Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff built Honest Tea from scratch into a $100 million enterprise.
In my recent article on Forbes, you get a few lessons and a compelling story of their journey.
But wait, because there’s one more thing. In fact, 10 more.
Goldman and Nalebuff share 10 must-follow rules on how to start and build an equally impressive empire (you can find these rules in the back of their book; ‘Mission In A Bottle’):
1. “Build something you believe in -- because that’s the first step to building a great brand.”
Just like Goldman and Nalebuff, I learned a powerful lesson in tenacious passion from 30 plus years of entrepreneurship. When you’re all alone, sitting in a dark room wondering why your business is failing, there is only one true thing to power you forward -- you believe in your purpose.
2. “Don’t aim for 10% improvement. Make it radically better and different.”
Yes -- in today’s society we collectively create amazing products, services and companies through entrepreneurship. World changing at times and Honest Tea was radically different when first introduced. But, if you look around, we also live in the land of ‘me-too’ businesses. Don’t fall for it. Dig deep and decide right now to build something radically different and radically better.
3. “Prepare to be copied. Don’t start unless you’ll survive imitation.”
If your idea is truly radical and takes off, you can count the minutes before the copy-cats arrive. How will you survive competition from the big 800-pound gorillas on the block? Or even from the upstart little guys? Your key is a system of ‘continuous innovation’. Although you could also take the road of Honest Tea -- make friends with one of the gorillas and let them buy you out. (Coca-Cola Company acquired Honest Tea in 2011.)
4. “Build up reserves of money and energy for bad luck and mistakes.”
Great advice -- but sometimes extremely difficult to do. What startup or growth company has reserves of cash sitting around? But Goldman and Nalebuff make a good point -- run as lean as you possibly can and do not waste money or energy. You will endure mistakes and bad luck along the way, so having a good war chest full of capital and energy can help handle it.
5. “Never, ever give up control -- until you sell.”
Some high-impact entrepreneurs will readily give up control in exchange for the lure of high-growth through venture capital -- but I am not one of them. Relinquish control and you risk losing the culture and vision of the company you set out to build. Even though Honest Tea raised investment capital from the beginning, the co-founders always remained in the driver’s seat. (And yes -- Goldman can still drive his vision as CEO of Honest Tea, but his boss at Coca-Cola can say ‘no’ at anytime. Thus, true control is forever gone.)
6. “Don’t compromise on the big things -- compromise on everything else.”
Vision. Purpose. Core values. Write these things in stone and never budge. But flexibility in the value propositions, products and services you build to execute your purpose is vastly important. Many entrepreneurs I see fail to ‘bend to the market’ by adapting to what their customer’s are telling them.
7. “Figure out how to achieve your goals on a tiny budget -- then cut that number in half.”
Yes -- you’ve heard it said before -- it will cost twice as much, and take twice as long as you think. My recommendation is you apply the principles of lean to your business from day one. No fancy offices. No fancy full color brochures. Your goal is to stay alive until you can nail your secret formula for success. Blowing the budget will insure nothing but a quick death.
8. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Is it ever. Building a business is neither for the faint of heart or the speed demon. Climbing Mt. Everest is not done in 3 easy steps: 1.) decide you want to do it, 2.) fly to Nepal with zero preparation, 3.) sprint straight up the mountain in 12 easy minutes. Build systems for the long-haul and focus on small-connected steps. (It takes 26,364 steps of 7" each to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s starting from half way up at Basecamp.)
9. “Take care of your family, personal and spiritual health -- if you aren’t laughing or smiling on a regular basis, recalibrate.”
Imagine the path to a wildly successful business: founder working at a feverish pitch for 18 hours each day, for at least 5 years straight. True? No, it’s not. In my private conversation with Goldman, he flat-out told me two reasons he made it through the rough years: first -- he believed in his purpose, second -- his drive for personal balance. The notion we need to kill our family relationships, personal health or level of sanity to build our own business is sadly misaligned. Take it from me -- don’t go there.
10. “Build the enterprise and the brand as if you’ll own them forever.”
Will you sell your business someday? Maybe. Should that be the sole reason you are building it? Probably not. When you start and build a business based on passion and purpose, with a burning desire to solve the pain of your customer through the deliverance of monetizable value, you build a far more valuable enterprise. Those in it for the short-term quick buck rarely succeed.
Plaster these 10 rules from Goldman and Nalebuff to your mirror, live by them everyday of your life as an entrepreneur and you might end up as successful as they. Honest.
Author credit: Eric T. Wagner
Eric T. Wagner writes about the secrets of startups and entrepreneurs.
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