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10 Ways to Promote Yourself to Entrepreneurial Success

Too many entrepreneurs I know still believe that their great idea will carry their startup. Yet most investors agree that the “idea” is worth nothing alone, and it’s the entrepreneur’s execution that counts. That means that selling yourself is more important than selling your idea.

 

In the corporate world, experts have recognized for a long time that the way people perceive you at work is vital to your career success. No matter how talented you are, it doesn’t matter unless managers can see those talents and think of you as an invaluable employee, a game-changing manager or the person whose name is synonymous with success.

 

In the entrepreneur world, your perception is equally critical, except the “managers” in this world are your investors, customers, vendors, business partners and team members. I just finished a book by Dan Schawbel, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, which will help you maximize these perceptions.

 

Here is a quick guide to some of the changes that Schawbel sees in the workplace that require self-promotion and some updates that I have added for entrepreneurs:

 

1. An “idea” is just the beginning. Use your business idea to kick start your relationships with co-founders, investors, customers and business partners. Your ability to promote yourself and learn from these will determine your ultimate success.

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2. Pursue skills you don’t have right now. A U.S. Department of Education study shows that soft, interpersonal skills have become more important for success than hard, or technical, skills. Entrepreneurs need to have leadership skills, as well as an ability to work in teams and listen. Coaching skills, which you can learn from advisors and networking with peers, are also a plus.

 

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3. Polish your reputation, as it’s your best asset. Your CEO title might be good for your ego, but in the grand scheme of things, what matters more is how much people trust you, whom you know, who knows about you, and the aura you give off around you. What other people think you can do is more important than what you have done.

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4. Your personal life is now public. With the internet and social networks, things you do in your personal life can affect your success in a big way. Manage your whole image, rather than ignore it. Even the smallest things, like how you behave, your online presence — or lack of it — and whom you associate with can help build your brand or tear it down.

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5. Build a positive presence in new media. There are plenty of benefits to new media, if you maintain a positive presence. Your online social networks enable you to build your reputation, connect with people who have interests similar to yours, find educational opportunities and put you in touch with people who can help your startup.

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6. Play nice with people of all ages. The combination of economic need and increasing life spans is keeping everyone in the workplace longer. As a result, you’ll need to work well with people of all ages. Each generation tends to communicate differently and offers a different view of the marketplace.

 

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7. The one with the most connections wins. We have moved from an information economy to a social one. It’s less about what you know (Google search will help you in seconds), and more about whether you can work with other people to solve problems. If you don’t get and stay connected, you’ll quickly become irrelevant.

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8. Just one person can change your life. Remember the rule of one? All you need is that one investor, that one major customer or that one distributor to keep you ahead of competitors. It’s up to you to get that key person on board to support your business. Self-promotion in the right way can make all the difference.

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9. Hours are out, accomplishments are in. If you want to grow your business, stop thinking about how many hours you work, and aim for more milestones and traction. Success is more results, not more work. Measure your results and promote them. Help others realize your value.

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10. Your startup is in your hands. Be accountable for your own business success, and take charge of your life. Look for win-win business relationships, since people won’t help you if you are not helping them. If you aren’t learning and growing, you have nothing to promote and aren’t benefitting anyone.

 

 

The challenge for all entrepreneurs is to gain visibility and show value without bragging and coming off as self-centered. Take personal credit where credit is due, but also share the successes of the team and the business milestones with everyone Success leverages success.

 

Now, how do you start? I like Schawbel’s recommendation to do one thing every day, like add a new skill, or build a new relationship that will advance you. Developing this “One Step Forward a Day” habit will keep you current, make you feel more fulfilled, confident, and increase your ability to promote yourself

Source: Entrepreneur

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Are you an entrepreneur?

The differing attitudes of entrepreneurs aren’t recorded – but perhaps they should be. Regardless of your age, background, gender or ethnicity, your success as an entrepreneur is most likely to be down to your attitude to business. 

If you’re determined, prepared to make personal sacrifices, have the ability to plan ahead and take on board advice while remaining focused on your goal and also, of course, have a decent business idea, you will have every chance of success wherever you’re from and whatever age you are. 

To help you determine whether you have what it takes, in the sections below we describe the core skills you need to possess, or develop, to make your business a success. 

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Confidence

It probably won’t come as any surprise to see this at the top of the list. To succeed as an entrepreneur you do need to be a confident person. In fact, even to think you have a chance of making a new business work in the first place, you need to be a confident person! And the harsh truth is that it is hard enough to start a business from scratch that it does take an unusually confident person to get there. David Lester, founder of a number of successful businesses, including Startups.co.uk, says “Entrepreneurs need to be both very self-confident and naive; self-confident enough to believe that their idea really is better than what is already on offer, and naive enough not to know about the problems they will encounter along the way.”

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Commitment

Can you work incredibly hard, all day, every day? It isn’t about putting in a couple of late nights, or making an extra effort for a one-off project. In launching your first business, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a potentially gruelling timetable that could go on for weeks and weeks, if not months. Or, in the case of Dylan Wilk, a whole year. When Dylan was setting up Gameplay.com during the 1990s, he claims he was permanently “doing 24/7 . . . I was working every single second of every single minute. Sure I had to give up a few things, like sleeping and eating, but I was willing to do that.” 

Are you prepared to make the same commitment?

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Motivation

Linked to your level of commitment is your ability to be motivated and, crucially, self-motivated. Being self-motivated is not the same as being pushed by someone else to do something. This motivation has to come from within. It has to come from your energy, your discipline, your focus. This is difficult enough when things are going well, but what about when things are going badly?

“It’s really tough,” admits Dylan, who recalls just a few things that went wrong in the early days. “We were burgled around eight times; we had tens of thousands of pounds in stock stolen; we had someone register our name and then try to slap a writ on us – that was pretty hairy; we had moments where it looked like the business was going to go under. And, at times, I didn’t really know what to do.” So even the most determined of entrepreneurs have moments when they are not sure which direction to take. Even if they do know, some have simply had enough and can no longer be bothered to take it. Dylan adds: “You have to really believe in yourself and decide that, no matter what, you will not be beaten.”

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Emotional resilience

Belief in yourself is not enough, however. You must also have a capacity to work for yourself, often by yourself. At first this might sound like bliss, with no more workplace politics and gossip. But what about the banter, the social life and, more seriously, the brainstorming of solutions and the bouncing around of ideas? If you are like most solo entrepreneurs, you will miss this. “The simple fact is that it can be very lonely,” says Andrew Ferguson, founder of the Breakthrough Network, which counsels people on new ways to work. “You can feel, professionally at least, very isolated at times.”

Gwen Rhys, founder and director of networking organisation Networking Culture, agrees. “But there is a solution,” she says. “You need to build up a virtual team. You need to develop a circle of colleagues that you communicate with in much the same way you did in the office, except now it may be over the phone, via email, or face-to-face, but once a month rather than every day. You also need to make sure that you do get out there and mix with people. It is worth joining a professional group you connect with, even if it is only to learn that there are others who have been through what you are going through and identify with how you are feeling. This in itself can be a great source of support.” 

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Optimism and opportunism

All this talk about what can go wrong may sound daunting, and the last thing you will probably expect to be feeling is optimistic. However, Dylan says that this is exactly what you have to be. “There is no point doing something if you think it will not work,” he says. “But sometimes you just have to think of ways of making it work better.” 

Andrew is equally encouraging. “It’s an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never quite found anyone to pay you to do it. It’s your big chance to do something that makes you happy.”

Of course, people with all these attributes still aren’t guaranteed success. But, if you think these traits are applicable to you and this article has made you even more determined to launch your own company, it sounds as though you have decided to join the ranks of entrepreneurialism, and there’s no better time to start planning your next move than the present.

Source: startups.co.uk

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10 reasons to start a business while working

After a gruelling day at the office, crunching numbers and pushing pens, the last thing anyone wants to do is go home and do it all again, so it’s understandable that many prospective entrepreneurs think twice about starting a business while working.

But, in fact, there are many advantages to burning the candle at both ends – here are the top 10:

Reduced risk

If you keep your existing job while building your business, you’ll retain a guaranteed income – and reduce the risks associated with starting a business.

Hannah McNamara, founder of corporate coaching firm HRM Global, took a day job in a chair shop while she was establishing her own firm. She says this “took the pressure off both financially and emotionally.

“Setting up a business is a time when you’re testing your emotional strength, and if you’re worrying about debt collectors coming round you’ll feel unnecessary pressure – and may end up making bad decisions.”

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Extra time

A day job also gives you extra time to set up your project. Rather than rushing your vision into the public domain, you can make sure you have clients lined up, suppliers and partners in place, and a top-notch website.

Tristram Mayhew, who started building Go Ape while working for General Electric, says:

“In our case, we came up with the idea in August 2002 and didn’t chuck in our jobs until 12th January. We found that people often don’t come back to you for two or three weeks; for us, the insurance took two or three months. So you can’t rush it through in a matter of a few weeks.”

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Independence

Tristram adds that, by keeping cash coming in from your existing job, “you may not have to resort to an investor or take loans, or at least minimise that.

“It’s incredibly important to maximise your equity shareholding. When you start out, it’s the most expensive time to sell equity because everyone investing will say it’s very risky, so the equity is almost valueless.

“You might find you give away half your business for something which seems a lot of money at the time – £100k, £50k, £20k – but if it does succeed, you may come to regret it.” When faced with the risk of losing control of your business, those few weeks of all-hours torture might suddenly seem worthwhile.

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Commitment

Anyone starting out in business will, at some point, question whether they have the desire to see their vision through. Well, once you’ve spent a few weeks balancing two jobs, you’ll know for sure whether you’re sufficiently committed.

Tristram says such a gruelling schedule “will test your passion [for your business idea]. Most people’s experience of starting their own business is working all hours. If you don’t like the idea of starting a business while you’re working, maybe it’s not the thing for you.”

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Companionship

If you’re setting up a business on your own, things can get very lonely if you’re working by yourself all day.

Hannah McNamara says that one of the benefits she gained from working in a chair shop was “sanity”, adding that “starting a business from scratch can be very lonely, so having people around you can help you stay focused, and can even give you new ideas.”

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Contacts

In most cases, your employment contract will forbid you from poaching your existing firm’s clients and customers straightaway. However, you may be able to use the contacts later.

Hannah advises any prospective entrepreneur to “make sure that you’re using all of your existing work contacts effectively. Many people’s first customers are the ones they worked with in their old job.”

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New skills

Rather than viewing your existing job as a distraction from your new venture, you can use your salaried role to hone skills which will help you in your start-up.

According to Hannah McNamara, “before working in a shop, I didn’t have much experience of selling directly. In the shop, I had to listen to people selling and come up with a solution, rather than coming up with the hard sell. It really helped my listening skills.”

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Time management

As an entrepreneur, good time management is key, and combining a full-time job with your new venture is a great way to learn true time management skills, in a real-life environment. If you can balance the demands of the two businesses, and switch between salaried employee and self-employed decision-maker, you should be well-equipped to handle life as an entrepreneur.

Hannah says that, when she was working two jobs, “I found the time I spent on my business was very focused time. If you’ve only got a few hours a day, you make sure those hours matter, and you’re actually doing something productive.”

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Creativity

When you’re balancing two jobs, you have to think outside the box to maximise time and money. This can only lead to creative solutions, as Hannah McNamara says:

“I put sales CDs onto my MP3 player on the bus to the chair shop, rather than reading a novel or listening to music. I practised it at the chair shop, and was able to employ the things I learned in my business.”

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Positive thinking

Because you have the safety net of the salaried job, you’ll know you’re starting the business because you want to, not because you have to.

Tristram Mayhew says: “It’s important psychologically to be making a positive choice to start your own business. I was about to start a new job in Barcelona (with GE) and it was important for me to be able to say ‘no I don’t want that, I want to start my own business’.”

Source: Starrtups.co.uk

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How to start a business

So you’re thinking of launching your own internet business startup? Or is it a business magazine? Maybe you haven’t fully formed your business idea yet but are certain you want to start your own business. Maybe you’re seeking an escape from the mundanity of nine-to-five employment; maybe you can’t stand working for anyone else for a minute longer; or perhaps you’ve just been made redundant or simply have an idea that’s too good to go to waste. Whichever it is, that first entrepreneurial seed has been sown, and before long you will be starting your own business.

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But how do you grow that seed into a thriving, new business? Firstly, do you really want to? Are you cut out for it? Even if you are, is it too greater risk to give up a secure income? And just where should you start? You’ve probably got at least one of these questions, along with many others, swimming around your head right now – and that’s perfectly understandable.

Starting up your own business will change your life. It’ll change the way you think, the way you work, the way you spend money and the way you socialise. It’ll be one of the most demanding challenges you’ll ever be likely to take on. 
You’ll work every hour possible to get your business off the ground then even longer to keep it afloat during the early days. You probably won’t have another holiday for a couple of years and virtually your entire life will become focused on making your business start up succeed.

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If you’re in a relationship, it will undoubtedly feel the strain and if you’ve got a family prepare to be repeatedly torn between them and ‘the business’.

This is the harsh truth of starting your own business. If you thought you’d be reducing your hours not increasing them, that it wouldn’t disrupt your family life and that, frankly, it all seems a bit too much trouble, then stop reading now; turn off your computer and think of a different way to improve your everyday happiness.

If what I’ve just said hasn’t curbed your desire, keep reading – you’re showing all the attributes an entrepreneur needs when starting up in business.

Sure, you’ll still have plenty of anxieties and unanswered questions, but like every successful entrepreneur starting a small business, the thought of a challenge excites and enthuses you.

If you’re going to succeed, you won’t mind concentrating all your energy into the new business because it’ll be ‘your baby’ and you and your family will be the ones reaping the rewards – not a fat cat on ten times your salary. You’ll also have the enthusiasm and ideas to find solutions to the obstacles in your path.

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And remember, you’re not the first to have these anxieties or to face these obstacles as you’re starting your own business. Every successful entrepreneur has overcome many barriers and continues to do so every week with his new internet business startup, her freshly launched business magazine or whatever new business it is you are bringing to market. 

What’s more, many successful entrepreneurs had no business qualifications or experience prior to starting up in business; many spent months, even years, formulating their idea into a viable business proposition; and absolutely every single one has made mistakes, accepted help and learnt lessons as they’ve gone along.

The reason they’ve succeeded is because they’ve remained determined, focused, worked extremely hard and had the clarity of mind to realise they couldn’t do it all on their own. If you share these attributes, you’re half way there. 
And needn’t be that scary. It might seem that you only ever hear bad news about the condition of the economy, but there’s never been a better time to start a business.

There’s never been so much help and information from business startup services available to people wanting to do it as there is today. There’s never been so much funding available for business start ups, and the government has never been so geared to encouraging enterprise.

The doom and gloom merchants certainly haven’t put off the 3.8 million businesses currently operating in the UK, or the 904,000 people that made the plunge and started-up last year. Every year the figure gets bigger as more people decide to work for themselves, and each year the number of business closures decreases too.

What’s more, business start ups are now fundamental to the economy. The days of thousands of large companies employing millions of staff are no more. The number of aspiring entrepreneurs starting small businesses have surged in recent years, and their companies now make up 99.8% of the total businesses in the UK and are responsible for almost half of the UK’s workforce.

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So while you might be on the verge of starting your own business with the freedom to work when, where and for how long you want, you won’t, contrary to popular belief, be ‘going it alone’. There will be others going through the same experience, there will be others who have already gone through the experience and there will be business startup services to guide you.

That said, nobody’s going to build your business for you while you sit content in the knowledge you’re now master of your own destiny. 

Once you finally decided that joining the ranks of entrepreneurialism is for you and that you definitely want to start your own business, then you need to begin putting it into practise. Here, one of those early questions raises its problematic head once again: where should you start?

This is where we come in. Startups.co.uk is not just a business magazine but a tremendous online resource designed to guide you through every step of starting up your own business, from formulating your idea to writing a business plan and raising finance.

It’ll help prepare you for how start your own business and make it one that will change your life, affect your relationship with your family and friends and offer advice on the best ways to deal and cope with the changes. Work/life balance is an over-used term you’ll hear from every business coach and all the business startup services you’re ever likely to encounter. But if you’ve worked 20 hours a day for two months in a row you’ll be physically and mentally drained and appreciate the need for striking that balance.

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It’ll take you through the research stage – helping you test drive your idea to see if it’s commercially viable and if there’s the market demand for it. It’ll help you make cost and revenue forecasts and to present your idea in the form of a business plan that you can then take to prospective business investors and partners. If your idea needs patenting, it’ll show you how.

Once you’re convinced and ready to take the plunge it’ll guide you through registering your company name – once its helped you choose one, that is – and help you decide if you’re a limited company or a sole trader.

Startups.co.uk will help you develop the skills that you’ll need when starting your own business. It’ll guide you safely through the minefield that is tax and introduce you to practices, products and systems that will help you organise your accounts efficiently. It’ll advise when professional help from an accountant or solicitor is needed, and when it isn’t – saving you time and money.

If you’re raising finance, there’s plenty of choice where to get it from. Startups.co.uk gives a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of using different financiers, from high street banks to venture capitalists and business angels – and how best to impress them while still getting a good deal.

It’ll help you make the decision whether to work from home or seek premises, assist you in finding office or factory space and offer guidance on how to make the most from your chosen location.

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Startups.co.uk also looks at how to get the most from your working day and ways that you can ensure your time is put to good use. For instance, how can you be in a meeting with clients and taking business calls at the same time? Do you need to use a virtual secretary? Would it be cost effective? Startups.co.uk will help you decide.  

Finding reliable and affordable suppliers can be one of the hardest tasks for new business owners – Startups.co.uk helps you access a huge list of contacts and knowledge of how to ensure you get the most for money and advise you on how much stock you should be carrying.

It’ll also talk to you about talking to others. Networking is a word that often strikes fear into the hearts of new business owners. Walking into a room of people who’ve been in business for decades can be quite daunting. But select the right networking groups and a format that you’re comfortable with and it’ll help you build a valuable source of contacts that can drive your business forward.

But word of mouth won’t be enough to get your business working to its full capacity and it’s likely that you’ll need at least some marketing and public relations. Startups.co.uk will explain all the options available to you, what is most likely to prompt the best response rates and advise you how to handle pr companies. It’ll also give you insight into the type of marketing and pr that you can do for yourself for very little money.

You might be launching an internet business startup. If so, website design, marketing and internet connectivity will be important issues from day one. Even if you’re not starting an internet business, it’s very likely you’ll want a website or even to sell online too.

Startups.co.uk will guide you through the process of getting a website designed from one of the millions of companies now specialising in the service. It’ll help you decide the level of complexity your site needs and help you drive traffic to it. It’ll also help you understand the different types of internet connection that are available – will you need broadband and what are its advantages? All is explained.

As an entrepreneur, the internet isn’t the only type of technology you’ll need to be considering. Will you need to invest in a desktop computer or laptop, how about a whole network of computers, a server? Even for a one-man home office you’ll need to evaluate the need for a printer, scanner, fax and photocopier. There are all-in-ones but none are one-size-fits-all solutions. Startups.co.uk will help you choose the hardware to suit your business.

And what mobile technology is available to help you keep up to date with your business activities while your on the move, seeing a client or carrying out a job. The technology is there to help you – we’ll make sure you know about it. 
It’s unlikely you’ll be starting with a staff of 50, but perhaps you’ll need to take on one or two people from the start. Are you experienced in recruiting? You might know a friend of a friend who can help out, but is this really the right person to entrust with your business’ future. Startups.co.uk tackles all issues of taking on staff.

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Plus, we’ll offer advice on those boring necessities you’ve probably not even thought about yet. Things like health & safety, employer liability insurance, virus protection and employment legislation. Red tape is the bugbear of every business owner, but the weight of the problem is significantly lessened if you’re organised and know what’s expected of you.

Source: startups.co.uk

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Are two heads better than one?

The following is a short extract from 100 Greatest Ideas for Building the Business of Your Dreams by Ken Langdon. 

 

I have to report from observation and from conversations with people who have done it very successfully that the top person in a new and growing company needs to have two heads, either literally or metaphorically.

The problem is the old one of balancing the pressures of today against the longer term thinking required to build the dream and it looks like this:

1. Without a long term strategy companies run the risk that decisions they are making today will have a negative impact on results in the future.

2. But we have to stay real; business people are always under pressure to carry out urgent day-to-day tasks. They have to meet today’s objectives and overcome short-term problems. They have to respond to their customers, whoever they are. Everyone is involved in such work and in operational, or short term, planning. In a fast moving environment it is little wonder that planning for the future tends to take second place.

3. If these two statements are true for all organisations, they are much more dramatically experienced in startups and small companies. There is no point in defending an action as being right for the long term if it is going to assist the business to run out of cash. On the other hand, making a sale that is outside the main route you have planned could be catastrophic for the future.

So we come back to the two heads. The top of any start up company needs a ‘can do’ and ‘do it now’ attitude. It needs someone who will discuss a problem find a solution and immediately pick up the telephone to start implementing the solution.

As for the solutions themselves, expect to need some fancy footwork just to keep the business afloat.

No one has solved the particular problems you are about to face; there is no precedent; so one of the two heads has to spot solutions or activities that would be described by some managers in large companies as completely off the wall.
And yet no one built a business without thought for the future affecting what we do now – the second head.

Some people can simulate the two heads inside their one brain. Reacting, ducking and weaving with the best of them but also from time to time checking that they are not mortgaging the future or taking short term measures that endanger the long term goal.

Others form teams of two where one person is clearly the go-getter, and the other the ‘just a minute, let’s think this through’ person. So, think on. Can you do it yourself with a Chinese wall in your head separating the two processes or do you need a partner?

Suppose you have decided to go with two people, the next decision is whether the partnership is equal or if one of the partners is slightly more equal than the other. Some venture capitalists that have worked with many startups have come to the conclusion that every team needs an identified leader.

They advocate, for example, in a limited company that the shares are not split 50-50 but one shareholder is given the edge, even if it is only 51-49. That way, they claim, if it becomes necessary to arbitrate between two courses of action they both know in advance whose opinion will hold.

But some successful entrepreneurs, whose experience is that the 50-50 split can work well, dispute this. One such, the long-term thinker of a successful duo, says that had the other person had even the smallest edge of power, it would have lessened his ability to argue his case, and the ‘do it now’ merchant would have forced through mistakes.

He went on, however, to reveal that there was an arbiter, or at least another person involved in the decision making process. This person played the role of non-executive, and low paid, chairman.

During planning sessions the chairman would force the two people through a route of logic that would often reveal to the more impetuous of the two that the way forward he was advocating was not right for the business as a whole.

Indeed this became such a feature of the behaviour of the team that he would often at the end of such a discussion turn on his partner in mock rage saying “There you are, I told you it wasn’t a good idea” – his way of backing down.

Source: startups.co.uk