A.K.A. How to Start a Business (Really)
by Raddle Co-founder Tex Dworkin
Starting a business is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themself.
But for me–just getting out of the gate was hard, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.
I had a list of business ideas in my head. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Specifically–a social entrepreneur, which is someone who starts an enterprise that has the potential to solve community-based problems.
But even with years of mission-driven business experience under my belt, I never felt ready to launch. Despite knowing how to start a business, how to create a business plan, and how to run a business–I couldn’t seem to get out of my own way.
Repeated attempts to move forward as a solopreneur was just not cutting it.
Obviously I figured it out. As the co-founder of Raddle, I’m finally living my professional dream. I get to help build WITH a community of people who embrace our core values. Raddle is bringing people together to get solopreneurs out of their heads and into action, and I’m finally a social entrepreneur in motion.
But getting here took years and caused me a lot of pain. I wrote about the whole process for this piece: Feeling Professionally Stuck? Here’s What Worked (& Didn’t) For Me, which was originally published on Larry Kim’s Marketing and Entrepreneurship publication on Medium. Larry is the Founder of WordStream, CEO of MobileMonkey, and a top columnist @ Inc.
(If you think I’m name dropping…guilty as charged 🤣)
Here’s the thing: There’s SO much information out there about how to start a small business, how to start a company, and so on. In fact, I tell ya what. I’ll do you a solid.
Here’s a 35-Step Guide for Entrepreneurs Starting a Business. (Yes you read that right. Thirty five steps 😱) Too many steps? Ok, here’s a 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business. Still too many for ya? Ok, how bout this one that doesn’t specify the number of steps: How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide.
Look, I get that there are certain things that you need to know if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. The thing is–if you’re anything like me, understanding how to start your own business requires more than just business knowledge. It requires knowing how your brain operates, what motivates you, and what doesn’t motivate you to act. Not to mention the fact that oftentimes–the BEST way to learn is by doing.
If you want to keep learning and gathering info about small business, how to start your own business, and what the best business to start is–go for it! But when does it stop and when do you actually start?!
I have a MUCH better idea! If you’re looking to start your own business, check out these 15 Startup Business Tips, or as I call them in my article, “Realizations, StartupTips, and Mind Hacks“. They’re BS-free and my way of saying please, for the love of all that is holy to you wantrepreneurs, do not make the same mistakes I did!
Realizations, startup tips, and mind hacks I wish I discovered sooner because it would’ve saved me a lot of grief:
- You’re ready enough. Instead of learning or planning or preparing more —start throwing things at the wall and see what sticks. The best way to figure things out is to start doing, not studying how or preparing to do them. No joke: planning for me lasted years and in retrospect — was just a sneaky way of saying “never.”
- You can choose your specific business idea later: I assumed (incorrectly) that at the very least, I needed to know what exactly I aimed to build or create in order to start. It turns out — that’s not necessarily true. I’d describe it more like this: you need to have a ballpark idea of what you aim to achieve, not exactly what or how. Take Raddle, for example. We (my co-founder and I) knew we wanted to help solopreneurs build WITH others, but what that looks like evolved over time. (Heck — it’s still evolving!)
- You do not need to know your destination to leave the station. Pretend your business is a 6 month Eurail pass. You don’t know exactly where you’re going to end up, or when. You just know that you’re most likely going to have one helluva a great adventure. Yeah — look at your business like that.
- Get out of your head and into action. Beating back the negative voices in your head is a battle you will never win. It’s o.k. to lay your sword down and walk off the battlefield. Let it rage on without you. You owe it nothing. When negative thoughts emerge (and they will) — acknowledge them, then gently let them pass.
- Nike was really onto something. Are you the type of person who likes having a plan and knowing all the answers before you start? Well GET OVER IT! When it comes to most things business-related, the best way to learn is by doing, not planning to do or studying how to do. So JDI!
- Go ahead and fuck up. Are you the type of person who does not like to fuck anything up ever, especially in public where people whose opinion matters to you can see you fucking up? Well GET OVER THAT TOO! It’s imperative that you embrace failure. Aim to fail fast and often. It’s how you’ll end up with the best result. Trust me when I say — it gets easier the more you do it. And saying “Sorry” or “Oops” will always have your back.
- Our brains are programmed to keep us safe in our comfort zone. ‘They’ say that outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Yup! But that’s not what your brain wants you to do. When our cavemen and cavewomen ancestors were rocking it, they knew that leaving their cave alone, away from fire/food/shelter meant certain death. Human brains are programmed to keep us alive which means — do not step out of the cave lest you perish. If you’re going to get unstuck — you need to ignore what your brain is prompting you to do and leave your cave.
- (The good news about ^) Being uncomfortable gets easier the more you do it. What’s really cool is that the more you hang outside of your comfort zone — the more comfortable it feels. Crazy, right? I know!
- We are social creatures, so solopreneurs plz don’t build alone. If you want to own your own business, don’t grow it alone. That’s pretty much the worst idea ever. Find some way to build WITH others. I’m not talking about getting advice along the way. I’m talking about building WITH other people to help keep your momentum going. Find a mastermind group or join a community to build with (like Raddle 😆) or start your own! (People & Co can show you how.) Or do what I did — find a ying to your yang business partner. (That’s been a game changer for me.) By building WITH other people I’ve figured out a way to evade my biggest adversary — my mind.
- Quit reading those damn ‘How I Made It’ stories. They’re soul crushing. ‘Learn from my mistakes’ my ass. Most of them just leave you feeling inferior with some serious catching up to do. We all know how the story ends. They make it! Where’s the vulnerability in that? If you really want your story to help others — share it with other people BEFORE you know your ending. That’s some rock star shit right there. Those are the people all of us grinders need to hear from and build with.
- Accept that you’re here now. If I continued to beat myself up about how far from my professional goals I was given my age I probably would’ve remained stuck. Accepting that ‘I’m here now’ enabled me to move forward. (This realization didn’t come from me, it came from a lesson gleaned from the book “Designing Your Life”. I recommend it to anyone who feels professionally stuck. They’ve got a new book Designing Your Work Life which I haven’t read yet but reviews have been great.) One thing to add about accepting that you’re here now: it should include making peace with your age.
- Be patient with yourself. I probably would’ve told you to fuck right off if you told me this a year ago. Because at my age — I felt like I had wasted so much time that I had catching up to do. But that was just a story I made up in my head. Whether I took it as truth was entirely up to me. I chose not to. I believe that I’m right where I need to be. Patience is important when you’re trying to get unstuck because you need to try lots of things. If you’re constantly worried that you’re out of time—you’ll waste precious energy worrying instead of trusting your process.
- You can be yourself, faults and all, and still command respect. “Establish yourself as an expert.” “Become an influencer.” “Position yourself as a leader in your field.” That’s all well and good, but you can do all of that while remaining true to who you are. Now more than ever — people are craving authenticity, so be yourself. Providing real value to your customers is what matters, and what people will pay for.
- Don’t set out to launch your own anything. My whole “today I’m going to launch a business!” approach was destined to fail. I should’ve set out to do one small step, and then another, and another. At that point, momentum kicks in (yay science!) and before you know it, your starting gate is just a distant memory.
- Shame on you? (This one may read a little mushy but bear with me because it’s CLUTCH!) Check in with yourself to see if you have unresolved shame issues. (I did.) If you do too—and LOTS of people do, they’ll rear their ugly head into virtually everything you think and do until you either deal with them or remain stuck. Rather than fumble through elaborating, watch the shame tamer herself — Brené Brown:
When I wake up each morning, I’m excited to help solopreneurs get out of THEIR head and keep building forward.
Did it take me longer than I wish it had to get here? Hell yeah! I just turned 50 years old a few weeks ago (see pic of me jumping for joy) and I just launched my first startup. But I’m here now, with the drive of a million unicorns 🦄🦄🦄 to help fellow entrepreneurs build forward and wantrepreneurs get out of THEIR gate.
If you’re ready to try building WITH others–Raddle’s beta is invite-only but you’re welcomed to request an invite here.
See you on the inside?