Scott Anthony recently wrote at Bloomberg.com about three questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves when they’re just getting started.
One of the first lessons taught to me by my Harvard Business School finance professor sticks with me to this day: The only reason a business fails is that it runs out of cash. As such, the first question every entrepreneur should be able to answer in a second is, “How many days do I have to live?” That helps the entrepreneur think about how to manage their costs and their funding strategy.
The second question I look for an immediate response to is, “Why are you doing this?” Starting up new businesses is incredibly hard. Most fail. The ones that succeed require hard work and constant attention. An entrepreneur who doesn’t have a good answer to this question is unlikely to succeed — and is certainly unlikely to raise external capital.
Finally, I always want an entrepreneur to tell me the two critical things they are working on at any given time. Of course, any new venture will have dozens of areas that need attention on a daily basis. But a good entrepreneur can step back and highlight the two things they are really hoping to learn during a set time period. These aren’t always the fires burning brightest. Ideally, they relate to the biggest unknowns in the hypothesized business model.
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