“Do or do not, there is no try.”
Yoda’s famous line from Star Wars can serve as both motivation and a sobering wake up call. Recent graduates like myself and aspiring entrepreneurs know the feeling that comes when thinking and planning starts to wear thin and action is needed. But how do you make the leap between the planning and the doing? And, with all due respect to the wise Jedi master, surely trying is worthwhile, right?
The uncertainty of making that successful leap is daunting. According to the Small Business Administration, 50 percent of businesses fail in the first five years. The reasons for failure range from poor communication with clients, to breakdowns in leadership, to lack of a profitable business model. So how do you know if you should do or do not? One way to bridge between the planning process and the doing is through hard work and experience. In my varied career in journalism, PR, tech writing and even teaching, I’ve found one constant — trying is best done when it has the weight of work behind it. If you’ve done the right amount of planning and testing, the actual execution should be less a shot in the dark and more a clear and well thought out course of action.
As the founders of online shoe store Zappos found early on, it’s best to remove uncertainty from the get-go. Before launching their business in 1999, they put up a mock website displaying photos of shoes next to some “buy now” buttons. Orders came in soon enough and it was at that point the company founders realized they had a viable market for their product. Today, Zappos enjoys over $1 billion in annual sales.
Your web presence is certainly a reflection of your business strategy. Putting effort into tuning the design, functionality, device compatibility, and content of your website can help target your audience and effectively sell your product. Websites are the storefronts of the 21st century. Take a page from the Zappos guys: design, tinker, test your idea. It’s OK to use the web to run tests for your business.
It’s also OK to test yourself. For example, this summer I will be interning at Fort Pitt Web Shop where I hope to integrate myself into startup culture. As an aspiring entrepreneur with skills ranging from video production to web development to French Press coffee-making, I hope to find a concrete idea I can build on. To be successful in that sense, I’ll need to test my skills, narrow down my own goals, and ultimately make the jump from thinking and dreaming to
I look forward to learning from those who were brave enough to do before me and hope to have the courage to follow through and turn my ideas into reality. But if I want to be successful as a business owner, I need to put in the ground work beforehand. I need all the weight of planning, testing, and tweaking to be behind me when I make my “leap of faith.”
So how about you? How much preparation did you feel was right before you jumped into the world of entrepreneurship?