Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

Lessons Learned…

I’m a student of the Babson 1-year MBA program.  Now about 10 months through that, I look back and realize how far I’ve come since I started.  Yeah, I’ve learned a lot from books… and I’ve at least tried to read all the cases… but nothing compares to the little lessons learned along the way.

So… here’s my Top 10. what are yours?

10) Secure Your Name… Before Someone Else Uses it in Commerce
I had the perfect name for my company… then someone else used it in commerce… now I have a different name for my company.  Hindsight IS 20/20.

9) Grades are Great, but the Network is Even Better.
Simply put, I killed myself to pull down the A’s I wanted… and I sacrificed a lot to get them.  Looking back, I wish I’d spent more time meeting / talking / sharing  – – – networking with alumni and other students.  Since I made the shift this semester, I’ve already learned and been connected with more than I ever was from casework.

8)  Just Do IT!
So, having started developing my idea in 2003, I’ve got a lot of time invested.  And, I could spend a lot more.  At the suggestion of that, Professor Caspe about had an aneurysm.  As he noted, every day I let pass, is a day of sales, feedback, and experience lost.  So, pulling on Nike’s drive – quit planning and JUST DO IT!  Learn, rinse, and repeat.

7)  The Impossible Cost of the last 20%…
Getting a product to 80% is expensive… but getting it the last 20% is CRAZY expensive (and way harder).  In my case (as in many) 80% is GOOD ENOUGH!

6)  If You Can’t Say it in 30 Seconds… You’ve Got Issues…
I started building a rocket pitch to roll in 3 minutes… and it seemed almost impossible to say enough to sell my idea in such a short amount of time.  Then I did the elevator pitch competition at MIT… 60 seconds seemed IMPOSSIBLE.  Now I’ve got it down to 30 seconds – just enough time to sell it while walking standing in line at Pandini’s.  30 seconds is probably all I’ll ever get to get my foot in the door – and I would have been done before I ever got started if I was still stuck on 3 minutes.

5)  Cash is king, & Cash Conversion Cycles will Change Your Life…
One lesson from Professor Ed Marram… another from an alum who has put in practice what she learned from Ed Marram. The further along I get with the development of my business venture, the more and more I’m seeing how true this little lesson is – and how hard (or easy) it could be to maintain.  Either way, I’m defintely making decisions and negotiating with the CCC in mind.

4)  Know Your Limits, and Partner Up
Early in the program, I thought I could do it all.  Truth is, I can do a lot… but that doesn’t mean I should.  Design sketches that took me days to produce took my partner about 15 minutes to beat.  Having learned this lesson, I’m willing to now admit that I suck at accounting – and am expecting to outsource this instead of trying to manage it myself.

3)  Talk Open… Talk Often
I had a severe case of entrepreneurial paranoia when I started.  I spent close to 5 years developing my product, fearful of discussing how it worked with anyone.  It only seemed worse when I got to Babson.  That’s changed.  Now I’m open to sharing my ideas with others.  The difference?  I’ve received hundreds of times more useful feedback since I let go of my fear, and it’s making all the difference.

2)  Cold-Call Your Hero’s
Make a list of the people you’d want to speak with most to get the inspiration and guidance you need to be a successful entrepreneur.  Then call.  I sucked it up and made a few phone calls… then a few more… and after a bit of patience, I was on the phone with a man that’s legendary in my industry.  An entrepreneur himself, he was only too happy to chat with a hopeful – share his stories, his knowledge, and his own LESSONS LEARNED.

1)  What’s your Business?
Thank you to Prof. Yoo-Taek Lee for asking me this simple question.  Before I heard it, I was a designer, manufacturer, marketer, and seller of my product.  Now, I’m just a marketer and I’m proud to say it.