4 Failure Points that Can Undermine Your Business – Failure Point 1: Follow Your Passion at Your Peril

The ideal formula for business success is when your passion and distinctive competence align. Only nine months after opening my first business, USI – a business based on my distinctive competence – I launched a second business called Sigma Communications Inc., or Sigma for short. Starting Sigma was the culmination of my long-standing passion to create a vehicle to more efficiently connect buyers and sellers of commercial real estate. The first product I envisioned was a high-quality commercial real estate magazine listing properties for sale, lease, and sublease. (I undertook this venture at a time when the Internet was not yet widely available for commercial use.)

The Birth of Sigma Communications

Sigma’s main purpose was to provide essential real estate information to the financial officers and real estate executives of the largest 5,000 companies in the United States through a single source. We set out to publish a high-quality, quarterly magazine, The National Register of Commercial Real Estate, to share ideas for dealing with surplus real estate and to efficiently link real estate buyers and sellers through the magazine’s centerpiece, The Commercial Property Exchange. The Exchange would list surplus commercial property that was for sale, for lease, or for sublease.

When we started Sigma Communications, we thought we had all the pieces, but we were wrong.

Passion vs. Distinctive Competence

When I launched Sigma, I believed that my passion for publishing the magazine would trump my lack of competence. That proved to be a costly assumption. The hardest lesson I learned from the Sigma experience is that a venture filled with passion is not enough. You will substantially increase your probability of startup success if you build a business based on your distinctive competence. Distinctive competence is your success record of relevant experience, applicable skills, and practical knowledge that you bring to your business.

Following only your passion can lead you to make decisions fueled by fervor for your business idea instead of the knowledge and insight that comes with road-tested experience. I learned this firsthand. I lacked the experience that I believe any new venture requires in its founder. I truly knew nothing about being a publisher. And my strong passion for becoming a publisher did not make up for that void.

Failure Point #1: Starting a business based on passion alone, rather than building a business based on distinctive competence.


About the Author

Ed “Skip” McLaughlinEd “Skip” McLaughlin is the founder of four businesses and is currently running Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and angel investment firm. He bootstrapped his first business, United Systems Integrators (USI) Corporation, a corporate real estate outsourcing firm, and grew it into an Inc. 500 company. In 2001, Ed earned Entrepreneur of the Year honors from Ernst & Young. In 2005, he sold USI to Johnson Controls, a Fortune 100 company, and at that point, became CEO of JCI’s Global Workplace Business for the Americas. A member of the Board of Governors for Tufts Medical Center, Ed founded its David E. Wazer Breast Cancer Research Fund. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, where he is a member of the Board of Trustees. Active in philanthropy, Ed lives with his wife in Connecticut and has three adult children. Contact Ed at [email protected] or connect with him on Twitter @purposeisprofit.

Wyn LydeckerWyn Lydecker is the founder of Upstart Business Planning, where she works with entrepreneurs to develop plans that answer the questions investors ask most often. Previously, she was Managing Director of Business Plans International in New York and Co-Director of the Small Business Resource Center at Norwalk Community College. Wyn has an MBA in finance and marketing from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She serves on the board of a local nonprofit she helped found, At Home In Darien. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and has two adult children. Contact Wyn at [email protected] or connect with her on Twitter @upstartwyn.

The Entrepreneur’s Roadmap to Success

When speaking with groups, questions arise on how and where to get started on going into business for ones self. Often times a new entrepreneur feels he or she has done their due diligence only to learn later that they barely scratched the surface. They checked out the market, discussed the business idea with friends and family and feels they can come up with enough capital to set themselves up for success.

Unfortunately, often the amount of working capital needed to fund the project is simply not enough to account for all the expenses that arise with a new business. It seems that most businesses fail, not due to the validity of the idea, but rather that the project was under capitalized or underfunded from the start. The simple fact is that if you cannot preserve your working capital, “You won’t make it”. We have all seen great business ideas go down in flame because of working capital issues. Too often, the unforeseen – which were not budgeted for, will consume the cash that the business was relying on to bridge the gap between idea and implementation. If nothing else, budget and plan for the unknown – because if something can go wrong – it will.

Being in business for yourself, according to many entrepreneurs, is the greatest job most individuals will ever have . In doing so you have the potential to impact other people’s lives in a positive way while leading an organization to success. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If you are confident enough in what you are doing, and you have truly done your due diligence, you can have a prosperous business. If you don’t put in the time and effort to cover all your bases, you are not only setting yourself up for failure but you are doing yourself a disservice. A successful entrepreneur not only plans for the unexpected, but anticipates that it will invariably happen.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to go into business for myself?” The first answer most of us give is that we want to be our own boss. A great perk is that most entrepreneurs can live and work wherever they want. Entrepreneurship, if done correctly, can not only be rewarding from a financial perspective but also from a quality of life perspective.

How someone with a limited amount of experience and resources thinks they can go into business and be successful is beyond me. Furthermore, what financial institution would ever loan this type of person any money? Does this mean there is little or no hope for young adults to make it as budding entrepreneurs? Not necessarily. Since most young entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury in making a lot of mistakes, they must go about this very differently. Having a partner with the experience and resources to make this idea or business a reality is a route these young entrepreneurs must take. Finding a business mentor can be the difference between success and failure. You may have to give away more ownership in this type of arrangement than you wanted, however, if successful, it should be well worth it.


About the Author

Randy Steele, author of The Entrepreneur’s Roadmap to Success, is a lifelong entrepreneur and has had tremendous success in the financial service business, real estate, real estate appraising, greenhouse growing operations, and the mortgage industry. Through these experiences, the knowledge he has gained is invaluable to someone wanting to start a business or someone wanting to take their business to the next level.

Do You Have What It Takes to Hack It as a Female Founder?

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship ArticleWomen’s curiosity and interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. Getty Images has seen a fourfold increase in searches for “woman entrepreneur” photos in the last year alone. With the popularity of television shows such as Shark Tank and The Profit, more and more women are wondering if they have what it takes to be a female founder.

It takes more than having a good idea to be a successful entrepreneur. While there are a vast range of personalities, educations, and backgrounds among female founders, there are a few personality traits that are paramount to hacking it as a woman entrepreneur.

Passion is one such trait. To be a female founder, you must be passionate about the product or service you have devised to solve a problem. Authentic passion is what helps women find the best employees, sell their customers, and sell potential investors. If you don’t believe in yourself and your idea, no one else will, no matter how good it is.

Having enough grit and self-motivation to overcome setbacks and disprove early nay-sayers is another important characteristic of successful women entrepreneurs. The women who use negative statements as fuel for success instead of self-doubt are the ones who build ideas into thriving companies. Entrepreneurship is a high-contact emotional sport. If you get knocked down or denied seven times, you need to stand up eight times and keep pushing to make your dream a reality.

Long-term vision is needed for women to make the leap into entrepreneurship. Our tendency to be risk adverse serves us well after we launch a company, but that same tendency can having us making lists of reasons why we shouldn’t launch our own businesses. Female founders typically have the ability to see the big picture and justify the risks and challenges that come with startups because they know they will be successful.

If you have an amazing idea as well as the traits outlined in this article, you have what it takes to hack it as a female founder. Take the time to validate your idea and market, map your business plan, and prepare for the ride of your life!


About the Author

Danielle Tate is the author of Elegant Entrepreneur and founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, a multimillion dollar online name-change company. As a female founder in her 20s she noticed that few business guides offered step-by-step advice to smart but inexperienced entrepreneurial woman.

How to Raise Revenue for an Entrepreneurial Start-Up

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship ArticleThe first step in raising revenue for an entrepreneurial start-up is to outline a detailed marketing strategy. It is important for start-up entrepreneurs to test their assumptions as soon as they can. A big reason for the success of established companies is that they never invest large capital or significant time on any project unless they have determined that it has an overwhelming probability of success. The corporate world taught me that most ideas fail in the marketplace. When this happens, it should fail quickly and cheaply. You just want to make sure that you are not overwhelmingly hurt when you experience this inevitable fact.

Complete the following exercise carefully before you launch your marketing campaign. Accuracy in this exercise will be crucial to your future business success:

1. Decide who is your ideal customer – Most entrepreneurs start with a great product or service idea, but fail in correctly identifying their ideal customer and instead will sell to anyone who buys from them. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I still see today, especially in the online world.

There are two main reasons you want to determine who these ideal or dream customers are: first, your ideal customers will appreciate your offers and will pay for it based on your value, not price; and second, they are more likely to refer more business your way.


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About the Author

Ajay PrasadAjay Prasad owns GMR Web Team, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses maximize revenue from internet. He also invests in web-based start-ups. Ajay also operates a seven-figure web based business, GMR Transcription, which he built from scratch and grew it by using strategies that he uses for his digital marketing clients.