Archive for March, 2012

Starting a business is a daunting proposition.  It can be emotionally exhilarating and soul-crushing — sometimes in the same day.

My “take-away” advice to those reaching for the Brass Ring is as follows:

  • Avoid debt. Bankers are never your friends. They will chisel the gold from the teeth of your still-warm body if it suits them.
  • Avoid vice. Booze, drugs, and sexual adventure has ruined many a business.
  • Doing what you really don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it, is what makes some succeed where others fail.
  • Before buying into a business plan, ask “Would I buy this product?” Seriously?
  • Overhead will kill you. Watch it at all times.
  • Any business that depends on recruiting others into “The Opportunity” to make “The Big Money” is 99% a scam. The focus should be on selling a product.
  • Using debt to start a business is a good way to burn a bunch of other people’s money “investing” in stuff you don’t need, because you have no idea yet what you are doing. This fact won’t be obvious until after the bankruptcy is final.
  • The urge to quit is strongest just before the breakthrough success.
  • You don’t own a business, often the business owns you.
  • Never hire relatives or friends. Thanksgiving dinner gets awkward after you fire a slacker, embezzler brother-in-law who thought he was 50% owner for showing up to work 10:30 to 3:00 (most days.)
  • Lawyers are much cheaper to write a good contract than to litigate an ugly dispute. People used to do things by handshakes and their honor. These days it is amazing the “assumptions”, that favor themselves, people will make without the paper.
  • Failure is not fatal, it is an expensive learning experience.
  • Everyone is good at giving free advice. If they’ve “done it”, or have skin in the game, consider it — otherwise avoid people with “Good Ideas.”
  • Everything is time or money in business. You often have to choose to trade one for the other.
  • Have a good prenup.