6 Secrets to Startup Success

256 Pages · 2011 · 1.34 MB · English

  • 6 Secrets to Startup Success



    How to Turn Your Entrepreneurial

    Passion into a Thriving Business


    Foreword by Pamela Slim,

    author of Escape from Cubicle Nation


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    Bradberry, John, 1961–

    6 secrets to startup success : how to turn your entrepreneurial passion into a thriving

    business / John Bradberry ; foreword by Pamela Slim.

    p. cm.

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-1606-8 (hardcover)

    ISBN-10: 0-8144-1606-3 (hardcover)

    1. New business enterprises—Management. 2. Entrepreneurship. 3. Success in

    business. I. Title. II. Title: Six secrets to startup success.

    HD62.5.B723 2011



    © 2011 John G. Bradberry

    All rights reserved.

    Printed in the United States of America.

    This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in

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    recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of AMACOM, a division

    of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

    About AMA

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    Printing Number

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    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org CONTENTS

    Foreword by Pamela Slim v

    Acknowledgments vii

    Introduction xi

    PART I Entrepreneurial Passion:

    A Double-Edged Sword

    Chapter 1: True Believers: Why Founders Fall in Love with

    Their Ideas 3

    The Sparks of Entrepreneurial Ambition

    Fanning the Flames of Commitment

    If You Build It, Will They Come?

    Chapter 2: The Passion Trap: How Attachment to Your Idea Can

    Sabotage Your Startup 23

    What Is the Passion Trap?

    The Damage Done: Six Negative Impacts of

    Entrepreneurial Passion

    The Core Pattern: How the Passion Trap Works

    Icarus Qualities: Who Is Most Vulnerable to the

    Passion Trap?

    Early Warning Signs: Are You in Danger of Being Trapped?

    Moving Forward: Six Principles for Making the Most of

    Entrepreneurial Passion

    PART II Your Foundation: Six Principles for Launching a

    Can’t-Miss Startup

    Chapter 3: Founder Readiness: How to Prepare for the

    Entrepreneurial Journey 51

    The Fundamentals of Founder Readiness

    Purifying Your Entrepreneurial Passion

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org iv Contents

    Chapter 4: The Pull of the Market: Attach to Your Customer,

    Not to Your Idea 81

    Developing a Strong Market Orientation

    Antidote to the Passion Trap: Give Your Idea a Market Scrub

    Chapter 5: Your Math Story: Charting a Path to Breakeven

    and Beyond 103

    Planning Is Clear Thinking

    Constructing a Compelling Math Story

    Securing the Right Funding

    Chapter 6: Startup Agility: Executing with Focused Flexibility 125

    The Paradox of Strong Execution

    The New Venture Learning Curve

    Chapter 7: Integrity of Communication: Your Secret

    Startup Weapon 149

    No One Is Immune to Reality Distortion

    Integrity of Communication: The Basics

    Four Personal Tools for Bursting the Feel-Good Bubble

    Chapter 8: Staying Power: Give Your Venture Time to

    Take Flight 169

    Venture-Level Strategies: Strengthening and Lengthening

    Your Runway

    Founder-Level Strategies: Performing and Persevering

    over Time

    Appendix A: Startup Readiness Tool 191

    Appendix B: Resources and Readings 207

    Notes 215

    Index 227

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org Foreword

    Most of us harbor thoughts of starting a business.

    It is a delicious fantasy while staring at gray cubicle walls, or toil-

    ing outside for an hourly wage under the command of someone who

    is profiting from the fruits of your labor.

    “I can do this,” you say, “How hard could it be?”

    Some, emboldened by the desire to take charge of their own des-

    tiny, actually take the leap.

    Things can go well for a while, until the moment when they real-

    ize that there are a whole lot of things that can go wrong.

    And that if they had known then what they knew now, they may not

    have been so quick to give notice at their job, or to invest precious money,

    time, and energy in an idea that was not quite ready for prime time.

    The greatest heartbreak, popular success publications tout, is failing

    to do something about your burning passion for a world-changing idea.

    A greater heartbreak, in reality, is placing this idea onto a shaky

    foundation, and watching it fall apart.

    What is really driving your desire to start a business? If you are

    like most people:

    9 You want to make an impact in the world.

    9 You want to create wealth for yourself and your family.

    9 You want to translate your idea into a tangible product or


    9 You want to have flexibility to spend time with your family.

    9 You want to feel fully alive.

    9 You want to use your strengths in a way that leads to deep


    These desires are not fantasies. There are thousands of entrepre-

    neurs who have built successful businesses on a solid foundation and

    accomplish these goals every day.

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org vi Foreword

    The difference between them and others who end up in the

    “failed” pile of startup statistics is that they cared enough about their

    ideas to give them the very best chance to succeed.

    Caring means researching. Caring means testing ideas before

    committing too many resources. Caring means not brushing off peo-

    ple who challenge your idea. Caring means getting the very best ad-

    vice from people who have successfully guided companies through

    the startup phase and beyond.

    In 6 Secrets to Startup Success, John Bradberry, a calm, steady hand

    and seasoned mentor, brings an invaluable voice of reason that will

    guide you every step of the way without preaching or dampening your

    enthusiasm. He celebrates entrepreneurial passion while giving it the

    structure it needs to result in business success:

    The solution lies not in ratcheting down passion, but in elevating

    awareness. By pausing early in your startup process to take an ob-

    jective look at yourself and what you bring to the table—your pur-

    pose, goals, skills, resources, and needs—you can develop a highly

    valuable kind of optimism, one that rests on the rock of clear, hon-

    est assessment and willful preparation. I call it earned optimism.

    It is such a relief to know that sustained energy to grow your busi-

    ness is not based on manufactured enthusiasm or pep talks from mo-

    tivational speakers. It is based on executing a well-defined yet flexible

    plan in tiny steps, leaning into the market and adjusting your business

    model as you go.

    If you want to mitigate and reduce risk to your career, your fi-

    nances, your relationships, and your health before starting your busi-

    ness, read this book.

    You will breathe easier.

    Most important, you will increase the likelihood that your busi-

    ness will be a raging success.

    —Pamela Slim, author, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From

    Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org Acknowledgments

    Writing a book is similar to launching a business. Each requires more

    time and effort than expected, and most of the sacrifice comes from

    people other than the author (or founder). Looking back, I’m amazed

    at how many talented people generously contributed to this project.

    I cannot name them all here, so I will hit the high notes.

    The only thing harder than being married to an entrepreneur is

    being married to a first-time author. My wife, Kristin, has endured

    both. She advised and supported me throughout the writing process,

    providing invaluable feedback on chapter drafts and all kinds of emo-

    tional and tactical support. She took on more than her share of re-

    sponsibility for our family life while continuing to inspire me in her

    own professional career. Thanks, Kristin, for being my best friend

    and most trusted editor.

    Thanks to Phoebe and Isabelle, for cheering me on while putting

    up with the strange hours and obsessive habits of a book-writing dad.

    Phoebe consistently motivated me with her own quiet determination,

    and Isabelle single-handedly risked life and limb to save thirty pages

    of a chapter draft that had blown into the street from the roof of my

    car. Thanks, girls, for encouraging me and for keeping me going.

    This book couldn’t exist without its central characters. I’m in-

    debted to founders Lynn Ivey (The Ivey), J.C. Faulkner (Decision

    One Mortgage), Mark Williams (Modality), and Mark Kahn (TRAF-

    FIQ), for their courage, expertise, and openness—and for allowing

    their founding stories to be shared with the world at large. One of

    the themes of this book is that launching a business is a highly per-

    sonal, emotional process. I have not taken it for granted that these

    founders were willing to be so generous with their lessons learned,

    and I know readers will benefit greatly from this generosity. I owe a

    special thanks to J.C., who has been a favorite client, trusted friend,

    business partner, and mentor for many years now.

    Thanks also to other colleagues and experts who lent their voices

    to the narrative by allowing material from their interviews to be in-

    cluded, especially Chris Holden, Robert (Bob) Tucker, Ken Macher,

    Shaun Cassidy, John Davenport, Doug Crisp, and Jerry Schiano.

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org viii Acknowledgments

    Dawn Ballenger, who came to this book project just as the writing

    of the manuscript was beginning, has been the person most indispens -

    able to the quality and integrity of the finished product. Dawn spear-

    headed the book’s research, was a close partner in developing the

    ideas and structure of each chapter, and brought a gifted editorial

    eye to all drafts. She has also become the rock of Ready Founder

    Services and ReadyFounder.com, driving our most vital research and

    product development efforts.

    I owe a great debt to David Fugate, founder of LaunchBooks Lit-

    erary Agency and a thriving entrepreneur himself, who was willing

    to back a first-time author and provided expert coaching throughout

    the process. Lori Spangard, of Terrace Blue Marketing, was vital dur-

    ing the project’s earliest days, helping me shape first proposals and

    connecting me with David Fugate (thanks also to entrepreneur ex-

    traordinaire Louis Foreman, founder of Enventys and creator of

    Everyday Edisons, for the assist here).

    It’s been a pleasure working with the publishing professionals at

    AMACOM Books, especially Robert Nirkind, who believed in this

    book and invested more than his share of energy and ideas in making

    it a reality, and Erika Spelman, who did most of the heavy lifting to

    bring it past the finish line.

    Adam Ortiz, of Executive Development Consulting, has provided

    tremendous thought partnership and friendship throughout the proj-

    ect. Thanks, Adam, for reading early drafts, for codeveloping the En-

    trepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (thanks also here to S. Bart

    Craig of North Carolina State University), and for being a rock-solid

    business partner.

    Thanks also to Mary Bruce, a pro’s pro when it comes to business

    and management consulting, an early believer in the concept of as-

    sessing entrepreneurial readiness, and a trusted colleague and busi-

    ness partner.

    To Pamela Slim: Thanks for your generosity, leadership, and sup-

    port for me and for Charlotte’s (and the planet’s) entrepreneurial


    In no particular order, for a range of contributions without which

    this book would not exist, thanks also to: Matt Spangard and the team

    AmericanManagementAssociation•www.amanet.org Acknowledgments ix

    at Enventys, Daniel Isenberg, Barbara Spradling, Mark Peres, Colleen

    Gentry, Ted Zoller, Jill Olmstead, Ken Murrah, Bruce Nofsinger,

    Julie Nance, David Schroeder, Carol Ham, Ben Williams, Suzanne

    Fetscher, David Dotlich, Peter Cairo, Stephen Rhinesmith, Fletcher

    Fairey, George McAllister, Ron Meeks, Paul Wetenhall, Phil Hajek,

    Gary James, Karen Hills, Nancy Owens, Julie Negrin, Richard Good-

    man, and Jeffrey Kane.

    Finally, I am grateful to my parents, Mary and George Bradberry,

    for instilling in me a curiosity and a love of learning, and to brothers

    George and Jim and sister Julee. Your teaching and spirit are deeply

    imprinted throughout this book.


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