1. Passionate about your business. Whether it be mobile gaming, real estate development, or medical supplies, you must believe and be passionate about what you do. You’re going to be spending ALL your waking hours worried about selling your product or serving your service. Many people have approached me about starting other businesses. Can I live and breathe laundromats? I met an obruni who handles Accra’s waste disposal. Good for him! I couldn’t be thinking about sh** every day of every week.
2. You must hire good people. Not only do they have to be good at their jobs, they should also be honest. In many companies, there is a fair amount of shrinkage, e.g. employees stealing things like inventory or office supplies. Your people will make or break your business. Motivating them, managing them, leading them are each subjects that could fill a library.
3. You have to watch your workers because people “respect what you inspect.” If XYZ is not a performance metric that will determine their pay, then don’t expect them to do it. Of course, you have to monitor your staff because of the principal-agent problem. They are trying to get away with doing as little work as possible and still stay employed while you are trying to get the most out of them without paying them more.
4. Have a business plan. It’s important that you try to think through all the issues before you are going to commit every waking hour to something. Most likely the business plan will diverge from reality but you should be trying to solve as many anticipated problems and budget for them before you drop $100,000, $500,000, or $5 million on a venture. Once you’ve committed to something, that boiler or van may be a requirement rather than a choice.
5. You need the support of family and friends. I know I could not have done my business without the emotional and financial support of my family. If they do not want you to succeed, then you will be fighting the challenges of the real world in your business and your own world to justify why you’re not working as an investment banker, lawyer, doctor, programmer somewhere else. Starting a business is probably a good way to end up divorced.
If I think of more lessons, I will add them to this post.