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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

YOU, Learning, Networking, and Valued Mentors in Creating a Biotech:

You may be wondering why I spent the last blog writing about YOU as the entrepreneur.  That is because you will be the face of the company, the driving force behind the company, and it will be you that does the day to day planning and generates a strategic vision.  You will be the one to communicate that vision to the outside and to investors.  The company is likely to fail if you are not able to keep a positive attitude, stay focused, and execute on your plans.  You are the person that will attract the top team members, and it is you that will set the leadership goal by your example and by your communication to the team.  So, it is important that you understand how important YOU are and YOU will be to the starting and growing the new company you want to form.

In a recent poll, more than 50% of the British entrepreneurs participating in the survey described their business success as a result of their own innate abilities.  Most felt these were not things they learned in school.  Who do you think will be more successful: the entrepreneur with skill and no drive, or the entrepreneur with skill and drive?  Remember, you can hire skill either as consultants or staff but you can hire drive to WIN for yourself.  If you do not have the drive to succeed and the ability to focus, develop strategy and direction, your team will not execute properly.  If you are not excited about your business, how can anyone else be?  If you cannot manage your money at home, how can you expect to do it well at work?

In short, you need the desire to build a business and to WIN.  Most highly successful CEOs and high wealth individuals have these skills; they may not have the education level you would think.  I actually have met extremely successful people that never graduated high school or have learning disorders. By successful, I mean building large empires and net worth in excess of $100MM.   But they all had the drive, focus, game plans, and were able to motivate people around them.  They also had learned to execute well!  There are other traits these successful people had: 1) they learned new things quickly and enjoyed learning, 2) they continued to reinvent themselves or the company as needed, 3) they managed to develop excellent networking skills and networks, 4) someplace along the way they had a mentor, i.e. contacts they could bounce ideas off of, coach them, and share experiences that help guide, and finally 4) they wanted to WIN.

You will make many mistakes along the way of building your first company and some will be horrifying. Once in an interview, I was asked to describe my greatest mistakes or failures. I was now stuck trying to figure how to answer.  I could not imagine that what I was about to say was best way to impress a possible new boss.  The interviewer told me after my answer that he did not want to back a person that had never failed at something.  He believed that you learn from your failures more than the successes.  Secondly, he believed that having failed and rebounded was a sign of staying power in difficult times.  When you start a company, you will make plans and you will read everything available that is relevant to the business.  But, the day to day successes and failures will teach you what works and what doesn’t.  It is a bit like a parent telling you not to touch the stove because it was hot.  A really bad mistake teaches you not to do something the same way again. If you are one of those people that constantly repeats the same faulty steps over and over expecting a different result, RUN NOW!  Do not start a business!  You need to learn quickly and adapt.  Learn from books, networks and friends. And especially learn from the day to day execution.  I believe you really learn valuable lessons by actually  doing.

Having a great network of friends and mentors is so important.  You will learn by doing, but a great mentor will let you know where the landmines are before you step on one!  I have been lucky to have had several throughout my career.  Although, I did not always listen to them, I at least knew in advance something was going to blow up.  Having a network is extremely important.  Just today I got a call from a colleague that had reviewed a slide deck for a company I am helping.  My friend called to let me know one of his friends has a potential investor.  My network helped me make an external connection with an person unknown to me and the new contact may be helpful to my the company I am assisting.  Your network will be extremely helpful to you and they can keep you from having to do all the leg work.

In short, you need to learn by reading, talking with your network, and by actually doing.  You are about to become the company expert and the face of the company.  Develop networking skills and a network and continue to grow that network. Finally, develop a relationship with someone that may be a terrific mentor or have more than one.  Use them effectively and bounce ideas off of them before you rush into a key next step. 

If you have been reading my articles, I have stressed that you really need to have a strong desire and the ability to stick to your game plan in difficult times. You need to continue to learn and reinvent yourself and the company when required.  Finally, surround yourself with a network that can help you and with a mentor or mentors you trust to advise and keep you out of trouble.  If this sounds like you, then maybe it’s time to start looking for technology. 

One more point and this one is critical to your survival.  I have not discussed it, but it is a most important point.  You need to have the financial ability to take care of yourself for a prolonged period while you are trying to get the company off the ground.  Maybe you have parents or a working spouse.  Possibly, you saved some money from your last job.  But, do not start this thinking your next meal will come from salary in a company you are starting.  It may be a while before you get paid.

I am now prepared to start discussing your steps in creating your first company.  there will be a number of related topics which will be addressed in this series. If you need something moved to up, just let me know.  I may be able to introduce that topic sooner.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon