The New Normal – Business Strategies from my Former Intern

by Victor Cheng

I received an email from one of my former student interns who worked for me about a year or two ago, who has since become an entrepreneur.

The kid is 1 year into his working career which was launched in the midst of the “Great Recession”.

And while most new graduates are unemployed, or stuck in low paying jobs, this guy is closing his first $10+ million deal. (Rock on!)

Now keep in mind this guy did not come from a family with money.

His electricity and cell phone keeps getting turned off due to non-payment of bills (Hey this is real world entrepreneurship, not that stuff you see in movies).

So he writes me a little update and describes the path he took to get to this big deal of his.

And it starts like this…

*** His email to me ***

(The email starts by something he notices while working for someone else at his first job out of school… details excluded to protect his privacy)

“…and it got me thinking, that this whole industry is heading in a totally new direction (and my boss is trying his best to resist it)”

So he gets frustrated that his boss, a 30 year veteran of the industry, refuses to do anything about the “writing on the wall”. Tired of being frustrated, he quits less than 6 months after starting the job. Focuses on learning as much of the skills as he can that would be useful based on where he sees the industry heading… focusing on taking advantage of the opportunities created by where his industry WILL be in 6
months (ignoring where it USED to be).

**** Here’s an excerpt of my reply to him ****

Nice job anticipating where the market will be, rather than falling in love with where it used to be.

If I may make one suggestion. You have a lot going on and I think you are at risk of Entrepreneurial ADD – Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorder.

Pursue your opportunities SERIALLY (one after another), rather than in PARALLEL (at the same time).

So do 1 thing at a time, get that 1 thing ALL the way successful, before doing the next thing.

The big difference between entrepreneurial starters, vs entrepreneurial FINISHERS is the ability of the latter to decide what NOT to do.

Anyone can come up with ideas, even fewer can actually get them done, and a true minority are able to get rid of all the bad ideas, all the mediocre ideas, all the good ideas, and even all the great ideas… and just execute the single BEST idea.

It is hard to say no, but picking and choosing what you say no to, is even MORE important than choosing what you say “yes” to – especially in a resource constrained environment.

Best of luck and I do appreciate the update.

***** End of My Reply *****

A few things to point out.

First, in my research on what separates the companies that thrived in the past 12 recessions vs those that failed or merely survived, I noticed that a surprising number of the “winners” were started by very young entrepreneurs.

My theory for why this happens (which reminds me of my intern) is that the young entrepreneurs have no memory of what the economy (or industry) USED to be like. They are basically too clueless and naive to recognize you’re not “supposed” to start a business in different times (note the distinction between different times vs. difficult times… today’s economy is in my opinion dramatically more different than it is difficult)

He is not handcuffed to the past, so he can freely pursue the future.

And in contrast, the experienced business owner has an extremely vivid memory of what the economy / industry used to be like (often mistaken to be the memory of what the economy/industry is SUPPOSED to be like which increasingly is in conflict with the current reality)

If you fall in love with your past, you risk your future.

For my former intern, and other young entrepreneurs like him, he doesn’t have a past to fall in love with.

Without this emotional baggage holding him back, he’s free to pursue the EMERGING opportunities caused by where his industry is heading in the future, rather than weep over the SHRINKING opportunities that were built on where his industry USED TO BE in the past.

Can you say the same?

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