Thursday, March 17, 2011

Anatomy of an Entrepreneur

My two favorite VC bloggers wrote on the topic of management teams today.   Both are worth reading.  Fred Wilson’s “AVC” post is linked here and Mark Suster’s “Both Sides of the Table” post is linked here.

I talk to aspiring entrepreneurs on a daily basis as the person responsible for selling franchises for TGA.  I also talk to existing entrepreneurs daily as the person responsible for then training and supporting these franchisees.  Thus, I work with folks before they start their business and I work with them afterwards.

Seeing the entrepreneurial process from this wide of a spectrum has given me a good idea of what indicators in the “before” stage lead to success/failure in the “afterwards.”  Astute franchise candidates often ask me about these indicators and my conclusion is the same as Wilson’s, Suster’s and most others who live within the entrepreneurial world:

Great businesses are made by great people, not great products. 

From my perspective, past business experience – especially in sales, project management or business development – is invaluable.  Industry experience doesn’t matter much at TGA due to our franchise model, but it is very important for businesses starting from scratch.

Ultimately, though, personality and tenacity sit atop the importance list.  Entrepreneurs who are smart, personable and hungry usually figure it out.  If you read Fred Wilson’s blog, note the story about Airbnb and Obama-O’s.

The reality is that “experience” can’t serve as an entrepreneur’s alarm clock.  It can’t work past 5pm for them.  It can’t keep them from throwing in the towel when things get tough. It doesn't put up road signs when the business requires a new direction.  It can’t pick up the phone and call their potential customers.  It doesn’t build their relationships.  It can’t keep them motivated long after the initial adrenaline of starting a business wears off and the grind sets in.

Before I had any entrepreneurial experience, I thought about start-ups almost entirely within the context of the “product.”  I’ve since learned that almost all start-ups are forced to modify, pivot and overhaul their product multiple times.  Thus, in my opinion, the question of “will the business be successful?” is really about whether the management team is the one capable of navigating these choppy waters.

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