I have been meeting some fascinating people, mainly in Devon, many of whom are tempted to take the big step and set up a new business. I have started to develop a quick way of telling whether I think they are up for the challenge, which helps me decide if I should be working with them. My mental checklist is as follows:
1) Good innovators and creators: Some people have a strong history of creating, and starting things on their own. From selling freshly caught mackerel on the beach as children, through to doing 3 jobs whilst paying their way at University, to creating additional revenue streams alongside their “day job.” The skills acquired are those of immense resourcefulness of successfully building something from nothing.
2) Thought and planning: Successful entrepreneurs have thought, or more likely dreamt, about running their businesses from a long time, and are not acting on a whim. They are deliberate in their intention, and have fully thought through the possible serious downsides.
3) Excitement: They are excited. Genuinely thrilled that they are working on something that they have created. Getting them to talk about anything else is actually quite difficult!
4) Resourceful: The business owners also are fantastic at turning their hand at whatever is needed. One minute product developing, the next on business development, the following day cleaning the loo’s! In start ups there are simply too many roles and too few people to do them. So the ones that are working well are where the business owners are experts in their fields, and importantly are willing to step out of their comfort zone and roll up their sleeves!
5) Good at prioritising: And finally, I had a boss once who called projects “The Big Rocks (TBR’s).” It is really important new start ups identify “TBR’s” and prioritise them, keep them running to budget, and to time. Smaller, less important tasks should be only completed once TBR’s are in good shape.
If you look out for these little clues when working with a new start up, hopefully you will avoid wasting time on ones that have simply not had enough planning time or a strong enough desire to succeed.