deep breath, calm down and reply in a business-like manner. There were numerous times, especially early-on, when we’d get what we perceive as a bad email or phone call and immediately respond with an equally bad email or phone call…because our emotions ran high. Over time, we realized that it’s better to simmer off and deal with things when you’re not so emotional. Remember, it’s just a business. Life goes on.
Distribution and PR: You’ve heard us say this a million times, but distribution is key. Doesn’t matter if you have the best product, the best people, the best price, etc., if you can’t get your product in the customers hands, you’re doomed for failure. So how does PR fall into this equation? Well…PR (assuming that your PR strategy should ultimately increase sales…which it should), won’t do much for you unless all of that media attention can lead to increased sales. And you can’t have sales with solidifying distribution. Before you start embarking on all of that phenomenal PR, you need to make sure that people can easily get to your product. Case in point: We received an inordinate about of PR for MouseDriver. But because we were only able to penetrate about 40% of our distribution targets, we missed out on a ton of sales.
Negotiate Everything: Seriously. Everything is negotiable. Don’t make the mistake of listening or reading about somebody’s requirements and assuming that it’s sealed in gold…especially if you’re bootstrapping. Initially, we just accepted the terms that were given to us because we felt that they weren’t negotiable and that we had no leverage. Huge mistake. If you’ve got something that others want, then there is always room for negotiation. Just need to understand what the other person wants and what you’re trying to get out of it. We didn’t realize a lot of this stuff until we were desperate for money and had absolutely no choice but to negotiate. We have around 8 more WOW’s that we’ll pass along in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please continue sending your comments to us or posting them on the discussion board.

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