Business planning · Business skills

Would you focus on building tangible skills, networking, etc. or on building a project without them?

Stoyan Vlahovski Entrepreneur by Hearth, Facebook Marketing Specialist, currently studying and a Hustler

July 18th, 2017

Imagine you are 19 years old. You want to be a really good entrepreneur, you are very ambitious and want to have your own big company one day.

Currently, you have mainly marketing skills such as Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing and so on. What's more, you know that before you start a business, you have to build an MVP and test it. You also know how to do that. However, you don't have experience and so much knowledge for the following steps.

You have two options in front of you:

- The first one is to focus on acquiring skills relevant for startups and business. For example, learning about Sales, Recruiting, Legal, becoming better at networking and etc. This would, of course, help you a lot in the future. The negative side is that you are still learning and being more like a "wantrepreneur". Moreover, sometimes the things you learn are not practical at all.

- The second option is to try with a proven business model and spend a lot of time on it. For example, starting a Shopify store. It is easy to launch it and you can find products to dropship or sell print on demand T-Shirts. On the one hand, you have something to sell from the beginning and you might even make some money. On the other hand, you know that a lot of people are already doing that, so the competition is extremely high. It will also require spending money on marketing (and you don't have more than 300$ for that). It really takes time to build that, which means you don't have time for the first option. That means the opportunity cost is high.

So which option would you choose and why? Please don't say both!

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

July 19th, 2017

If I were 19 again, I would know that I don't have marketing skills (yet), I only wish I did. The issue may be that you've limited yourself to two options. But cancel the second option because you should not compete, you should innovate. Anytime you try to be -er than someone else (better, faster, stronger, cheaper, cuter) you are competing and likely doomed. Do something differently, be first, most, best, or only. That's how you head in the direction of a company that won't be trying to slice the pie smaller.

It is unlikely that you will ever master more than 2 of the 6 basic business skills, so don't try to conquer them all. Figure out which two you actually have talent in, and then find multiple someone elses who can fill in the skill gaps. The six skills are marketing, sales, organization, efficiency, people, and leadership. You should be familiar with what each of these does for your business, but you don't need to learn more than what it should look like when it's operating correctly for the skills you aren't a master of.

That said, try something. You will learn more with a low risk attempt than you will reading a book. Hang out with the kind of people you want to be like. Ask lots of questions. And never assume you are the smartest person in the room. Hopefully not, of you won't learn anything.

Good luck.

Mark Hill Founder & CEO at The Wardrobe Essentialist

July 19th, 2017

Here's the good news: at 19, you have virtually your entire career ahead of you, so don't take steps out of desperation.

You're missing the most critical step that comes before building an MVP:

  1. finding a problem worth solving
  2. where you can deliver new value to customers eager to find a solution
  3. where you bring a unique perspective that will increase your odds of success. (read Chris Dixon's excellent post on Founder/Market fit

Ask yourself: does yet another Shopify store meet these criteria? Probably not, but I'd also suggest that focusing solely on functional skills like "Sales, Recruiting, Legal" is also unlikely to yield deep insights into customer needs, unless you plan to build a breakthrough solution for Sales, Recruiting, or Legal.

I'd also recommend that you read and reflect on Dixon's post on fundamental understanding of the space you're serving.

Louis Pasteur said,"Chance favors only the prepared mind." My advice to you is more preparation, until you can move beyond the free-floating desire to "have my own big company one day" and get a clear vision of delivering new value for specific customers.

Yhan ESSOH Senior Product Manager and Customer Development Executive

September 22nd, 2017