If you don’t want to fail, be sustainable .
This article by Richard Herjavec “My Top 10 Tips for Entrepreneurs” has been circulating like wildfire. It’s an extremely poor representation of what success looks like. It’s simply not great advice. Someone ought to say it.
If you think this is an attack on Robert Herjavec, please read my statements below. I’ve got respect for that guy, I just think he hasn’t communicated the most important keys to success that his own life shows to be true.
Sir, I respectfully disagree.
Here’s my revised set of guidelines to being a success. Like Herjavec, now that I’ve established these ideas I don’t listen to anyone who tells me otherwise…
1. Believe in the business, yourself, the wise people around you, and especially the people you hire.
Herjavec’s initial thought here is true, but completely insufficient – it’s prideful, and selfish to boot. It’s okay to not trust the uneducated, but surrounding yourself with disagreement is actually often a great way to hone what you’re doing. Believing those people, running things by all the devil’s advocates, is going to create something far better. Because nobody wants to be the person singing on national TV who can’t sing – because they surrounded themselves with agreement.
Talk isn’t cheap. People pay thousands for someone to talk to help them. Good talk is gold. Just don’t get it from the bank (they’re reasons are all messed up) or people who know nothing about business or what you do and don’t believe in you.
2. Jump in when there is overwhelming support about what you’re offering.
Jumping in immediately with poorly tested, badly thought through ideas which they believe in whole-heartedly is why most startups fail. Because it is completely irrelevant in the world of making money what you think about something, what you’d be willing to pay for it. The only thing that matters is your target market.
You could believe your product is the best thing since sliced bread. It doesn’t make it true or profitable.
3. If you make it clear you are not going to tolerate other people’s BS, it’s a lot less likely they’ll even try.
I’ll admit, of all Herjavec’s thoughts, this is certainly the best tip he had. It’s true, people lie, on purpose and because they believe in a lie. But it doesn’t matter, if you’re paying attention. If you’re attuned to the idea, you call people on it, and don’t do business with them – and learn from your mistakes when you do – you’re going to find it’s not that big a deal.
4. Don’t bother bringing a compass. Take notes on the path instead.
I think that the better way to put this is actually to have a real exit strategy – not just when you’re going to leave a situation, buy how, and with what budget, and why. But the real issue is ensuring that you never, ever have to use that plan except in truly grave emergencies, because maybe you listened to people and your guy and the numbers and actually considered what was happening while it was just bubbling up, not when the pot ran over. Full speed ahead business is poor planning, and not the result of a successful CEO.
5. If they can’t catch you, it’s because you’re offering real value
Which is because you’re paying attention. The comments on this one comprise the second best piece of Herjavec’s advice.
6. Never run when you can jog at a normal pace. You could end up running right into poor health in middle age.
Train for sustainability, not marathons, and certainly not sprinting. You might require sprints or marathons once or twice, but if you’ve trained for long term medium pace, neither of those will elude you.
7. Chances are the thing that’s going to launch you is something that’s already in your field of vision or you’ll just happen upon it.
Searching may not yield you anything at all. Most of the time when something’s really golden, you’ve been working toward it for ages, or it will come into your life at the exact right time. Not all entrepreneurship can’t be satisfied, and it’s not a factor of entrepreneurship when you feel unsatisfied. It’s a sign of deeper issues and flaws that need to be faced and fixed, not a good thing. Insatiability is the quality of hoarders, not good businesspeople.
8. Work-life balance is entirely achievable and sustainable with proper planning.
My most visceral response to Herjavec’s advice is to this point. Never has a lie about business been told with more fervour than this one. It’s simply not true. It’s true that castatrophes in life and work are bound to crop up for the best of us – what’s not true is that there’s nothing we can do about that. Plans, contingency plans, leeway, not packing life in so tight that if you have a sick day your whole business will tank… That’s what balance looks like, and it’s completely possible.
9. Being committed to business is natural for a real entrepreneur who has their life together.
That means that there’s boundaries and limits between work and home, there’s commitment in balance with realities of living. If you’re having trouble being committed, it means you’re either not an entrepreneur, or your priorities are out of whack and need fixing.
10. It’s actually all about personal sustainability.
Work smart. Be realistic. Incorporate honesty and openness into your business relationships. Dream, then plan a way through that dream that’s going to take you to the finish line.
Don’t just play to win, play to have a life. A financially fruitful, happy life with family and friends, where you look back and realize you’ve succeeded, and don’t think, “All I did was work. I wish I’d spent more time with the people I cared about.”
In defence of Robert Herjavec
What may surprise you is that I actually like Herjavec. He’s long been my favourite Shark/Dragon since I first saw him, and I believe that this particular set of advice is actually missing out on a lot of the things that make his life tick. He’s been married 20 years, has kids that he’s parented as a full-time Dad. He has hobbies outside of work, like racing and cars, that take up a significant amount of his time. The problem with his ideas presented in”My Top 10 Tips for Entrepreneurs,” even though some of them are sound or partially good, is that they stray too far into a lot of the business lies that are causing people’s businesses to fail. If somehow Herjavec ever saw this, I would want him to know that I’m not just being a troll, I actually like what I know of him, and I sincerely feel that a lot of the ideas he is spreading here are too narrow to be helpful. I also think he’s probably struggled with the personal consequences of some personality and cultural traits that made him a successful entrepreneur.