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How Killer Serial Entrepreneurs Operate

By : Ziad K Abdelnour| 1 December 2014
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I talk to and meet close to 500 entrepreneurs a year – from the true maverick game changers to the guys as arrogant and dumb as can be -

I believe what differentiates a killer serial entrepreneur from the rest of the crowd is frankly how they operate – no matter what product they are offering.

With around 30 year experience on Wall Street backing over 125 companies worth in aggregate over 10 billion dollars during the time period, I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts in this regard.

1. Get smart: Killer entrepreneurs get a customer before they even start their business… Rookies raise money based on an idea. Now if you still decide to raise money and find it difficult, then your idea is probably incapable of raising money. If it’s easy, then take as much as possible. If it’s TOO easy, then sell your company (unless you are a potential Facebook, Twitter, etc).

2. Customers: Now that you’ve signed up on a few customers, what do you do for them? My advice. Do everything you can. Get them girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Visit their parents for Thanksgiving. Help them find other firms to meet their needs. Even introduce them to your competitors if you think a competitor can help them. Always think first, “What’s going to make my customers happy?” Most importantly, know their respective history in every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history, investing history, etc… Be a maverick. At Christmas for example, donate money to every customer’s favorite charity. Think different.

3. Focus: If you are consumer focused, remember your advertisers are your customers. So always be thinking of new services for your consumers. Each new service has to make their life better. People’s lives are better if: they become healthier, richer, or have more sex. “Health” can be broadly defined. If your customers are advertisers, find sponsorship opportunities for them that drive customers straight into their arms. These are the most lucrative ad deals. Ad inventory is a horrible business model. Sponsorships are better. Then you are talking to your customer.

4. Hiring: Killer entrepreneurs do not hire people until they have cash flow to cover their expenses. Rookies raise dumb VC money to back their “pie in the sky” dreams. Always remember: There is a HUGE gap between “idea” and “professional venture capital”. In the middle of that gap is the “customer”. Now when you are ready to hire, hire only local to start with… not some remote cheap developers thousands of miles away and see the difference in the results. At the end of the day folks, you’ve got to run your shop with an “iron fist” and be on top of it all. Discipline is key. Short of that, you are going nowhere.

5. Employees: Once you start getting employees on board, treat them like they are your children. They need boundaries. They need to be told “no” sometimes…. And sometimes you need to give them a rude awakening but within boundaries. So let them play as long as they are within the boundaries. Most importantly, don’t kill yourself. It’s not worth it. Your employees need you. Let each employee know how his or her path to success can be achieved. All of them will either leave you or replace you eventually. That’s OK. Give them the guidelines how that might happen. Tell them how they can get rich by working for you. On the other hand, if an employee gets “the disease” then don’t think about it twice. Just fire them. If they ask for more money all the time. If they bad mouth you to other employees. If you even think they are talking behind your back, fire them. The disease has no cure. And it’s very contagious. Show no mercy by showing them the door. There are no second chances because the disease is incurable. NOBODY should ever spread the disease and badmouth you or your customers – no matter how indispensable they think they are.

6. Profitability: Try to be profitable immediately. This seems obvious but it isn’t. Try not to raise money. That money is expensive. Most importantly, don’t be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good and you price it cheap, people will buy. Then you can price upgrades, future products, and future services more expensive. Which goes along with the next rule.

7. Distribution: Branding is everything. Get your name out there, whatever it takes. The best distribution is of course word of mouth, which is why your initial pricing doesn’t matter. Write a blog about your industry and be very honest about all the flaws (even your own) that is currently in your industry. Authenticity is the best branding. Now if you want to get a big distribution partner whose funds can keep you going forever and you have no resources to make it happen, then give equity to nail the deal. If you’re not baked into the Silicon Valley ecosystem, then find distribution and offer equity if you have to. Zuckerberg had Harvard. MySpace had the fans of all the local bands they set up with MySpace pages.

8. Marketing: Never use a PR firm or some blood sucking investor relations firm. Except maybe as a secretary. You are the PR for your company. You are your company’s brand; especially at the early stage of your venture. On the other hand, have killer parties to promote the brand; but use only your personal money. Not company money. Invite employees, customers, and investors. It’s not the worst thing in the world to also invite off some super models and throw some healthy spice into the mix.

9. Intelligence: Learn how to gather “intel”. It is the essence of it all. Understand the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where are marketing dollars flowing and can you be in the middle. What services do aging baby boomers need? Is the world running out of clean water? Are newspapers going to survive? etc….Read every day to understand what is going on. I read at least 200 pages of intel a week prepared to me by my SWAT team…. just like the “For Your Eyes Only” Report every US President gets on his desk every day. You cannot fathom how your decision making process improves when you have it all laid out under your eyes – every single day.

10. Legal Counsel: Never forget that the biggest scumbags on Planet Earth are your lawyers or anyone’s lawyers. Your lawyer or accountant is not going to introduce you to any of their other clients. Those meetings are always a waste of time. So get used to it. You just give orders to those bloodsuckers what to do… Never let your company’s decision making process be run by their opinions. They are only here to take orders – never to give any. As to sharing your ideas with lawyers and others, don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. Ideas are worthless anyway. It’s OK to steal something that’s worthless. So do yourself a big favor and spare wasting more time and lawyers money drafting useless NDAs that are only making you look more stupid and insecure.

11. Competition: It is good. It turns you into a killer. It helps you judge progress. It shows that other people value the space you are in. On the same note, never forget that your competitors could also be your potential acquirors. So whenever you have a chance, have lunch with them .. Learn how to listen and try not to talk too much. Swallow your big ego listening to yourself. Listen rather to what your competitors have to say. Be razor sharp.

12. Exit: When you decide to sell your company, give it the proper time. Get in the offices of the potential buyers of your company and start updating them on your progress every month. Ask their advice on a regular basis in the guise of just an “industry catch-up”. By the same token, don’t be afraid of selling your company earlier than expected if the opportunity presents itself. You now have money in the bank and a notch on your belt. Make a billion on your next company. You don’t need to be Mark Zuckerberg. Remember Mark Cuban? Before he started Broadcast.com and rode it to a few billion dollars, he sold his first software company for a mere $10 million.

13. Failure: It’s OK to fail. Start over again – hopefully before you run out of money and hopefully before you take in investor money – Or just come up with a new idea and start over again.

Now that you know what differentiates the killer entrepreneur from 99% of the rookies entrepreneurs out there looking for a handout from a VC who is even more idiotic than them, go for the kill and never look back.

Now share your thoughts…It is only by empowering others that you will empower yourself.

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