This was offered by one of My Mentors; Chuck Templeton
1. HOW TO NAVIGATE THE INFORMATION TUG OF WAR
Starting a business is like mountain climbing in Antarctica —
successful climbers focus on the next 20 feet, not the peak,
says Chuck Templeton, founder of OpenTable.
Undoubtedly, as an entrepreneur, you’re going to get a lot of
advice from a multitude of sources—friends, partners, mentors,
and investors—about what it takes to run a business. Some
of it will be useful and some of it won’t. Knowing who and
what to listen to can be tricky not to mention overwhelming.
I experienced this confusion first hand while founding OpenTable,
and I see how it affects the entrepreneurs I mentor today. So
here’s my best advice for navigating the information tug of
war that inevitably happens when you start a business.
2. IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
The goal is to increase your chances of success. Being an
entrepreneur is hard. It takes sacrifice. There are no overnight
successes (well, maybe one or two), but for most successes
out there, the real backstory is much more tumultuous.
Success is almost never linear. Sometimes there are ups and
downs, rights and lefts, forwards and backwards. OpenTable
( OPEN ) took 11 years to go public. The goal is to take one
or two steps forward every day, with the understanding that
there will be setbacks. My favourite analogy is comparing
entrepreneurship to mountain climbing in Antarctica.
Successful climbers don’t dwell on the peak; they focus on
the next 20 feet, and then the next, and then the next.
Building a business takes time. You need to be able to
weather the storms and take advantage of serendipity.
3. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS AN EXPERT
Listen to what mentors have to say, but remember that you
are the only one building this business at this particular point
in time. No example before you is an exact replica of your
business. And just because something worked in the past,
or didn’t work in the past, doesn’t mean that it will or won’t now.
I don’t believe in experts. The idea that anyone (including me)
is an expert is silly. There are people that know more than
others about a particular topic, but often times the mentors
you will encounter have a worldview that fits a particular time
and business in history.
But once things change, their view, which used to be insightful,
will likely be obsolete. To me, many “experts” are a product of
a time. With that said, there’s obviously things you can learn
from mentors, but their word is not gospel.
4. DON’T BE A PING PONG BALL
Be open to feedback. Learn, but don’t be a ping pong ball.
I prefer to work with entrepreneurs that have what I consider
humble confidence. I like entrepreneurs that are somewhat
self-effacing. They take feedback well and realize that while
they are smart, they can’t do it alone.
(And that some luck plays into everything.) With that said,
entrepreneurs must evoke confidence. Again, they take
feedback well but don’t bounce around on ideas.
They have a point of view and they own. It’s their unique
take on the world, and they are building their business around it.
5. GET OUT OF THE BUILDING
Always be action-oriented. Building a business isn’t about
sitting around a white board and hypothesizing about what
customers might want and how to grow your business.
It’s about getting “out of the building” and interacting with
customers. What do your customers actually want? How
should you sell to them? If the problem or pain is big enough,
they will buy an imperfect product. So get to a minimum viable
product ASAP and find out who will pay and how much.
Get your product into the wild and learn from your customers.
6. BE MANIACALLY FOCUSED
I say this so often that one of Impact Engine’s portfolio companies
made me a shirt with this slogan on it. I like startups that are
extremely focused on a single revenue model, a single customer
segment, and a single solution, to start.
Once you’re bigger, you can divert resources to more than one
initiative, but in the beginning, it should be all about figuring out
your revenue model and growth model. How do you make money:
revenue model. How do you scale that money: growth model.
I’ve seen several startups fail because they are trying to scale
multiple sales models to multiple customer types.
7. DON’T WORRY, BE SCRAPPY
Get as many “at bats” as possible. Most entrepreneurial efforts
fail. And most of your ideas will also fail. The best way to increase
your chances of success is to be alive as long as possible.
The best way to do that is to be frugal. Benjamin Franklin
talked about being frugal and industrious. So be wise with
your money, but not in a way that suffocates growth.
The longer you can stretch your runway, the more chances
you have at bat. And hopefully one of those chances leads
to a hit. My friend and entrepreneur Chris Gladwin says it so
well, “to be in business you have to be in business.
” Once you have the revenue model and growth model figured
out and there is arbitrage in the business, then you can invest
aggressively. Businesses have a natural rate of growth that
capital can help accelerate, but at some point the marginal
capital is wasted and inefficient.
8. DON’T BEND THE MAP
Balance lean startup methodologies with being unreasonable.
You have to be unbiased about your business. Do you really
see it working? In orienteering, they call it “bending the map.
” When you come upon a hill during a hike, you mark it with
your compass to find it later. But when you try to find it on the
map you get disoriented, and you trick yourself into believing
that the hill you see on the map is also the hill you see in front
But deep down, you know that it’s not. Entrepreneurs
can get caught in that trap as well. They know something isn’t
right but they fool themselves into believing things are working.
While you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, you need to be
incredibly honest with the results you are seeing and adjust
9. LOOK FOR THE INNOVATORS
Think about the Adoption Curve (innovators, early adopters,
early majority, late majority, and laggards). Look for the
innovators in your space as the first (and possibly) most
If their pain is big enough, they will take a sub-optimal product,
because for them, the problem is so painful that they need a
solution immediately. They will be open and happy
(for the short-term) with an MVP.
They will also give you the benefit of the doubt as you continue
to build out the product and bring on more (early adopters and
early majority) customers. If you can’t find any innovators or
early adopters that will use your MVP, then you are probably
not solving a real problem.
10. LUCK GOES BOTH WAYS
Luck is always involved in entrepreneurship. No matter how
hard you work, there will be some (good and bad) luck in it.
Yes, luck favours the prepared and it is not all about luck.
But when it comes along, recognize it and take advantage of it.
And when you have bad luck, don’t feel sorry for yourself.
Embrace it and get back out there.
There will be setbacks.
The only question is: how will you respond? Will you sulk and
think “why me?” or will you bounce back and find a way to
persevere? And remember, luck goes both ways.
So if something happens in your favour, be thankful and
embrace it. And don’t pat your back too hard or you may
11. THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU
This is your company. Mentors and investors are here to help,
but ultimately it is your business. If you want or need something,
don’t be afraid to ask your supporters for help. But remember,
the buck stops with you. This is one extra.
Chuck Templeton is the founder of OpenTable. Templeton is
currently the Chairman of Impact Engine, a startup accelerator
helping for-profit businesses address societal and environmental