He Wanted to Build a Business: Entrepreneurship Meant New Actions To Take

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We were flying down the highway on a three-hour trip, hurtling through space and time, ensconced in the drone of the engine, the whistle of the wind outside the windows, and the hum of tires on the road. We had time on our hands. He knew I have business training and experience.

He asked me where to begin to build a business he had in mind.

“I guess I need a business license. Should I form a Corporation or LLC? Is logo and trademark registration expensive? I suppose I should publish a web site. Where should I advertise?”*

What I told him varied greatly from what he thought a startup would do.

Entrepreneurship Is Big Business, And Nobody Is Guaranteeing Startup Success

I’ve fallen for every misguided approach to starting a business.

  • Attorneys have happily sold me business incorporation services.
  • I’ve bought dozens of books, courses, and programs about how to start a business.
  • Coaches and trainers have delivered dozens of hours and thousands of dollars of leadership and performance training and coaching.

Still, I have no sustainable business to show for it.

We Make It Too Complicated

I channeled for him the best advice I know about how to start a business:

  1. Lean Startup has revealed the cash flow management secret for early startups: don’t spend a penny on anything except creating a minimum viable product you know a paying customer wants.
  2. Shark Tank has revealed the simple secret to starting a business: you don’t have a business until you have a paying customer.

I gladly shared those secrets with him:

Don’t spend a penny on incorporation or licensing or advertising until you have a clear picture of your product and the customers who’ll buy it. Shop competitors and talk to probable customers about what is now offered in the market and what customers want. In conversations with them, define the features of your first product or service. First, understand the benefits desired by the customer, which the customer will be willing to pay for.

Until my friend has product/market fit and some volume, he’s just paying for business services he doesn’t really need, to formalize a business that doesn’t really exist. He’d be a customer of somebody else’s business, who isn’t doing him any favors by selling him services to formalize a business he doesn’t really have.

Finally, he knew what to do. He was no longer distracted by red herrings like whether to form a LLC or C Corp, where to go for a business license, or how to go about protecting his trademarks.

Suddenly, he liked his corporate job a lot more.

*(While I’ve placed conversations in quotes, they’re not exact quotes of the conversations. They’re representative of the spirit and content of the conversations, as I recall them.)

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Hi, I’m Dylan Cornelius.

I’ve spent my career helping Fortune 500 companies build custom products and change the lives of their employees and customers.

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I was the first son of a new teen mom. By the time I was 2, she was a single mom of 2, living with her parents and working a retail job as a cashier at a pharmacy. She remarried by the time I was 4.

My stepfather adopted me and my brother. He worked in construction 7 days a week to support the family.

Throughout my childhood, I learned firsthand the value of hard work. I was first in my family to do many things, and I’ve often done them the hard way: college on student loans while living on campus at UC Berkeley, an MBA while working full time. Later in life I ran a marathon, then 4 more and counting… I’ve learned multiple definitions of ‘healthy diet plan’, first as I lost 50 pounds, then again after I earned an autoimmune diagnosis.

In graduate school, I concentrated in “Management of Innovation” — after all, I worked in Silicon Valley, and I’d grown up just down the road! It was there I learned we don’t have to work so hard, (but it helps)!

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