Blog: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know ─ Part 1

The first line of my book The Anatomy of a Growing Company is “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is directed to people ready to encounter a new chapter in their life. In no way is it meant as a put down. I can’t think of a more appropriate line that defines what a founder/entrepreneur and team in a growing company knows what they face going forward. Just to give you an idea of the many new challenges a founder/entrepreneurs will face, I put together the following:

  • The willingness to give strangers ownership
  • Being held accountable to investors, customers and team
  • Expecting to be a sales person for early years–for raising cash from investors, getting sales from customers and hiring and building a team and convincing advisors to invest time to help you
  • Making changes in your management style
  • The need to start trusting team members and subordinates
  • The need to delegate sacred decisions previously protected
  • Selecting and paying lawyers despite the perceived idea of exorbitant rates
  • Making forecasts that extend beyond a week
  • Becoming an expert in cash management
  • Engaging in formal planning
  • Establishing priorities and continuing to review and reordering if necessary
  • Recruit superstars with capability to help bust through revenue barriers of 10 million, 50 million, 500 and
  • Entering a new market and facing constant pressure from competitors

But even before all this I believe the entrepreneur needs a proper mindset that goes way beyond validating the concept and the idea. Just getting the start up off the ground requires numerous changes in the new entrepreneur on a timely basis gaining experience from the list above.

Depending where an entrepreneur comes from, there could be many first-time experiences for the first time entrepreneur. They might be someone coming from leaving a job that was very narrow functionally, or entrepreneurs coming out of the education system. I have had the joy of working with student entrepreneurs at several colleges and universities. It’s fair to say because of the inexperience in business and a very different mindset from school, those involved can have a tough time accepting many of the new experiences. Fortunately, in my association with startups, most of the students I have encountered have open minds and really are looking for all the help they can.

The Universities have numerous advisor groups that are called EIR’s, Experts in Residents, who offer to help the student entrepreneurs. It is difficult on many issues to get student entrepreneurs to change their thought process, particularly when it comes to raising money.