Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flickr
There’s no denying that a master’s degree in business administration has cachet. Too bad that cachet takes a few years to achieve, comes with a hefty price tag, and — these days — offers no job guarantees or business success. Wouldn’t it be a nicer route to become a master of business through interesting career moves and investments, personal connections, great talks, classes and events, and a handful of enlightening business books that share powerful lessons?
Let’s start with the best business management books. We’ve broken down 10 MBA program lessons, and for each one there is a corresponding must-read book to add to your reading list. Call it business school in 10 books. It won’t earn you an MBA, but it will give you an education in business success.
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The Lean Startup Methodology changed the way we go about starting businesses. Instead of creating a business plan worthy of a Harvard Business School case study, we go out into the market space that we know and find a real problem. Then, we validate the pain point and see how the market is dealing with, compensating for, or otherwise working around that specific problem. Next, we determine if the market participants are willing to pay for a solution to the problem. If they see value, then we solve the problem.
Of course, it’s never that simple, but that’s the basic process in a nutshell. Atlanta entrepreneur David Cummings recently wrote that this process, from discovering the problem to getting to product market fit, generally takes about two years. Finding a problem is usually fairly clear. Validating the problem takes longer. Finding customers who are willing to pay takes a little longer, and building a product that fits the market takes a long time and usually includes several pivots or small deviations from the original product idea.
At the core of everything involved in creating a startup is the customer pain point. But many times, the best product for solving that problem doesn’t win. Why? Because the makers of that solution are really good at solving said problem, but not good at all at explaining what exactly the problem is or what its root cause consists of. In other words, the entrepreneur who can communicate better usually wins. That is why it is so vitally important to be able to explain the problem you are solving to anyone so that they understand it completely. But how do you do that?
A marketing firm in Atlanta, Syrup Marketing, recently wrote a great article about how your brand is the “lead domino,” to quote Tim Ferris. What that means is that, once you create and solidify your brand, everything else tends to fall into place easily. One of those other dominoes that falls into place after you’ve created a fantastic branding strategy is the actual nuts and bolts of your business model.
Any business model is made up of many different moving parts, but they can be boiled down to these five pillars, on which you should build your business.
Eric Ries discusses his lean startup methodology at General Assembly in New York City.
“Lean Startup is not a religion,” said Eric Ries, the 37 year-old author of The Lean Startup (2011), which is the handbook for what has become a cult-like movement embraced by entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide.
The core philosophy of the book – and of its practitioners – is to test ideas early and often by getting feedback from potential customers. Before investing very much time and money into a product, the idea is to quickly create an MVP (minimal viable product) and put it in front of potential consumers. This avoids wasting time and money developing products that people may not want.
MasterCard employee demonstrates ShopThis! with MasterPass which will allow consumers to buy products directly from Intel’s Virtual Shopping Experience – a fully interactive 3-D virtual fitting room app at MasterCard’s Innovation Showcase event.
“Agile methodology,” “failing fast,” “pivoting”—all concepts commonly used in startups—are increasingly being put to work inside the walls of large, well-established companies. This is because executives at Fortune 500 companies have realized that the natural limitations that face startups—limitations on time and financial resources—can actually be boons, resulting in fresh ideas and fast execution.
So a handful of large public companies, including General Electric (GE) and MasterCard, have created startups within their own mammoth companies. In 2013, GE created FastWorks, an internal startup entity. Its mission was to develop products using the “lean startup” approach, codified by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup. (This means constantly experimenting and regularly getting feedback from customers to avoid building products that customers don’t want.)
Raffi Khatchadourian is a Mathematical Economics major and incoming junior at Colgate University. A self-starter and talented entrepreneur, Raffi has established himself as the COO of indify, an emerging music startup, before many of his peers have even declared their major. Back in January, Raffi attended GA’s week-long Business Accelerator program in partnership with Colgate University. Since then, he and his co-founders have gone on to win $10,000 in funding from Colgate University’s Entrepreneur Weekend Shark Tank and $15,000 from Colgate University’s Entrepreneurs Fund. Read on to learn how this young entrepreneur transformed his passion for music and data into a successful early-stage startup.
Follow Raffi @DeadliestKhatch and his startup at @_indify. Continue reading
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what tech billionaire Peter Thiel is most famous for. Co-founding PayPal with Max Levchin? Launching Clarium Capital or Palantir Technologies? Early-stage investments in notable startups like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tesla? Or perhaps it’s his contrarian views on education, science, and technology.
No matter which of his accomplishments you deem most note-worthy — they have certainly solidified Thiel as one of the greatest entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and original thinkers of our time.
As an entrepreneur, I wear many hats. I’m my company’s chief accountant, salesperson, strategist, and product-builder. I’m responsible for making sure that my business stays thriving six months and six years from now. It’s exhausting, scary, and highly rewarding — all at once.
The biggest challenge that I face is that there are only 24 hours in the day. With 8 hours spent sleeping, I have very little time to be everything to everyone. I’m constantly in the trenches, working with my existing customers, which means that I have very little time to build marketing campaigns, guest blog, and build the infrastructure that I need to keep my business growing sustainably.
As one of the partners of a Ruby on Rails software development agency, I speak with dozens of non-technical startup founders every week who are in various stages of building their first web or mobile application. The range of technical acumen, willingness to learn, and time and resources varies widely among the group.
As a firm, we’re not just competing with other NYC based agencies for their business, but also offshore devshops, freelancers, and in some cases, the prospective client who may want to execute internally.
At the end of the day, a non-technical founder who has decided that they must build something has two options: Pay someone else, or partner with people. Below are the pros and cons.
Starting a company is hard, and finding reliable advice along the way can be even harder. There are thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and bloggers who claim to be experts, churning out new business advice every day, but how can you trust that it’s advice worth taking?
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite business blogs written by startup founders for aspiring entrepreneurs. These resources offer practical advice that is bound to keep you well-informed and inspired as you follow your business dreams.
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