Brian Yahn

@onlyrealcuzzo

Things Engineers Should Know Before Starting Up

Most startup schools and books about entrepreneurship focus on Product. Do what you love, they say. Focus on your passion!

Here’s the thing — if your passion isn’t business — you shouldn’t start a business.

If you’re an artist — say a designer — and you hate your boss, someday you’ll think to yourself, “Gee golly, wouldn’t it be jolly if I didn’t have a boss?”

That’s not your signal to quit your job and start your own design agency, or follow your passion and illustrate picture books on commission.

That’s nonsense.

What you should do is: learn more about marketing and sales and finance. If you don’t enjoy learning about them, and you wouldn’t enjoy putting them into practice, news flash: you won’t enjoy running your own business.

Most entrepreneurs will tell you, forget about the books and blogs and videos, go out and try it for yourself. Until you do, things won’t sink in.

And it’s true. Until you start your own business, until you talk to investors and potential co-founders, and until you try making sales and ultimately failing — you’ll never learn the first rule of business.

No one gives a shit about your product.

It doesn’t matter if you found a cure for cancer. It doesn’t matter if you built a machine that turns water into gold.

No. One. Gives. A. Shit. About. Your. Product.

You can talk about your idea. Trust me. Ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive. Building a business is hard.

I know what you’re thinking… Okay, sure, maybe they didn’t care about YOUR idea. But my idea is bigger than yours! They’ll care about my product.

Look, it’s fine. If you didn’t think that way, you probably wouldn’t be here. You probably wouldn’t ever start your own business. And then we’d probably never cure cancer…

But listen. Before going out there and trying to disrupt something, you first need to learn how to identify something that’s disruptable. Before you can sell something, you’ve got to be able to identify a market and how to reach it effectively. And before you can even think about building a viable product, you must be able to determine what people actually want in the first place!

If you’re not educated about your approach, if you don’t start a business intelligently, you won’t learn much from the experience. But you will waste a ton of time. And a lot of money.

That’s the worst.

Just Do It is only good advice if you know the basics of starting a business.

Ask yourself, if you don’t know who your customers will be, have at least four strategies to acquire them, and know EXACTLY how much it will cost to acquire them through each strategy — you should read a couple of books about marketing.

I recommend The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Allan Dib’s 1-Page Marketing Plan, and Donald Miller’s StoryBrand.

If you’re worried that it’s going to take a ton of time or money to build your product, it shouldn’t! Read The Lean Startup.

If you don’t know exactly how your product will make money, or you don’t know how much money your business can reasonably make, or how much revenue each customer should generate over their lifetime, or have a good estimate of your first year’s income (along with evidence to support that claim) — you should learn about financial modeling.

If you know all of that, and you’re still excited about your business, then you’re set up for success. As they say, get started.

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