On this weekend’s Art of Potential show, you will hear some great advice about how to start your own company from Alec Guettel, Social-Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UNC. Guettel was recruited by UNC’s The CUBE (Creating University Born Entrepreneurs) program because he has launched five start-ups including Axiom Law and Sungevity, a leading rooftop solar company. The CUBE’s model of pairing students, mentors and resources serves as a business incubator not only for UNC students, but also for people like you and me. They provide great workshops and support for wannabe entrepreneurs with great ideas but lacking experience.
According to Guettel, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration before you launch your business:
1. Go Big … or Don’t Go.
Guettel doesn’t mince his words on this point. If you are going to start your own business then you must fully commit and be ridiculously ambitious and persistent. You must be willing to eat, breathe, and live the entrepreneurial lifestyle which includes long hours, little pay, plenty of hand wringing, and occasional glimpses of your family, at least at the beginning. Guettel hadn’t been home for a month at the time of our interview.
2. Thoroughly vet your product.
According to Guettel, there are basically two stages that happen in a business start-up. One stage is prior to starting your business, and the other is post starting. Prior to starting your business is a magical time full of ideas and warm fuzzies. In this stage, you believe that everyone is going to buy your product because it is brilliant just like you. Visions of mansions, sleek office furnishings, and sugar plum fairies may dance in your head. Guettel advises soon-to-be entrepreneurs to stay in this space for a while and soak it up, because the reality is not nearly so comfortable and enjoyable.
It is only when you leave your headspace and venture into the real world to ask living, breathing customers what they will pay for your services and what kind of products they want, that you will actually begin to get traction. Be prepared, because what you envision delivering and what you end up delivering may not be the same thing. At this stage, you are finding out whether or not you are creating a viable business. This is also a time to establish your track record in case at a later time you want to scale your business to a larger vision and need venture capital. According to Guettel, venture capitalists or investors prefer to have tangible proof that what you are doing makes money before they will invest.
3. Partner with people more awesome than yourself.
Entrepreneurship requires ambition, tenacity and, for most of us, having a partner or two that share our passion and dedication. Each co-founder of a company should bring something unique to the table. Guettel’s advice is to find the most amazing people you’ve ever come across in your life, people you think would never work with you in a million years, and ask them to partner with you. These folks are typically from your network of people.
In his opinion, talent is one of the most important assets of any company. In fact, Guettel has thought about creating a business just so he can partner with certain people, as opposed to having an idea and looking for people to partner with. Talent is that important.
This fantastic show is filled with lots of nuts-and-bolts advice, as well as paradigm-shifting comments beneficial for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business. The show will air Saturday, April 12 at 2:00pm and Sunday, April 13 at 8:00pm at or you can click here to listen.