entrepreneurs

New Year, New Business: 6 Things for Budding Entrepreneurs to Consider When Going Out on Their Own

By Scott Cullather and Kristina McCoobery

Is launching a business at the top of your 2020 goals list? As entrepreneurs who have experienced the journey and lived to tell the tale, we can confirm you’re in for a wild ride, but an incredibly rewarding one, too. We endured our fair share of sleepless nights and long hours, and while according to Fortune 90 percent of start-ups fail, we happened to make it out on top.

More than 11 years on and our agency, INVNT, operates across eight offices in five countries. We design and produce live brand experiences for world-leading brands and employ 100+ of the industry’s best talent. We are one of the lucky ones (hard work, sheer determination, and a whole lot of passion aside). And we want to help other aspiring entrepreneurs succeed, too.

Below are six actions we recommend new or aspiring entrepreneurs take when going out—or considering going out—on their own:

  1. Plan to compete. While you might not be able to compete with your employer because of your contract, it doesn’t mean you can’t plan to. Instead of stewing in what you already know, leverage your skill set and talent and create your own exit strategy.
  2. For entrepreneurs just getting started, it’s about who you know. Look around your office, your inbox, and your circle. Construct your dream team of creative partners and legal/financial advisors based on the people with whom you already do your best work (and ask them for attorney references if you don’t already have that covered). These are the people you’re taking with you. For now, forget about what you’re going to call yourselves, who’s designing the logo, or which espresso machine communicates your mission statement. Your people should be your whole focus.
  3. If you’re unhappy and you know it, get out. Go out on your own or at least take a breather and allow yourself to regroup and consider what your next steps will be.
  4. Go Jerry F**king Maguire. We’re not saying break the law, but if you built the campaign, if you brought in the business, if you manage the relationship and the account… Don’t just slink into the night when you go. Let each and every one of your clients know you’re breaking out on your own (preferably at the last minute and from your personal phone or computer to sidestep fallout). If your lawyer says it’s okay, contact your clients after you leave, and if at all possible, take them with you.
  5. IP Is Your Superpower. Besides people, the biggest asset most entrepreneurs have—especially in service-driven businesses—is their intellectual property. Our name may be INVNT, but we don’t invent hardware or software—we invent ideas and brand positioning, both of which, turns out, are just as vulnerable to theft and replicable as patented “stuff.” So, anytime we have the opportunity to actually trademark or register, we spend the money and do it. And we strongly recommend this to you. The value of this practice is worth its weight in gold, because IP is a key differentiator that nobody else can claim.
  6. If you start your own business, get every single employee to sign a contract. If you took all your marbles with you when you left, you know exactly how it’s done. If you don’t want it done to you, you must set healthy and professional boundaries with your team.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s defines an entrepreneur as: “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.” It encapsulates the journey incredibly accurately. There is a lot of risk involved, but for some there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We hope these snippets of first-hand experience will help you on your way.

Learn more essentials for entrepreneurs in our book, Challenge Everything: The Battle Cry That Blew Sh*t Up and INVNTd Live Brand Storytelling.

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