Entrepreneurial Insight by Susan Schreter
Special to Seattle24x7
Q. My friend and I just graduated from college and are eager to start our own real estate investing business. We’d also like to get some investor backing. What experience would be beneficial for us to get where we want to go?
A. Bravo! You’ve asked the question I’ve been waiting for.
The majority of questions I receive from startup entrepreneurs ask for immediate guidance. They want to know the specific action steps to develop business plans, hire first employees, pursue partners or negotiate with investors.
What you have asked is something different and certainly more valuable. You want to know what you can do to improve your overall ability to succeed as an entrepreneur. Again, bravo!
Business wisdom gained from experience is what holds a company together during its early days. It helps entrepreneurs work through problems and generate momentum in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort.
Too often I hear young entrepreneurs express an impatient desire to “just get going.” They know they don’t have all the answers but decide to figure it out as needed. But in their earnest to fly by the seat of their pants, they learn the painful lesson that unprepared entrepreneurs get skinned up along the way.
Investors would rather ride along with entrepreneurs like you who appreciate the value of experience and knowledge and reach out to get it. Here are some starting recommendations:
1. Advance your communication skills: What often separates one struggling startup entrepreneur from a more successful one is the ability to sell a company’s potential. When you can communicate well, business goals are met more quickly. If proposal letters are riddled by grammatical errors, potential partners assume the CEO has sloppy work habits. And if presentations lack focus, they suspect the entrepreneur can’t direct projects efficiently. To boost your communication skills, consider taking an improv speaking or acting class, Dale Carnegie course or a sales training class. When public speaking is perceived as a welcomed opportunity rather than a chore, then you know you don’t need more class work.
2. Advance your experience in your chosen field: Apply for a job or internship at a commercial real estate development firm. The benefit of working for another company before starting your own firm is to learn what not to do. Also consider that many of the people you will meet in your new job or through industry networking may become your first startup investors.
3. Advance your knowledge of accounting: If you are going to manage an ongoing business and evaluate the profitability of potential real estate projects, you need to understand financial statements. This is not a job any startup CEO can delegate as all CEO’s need to know their numbers to make worthwhile decisions. Investors also expect startup managers to be financially literate.
If you didn’t take accounting in college, take an evening class or two. And in the interim, check out the following books:
“Accounting for Non-Financial Managers” by Mike Hogan or “Step by Step Bookkeeping: The Complete Book for Small Business” by Robert C. Ragan. Both books provide straightforward, easy explanations of basic accounting principles without putting the reader to sleep.
My all-time favorite book that can serve entrepreneurs through several stages of business development is the American Management Association’s “The Essentials of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers” by Edward Fields. This comprehensive book raises the issues that bankers, accountants, lenders and investors care about. Of equal importance, the book gives entrepreneurs guidance on how to look at company numbers with the experienced, savvy eye you desire. Thanks for writing. [24×7]
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