Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

Good Advice, Bad Advice, Land Mines on a Path to Heaven

Having just read James Altucher’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Starting and Running a Business, I’m fascinated by a collection of bold, very well written, and remarkably unambigious advice, most of it great, some of it terrible. The effect is like a path to heaven with hidden land mines.

Read it, but don’t believe it. Think about each of the 100 points. Reject a lot of them. Be especially careful with the ones that are usually true but not in your specific case. 

And you’ll enjoy it thoroughly. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes hilarious, it’s great thought-provoking writing on this subject. It’s one of the best blog posts I’ve ever seen, especially on this topic.   

That’s so hard to explain that I’ll just give you some examples, 10 of the 100 numbered pieces of advice, in no particular order:

  • Should founders vest? Yes, over a period of four years. On any change of control the vesting speeds up.
  • Should I ever focus on SEO? No. 
  • Should you go for venture capital money? First build a product, then get a customer, then get friends-and-family money (or money from revenues which is cheapest of all) and then think about raising money. But only then. Don’t be an amateur.
  • When should you have sex with an employee? When you love her [SIC] and the feeling is mutual.
  • Should you patent your idea? Get customers first. Patent later. Don’t talk to lawyers until the last possible moment.
  • Should you require venture capitalists to sign NDAs? No. Nobody is going to steal your idea.
  • My wife/husband thinks I spend too much time on my startup? Divorce them or close your business.
  • How do you get new clients? The best new clients are old clients. Always offer new services. Think every day of new services to offer old clients.
  • Should I do social media marketing? No.
  • How much equity should you give a partner? Divide things up into these categories: manage the company; raise the money; had the idea; brings in the revenues; built the product (or performs the services). Divide up in equal portions.

See what I mean? Good advice, and bad advice. Which is which? That’s up to you. 

The “funny” doesn’t show fully in those 10 examples, so look at these:

  • My customer called me at 5 p.m. on a Friday and said, “We have to talk.” And now I can’t talk to him until Monday. What does it mean? It means you’re fired.
  • Why didn’t the VC or customer call back after we met yesterday and it was great? They hate you.
  • Should I have sex with an employee? Stop asking that.

Take my advice. Read his advice. 

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at Entrepreneur.com. He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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