Updated: Jan 4, 2021
So you are thinking about officially starting a business. Congratulations. I'm very proud of you. Problems exist in all shapes and sizes all around us, and each issue is an opportunity. Small ideas sometimes turn into big dreams that turn into life-changing realities. Its creativity has survived humanity.
Whether you are at the beginning stages of establishing a business or are already an accomplished entrepreneur, this letter is for you.
A valuable lesson I learned during my legal & corporate career is that any complex challenge or project can be broken down into 4 basic steps:
That's right. You will repeat this process over and over again in pursuit of your happiness. If you are curious about what happiness has to do with Entrepreneurship or need some encouragement or advice on finding your passion and purpose. Go read my last blog post: The Law of Happiness.
I'm assuming you've been thinking about doing something on your own for a while. Creating something, being your own boss, contributing to society, and earning a living from your talent. If you haven't started working on it, what's stopping you? Do you think you are crazy for even seriously considering starting a new business? Do you think other people will think your idea that you thought of in the shower or high on weed is crazy? Do you think, "who would even pay for something like that?" Would you pay for something like that? Would you use what you are offering yourself? Is it even possible?
All great questions. You have officially started the dreaming stage. It all sparks with curiosity. It's more potent than any virus. When that seed gets planted with these questions, you've flashed your entrepreneurial spirit. But that's not enough to make your dream a reality. As I said, it's just the beginning. Now you focus on finding answers to your questions. Get crafty. Get resourceful. Get creative. Chase answers. Test your answers. Get expert opinions. Dream big. Throw your craziest ideas out there.
Dream big. Let your imagination go wild. Dreams are meant to be created. If you can't make your dream, then it's a fantasy and not a dream if it's impossible like a unicorn. If it's a fantasy, then no worries. Enjoy your daydreams. You are obviously very creative. Maybe you want to bring that fantasy into reality somehow in the form of a book or art.
If you are lucky enough to have a dream that can be made into reality, then you proceed to the next step to design your plan.
This is your ideation stage. To choose the right design for you, use design thinking. Design thinking just means intentional thinking: selecting the facts and data that you will consider in your decision-making consciously and creatively.
From your product and offerings to your logo to your business plan, legal structure, and timeline, you will need to do a lot of research at this stage. A business plan guides you in a series of exercises such as your messaging, market research, market size, and potential opportunity. Also, plan how much of this opportunity can be seized and calculate estimates of cost and time. If & when you are ready to raise capital from V.C.s or even private investors, this will definitely be necessary. It's also an excellent opportunity to work on your deck.
By having worked closely with many founders over the years, there is ONE crucial point I want to state, and that to keep it simple.
I want to tell you a story about this soap manufacturing plant facing liability issues because empty soap-boxes were being shipped to their buyers. This company hired engineers, designers, technologists… you name it, to bring a solution for machinery upgrades to solve [loves] this problem. Some suggested increasing manual labor for checking, one suggested adding scales and a notification system, one offered new machinery. All these options would cost millions of dollars and take months.
As they discussed this, they took a tour of the facility, stopped near a worker, and continued discussing the associated cost with those solutions. The worker listens in, and after they leave, he approaches the supervisor and says, "Dude, I have a $10 solution to your problem." He then says to use a fan pointed at the end of the conveyor belt. Empty boxes are light and fly off without ending up in the shipment—laws of gravity. Always Know your why and know the rules.
Moral of the story: simple, creative, and easily tested solutions are the best solutions.
The best ideas don't come from experts or the most expensive designs. They come from simplicity, humanity, and love. They come from curiosity, passion, wisdom, from experience. They come with lawve. Don't wait for perfection to go to the next step. Just start.
But start carefully. Entrepreneurs must juggle countless tasks and competing priorities well before they even open shop, including creating a legal structure. Business formation is a necessary early design step when starting a business, whether you're registering a simple DBA, incorporating, or forming a partnership. How your business is formed will determine the founders' personal liability, how taxes are paid, and other vital details. For example, a sole proprietor typically makes decisions on her or his own. At the same time, a partner in a partnership must get approval from all other partners before making significant decisions for the company.
A dream is written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes a reality.
You have worked hard to paint a colorful image reflecting your dream. Now is your opportunity to make people fall in love with your goal. Remember, unless people are legally required to work with you (impossible), they make decisions based on love. It's your job to make them fall in love with your vision.
This is where all the work you did in your business plan actually matters. This is your opportunity to present your vision in a clear & concise way.
Teamwork makes the dream work. Work with an Advisor or read and learn as much as you can about leadership skills. It's more for you than anyone else. With the weight of your dream now becoming a business and the responsibility of leading a team, you will need all the help that you can get. It's all about you and your dream now. Mental resilience is key to balancing it all. In this stage, you also need your lawyer-BFF to consult. Find a lawyer that you like. I'm not kidding about the BFF. You will tell your lawyer things you won't tell your spouse, children, or parents, so choose wisely.
One of the most challenging moments for a founder is when they have to hand their baby off to their team. You have worked hard to birth this idea and to design a step-by-step process to execute your vision. Now you are ready to bring in a group of experts who will work with you to create your dream. Your job has now transformed into inspiring and challenging at the same time. It's an intricate dance to keep your team encouraged while avoiding potential legal liability.
The startup environment lends itself towards a dysfunctional family dynamic. They say there is a fine line between love and hate. You know… that raw passion that makes you want to squeeze a puppy. As a founder, you will often feel that way. Sometimes those who fight the hardest are the ones who care the most. So that's a delicate balance to overcome while you have no idea what's to come for your business, like a new parent. And just like a new parent, you are successful if you keep your baby alive and injury-free. If he learns a curse or two from your F* Bombs, that's a successful day.
While you are navigating this delicate dance, it's important to first always get things in writing. Sign agreements with specific employees or contractors specifying the terms of your relationship, their job duties, their performance requirements, and of course, confidentiality to protect your creations. It's also important to understand your particular state's Labor & Employment rules addressing benefits, conditions, and liability. Understanding Tax rules and proper accounting methodologies to manage startup costs and ongoing expenses is also crucial in this step.
Keep an open mind. Be patient. Inspire. And curse a little (privately).
You have designed your business plan & your team. Are you ready to actually start building? It's a serious commitment. Are you mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially prepared? (by the way, no one ever is)
This is where you get to work. It will be blood, sweat, and tears like the guy limping over the marathon finish line, but you know you are there. It's just a matter of small details. Pour your heart, love, and passion into it—practice patience. Don't take things personally. Be flexible. Be empowered. Be grateful. Be frugal. And be happy.
If you have ever had a dream and thought to yourself, "one day… one day when I have more money, or experience," or whatever other reason you created this block for stopping yourself. Stop thinking. Start planning. Start doing.
Because the difference between success and regrets is listening to that little voice in your heart to do what you are genuinely passionate about. To follow your curiosity despite hearing it's not going to work, or it's never been done before. It's going to be challenging, but it will also be lovely. Because you will be happy doing what you genuinely desire… whatever that may be for you.
The moral of this Lawnote:
Entrepreneurship is an intricate system of woven rules across multiple disciplines. Here is a list of my best practices for a new or aspiring founder.
Have everything in writing
Make sure everything is signed by both sides.
Know that everything is negotiable
Preventative legal work is always better for you than emergency treatment.
Save everything. Good files are your life-vest.
Check-in with your attorney monthly as a health & wellness plan for your business to know where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Things change fast in law. And talk to a startup coach to walk you through everything else.
"If you are wondering about the meaning of life, it is because you are not busy living it." Get busy living it. Create your happiness. Dream. Design. Inspire. Create.
So with that, my lovely friends, I will leave you with some advice: stay curious. Get inspired. Be brave. Dream big and Be happy.
I'm already proud of you.
See you soon.
And if you miss me before, listen to my podcast & connect with me on social media. I would love to talk to you.
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