It’s time for us to have a delicate conversation. Are you involved in a startup? Perhaps you are a student entrepreneur, graduate or undergrad. You are participating in the university or local business accelerator / incubator program for the entrepreneur. Perhaps you were displaced from the workforce and decided to pursue that innovation of yours. Voila! You are an instant entrepreneur.
Let’s say one year of appointing yourself an Entrepreneur has now morphed into three years. How many times have you pivoted? How much debt in convertible notes, and family and friends funding, have you incurred during that time? Even though you pitch to investors, no one takes more than a polite nibble out of your venture.
Is it time to pry your fingers off your commitment to your current venture and calling yourself an entrepreneur? Your project simply may not be viable for commercialization. Your total commitment to finding customers or investors may be holding you back from understanding and leveraging your real value as an entrepreneur.
OK. Let me ask you. As a budding entrepreneur, how are you supplementing your revenue stream while working on your startup? Are relying on the generosity of others to fund your dream? If your day job is being a full-time entrepreneur perhaps it’s time to hit the “Pause” button. I didn’t say Reset. You simply may be tinkering right now. But you are not done. Yet.
Entrepreneurship may be part of academic curricula, but being an entrepreneur isn’t an entirely academic exercise. Not all first-time startups hit a home run. You have invested so much of your time defining yourself as an Entrepreneur, that you cannot see yourself in any other pursuit. To you, moving on becomes an admission of failure. It isn’t.
Your first entrepreneurial venture is your first personal business case. It forms the cornerstone of your professional experience as an entrepreneur.
Your entrepreneurship skill sets are valuable to today’s globally competitive business ecosystem. These skills lend themselves to corporate venture initiatives, new product development and legal departments focusing on intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions. Your experience as a mature entrepreneur can be leveraged so you can retool, recalibrate and re-enter the workforce with an enhanced set of core competencies.
Working for others and gaining corporate experience, no matter what the size of the company, allows you to gain the credibility and perspective to apply what you know to a whole new venture, down the road. Treat the job you are hired for as your next venture initiative. Execute and implement as that entrepreneur of your own delivery on your job functionality.
Regardless of the less-than-straight-shot trajectory that your entrepreneurial mindset takes you, you will make a lot more money in the meantime, and understand what it is means to work for and with others, to be led. To follow. That experience allows you to create an amazing, collaborative, entrepreneurial corporate culture, present and future.
Sometimes the best customer discovery lessons are gained from leveraging your entrepreneurial knowledge by working for someone else.
Don’t shortchange yourself. Explore the value that your entrepreneurship studies, and personal experience as an entrepreneur heading up your own first startup, can bring to the business equation of others, who may not necessarily be investors. You’ve only begun to tap your innovative possibilities.
Perhaps the biggest pivot you can grant yourself is to press that “Pause” button on your initial venture experience as an entrepreneur. Grow your credibility and value in the marketplace as an experienced and mature business person. That doesn’t sound like acknowledging failure to me. It sounds like personal growth, professional development, and wisdom.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.