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Start for Success


For me, reading a book about entrepreneurship is an odd experience. I did start and run my own business, and now I am a Partner at Art of Procurement… but none of it was on purpose. I typically operate on the assumption that other entrepreneurs deliberately left corporate jobs to strike out on their own, and that they already had a plan as well as a vision for how they would turn their idea into a company. That makes me different than them, ‘not quite’ an entrepreneur.

Many entrepreneurs are on the common journey I imagine, but not all of them –certainly not as many as I previously thought.

Start for Success by Jan Cavelle, is an honest, relatable, and true story-based book that anyone considering starting their own company or who has recently done so should read. The power of her examples lies in the fact that nearly all of them are accompanied by company and entrepreneur names. All of the stories in the book – successes and well as lessons learned – were real things that happened to real people.

Like so many other things in business, the definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur needs to be reconsidered. An “old” definition offered by Cavelle is, “someone who starts a business and takes on financial risk in the hope of profit.” I think this holds true right up until the word “profit.” There are so many other words that could go there… freedom, autonomy, opportunity, connections, power, and authenticity are a few that come to mind.

At the same time, as she wisely points out, altruism is not enough. It is simply too hard to succeed as an entrepreneur for that to carry you through the tough times.

Understanding and being able to articular your ‘why’ is critical for a new company, and that why should include your reasons for going out on your own as well as why any customer should buy from you. There is probably a connection, but they are unlikely to be the same. Also important to clarify right away is why you are different… I can relate to this. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with new procurement solution providers where I’ve walked away thinking, “Oh, they reinvented X without knowing it.”

There are the exciting parts about entrepreneurship – the drama, the risk, the responsibility – and then there are the equally important but far less glamorous parts. What is your source of funding? How will that dictate your early phase(s) of growth? What systems and frameworks will allow you to go from idea to offering? Has someone else already acted on this idea?

I love Cavelle’s thoughts about being part of a tribe. How we each define our tribe will be a little different, but it extends beyond company boundaries for sure. It might include other entrepreneurs, early supporters, and members of your extended network. Make sure that support system is strong because you won’t make it without them.

Every entrepreneur faces moments of doubt, which is part of why I also appreciated her discussion of ‘impostor syndrome.’ What is luck and what is success? Do I have any business putting myself forward in this way? Should these customers trust me?

I’m not sure when the ‘Great Resignation’ will officially be declared over, but for anyone still thinking about taking that leap – read this book first.

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