Steven Cox San Diego Entrepreneur

Things I’ve Learned Being an Entrepreneur

Steven Cox San Diego EntrepreneurAt TakeLessons, we’re in the process of working on a 2013 strategic plan. One thing I did this year was looked back and just wrote down some things that I’ve learned over the past few years on how to build a business. Here’s my short list.

  • As a company and personally, I’ve had a tendency to overestimate what we can get done. We also seem to be over confident in our ability to deliver revenues.
  • It is difficult to produce a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Know what gives you the greatest chance of creating a space in the hearts and minds of those you serve.
  • As the company grows, the infrastructure of the company to support the growth has to be kept in check, lest it gets out of hand.
  • Always have faith, but never believe my own bullshit.
  • Any system we put in place when we were at 20 people broke by the time we were at 40 people. And the systems put in place at 40 broke again at 80. In other words, we should be ready to rethink our model, our systems, our people every time we double.
  • We cannot be reliant on investors. Our only safety net is that we produce enough value for a customer that we can make a profit.
  • We have a tendency to want to build everything. Normally, building it vs. buying it takes longer and is not necessarily better.
  • One great person takes the place of 3-4 mediocre people. The ratio may be even greater.
  • As we grow, it gets incrementally harder to acquire customers at an acceptable cost.  This is why creating products and services that spread virally and through word-of-mouth become critical. And the best way to have people spread your product or service is to build something that REALLY adds value to their lives.
  • There is a natural affinity we have towards doing what we’ve done in the past and not being open to risk. We need to risk and try more (seed planting). We need to build a culture of quick trial and plenty of error.
  • In order to win, it’s not enough to create ‘enough’ value. We have to ‘create incredibleness’ – so much that our users couldn’t imagine going anywhere else – so much that they talk about us and share the service with others.
  • Always be crystal clear on what is considered a ‘win’ – weather it be for a single call, a monthly goal, a strategy, or even an exit. In the words of Stephen Covey, begin with the end in mind.

Questions we asked ourselves

  • What is our definition of “Win”?
  • What gives us the highest chances to win?
  • What are our assets? What can we do better than anyone else?
  • Does the customer value what you can do better than anyone else?
  • Can we do it profitably?
  • What produces the most value for the customer we serve? Are we doing that?
  • What do we enjoy doing / not enjoy doing?

5 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned Being an Entrepreneur”

  1. True points!

    I just love how the “corporate” structure is changing as we decide to make it nowadays. Whether it be funding or marketing, things are changing as we innovate and respond to all the peoples voices as they speak (or sing, play, paint, etc).

  2. Hi Steven, I caught you at Startup Grind tonight and really liked your idea about doubling. The need to completely change every time you double…what did you call it? Thank you!


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