A Series of Insights From Engineer to Entrepreneur: Uncertainty and Pivots for Success
I’m an engineer turned entrepreneur. Owning and running my own business has always had an appeal to me, but for a while, I thought that transitioning from engineer to business owner was quite a career jump. Reflecting on my path and realizing the skill sets needed to do both, I’ve now know there’s quite an overlap of applicable business skills that are useful in both fields.
I’ve decided to create a small series that describes my thoughts on the transition I’ve made that will hopefully be applicable and helpful to anyone wanting to start their own business. In case you missed it, please begin with my first blog post that details my journey from engineer to entrepreneur. Although it’s specific, there’s a lot of lessons in there I believe are applicable beyond just the engineering or entrepreneur communities.
This more general blog series, provides insights as a first-time entrepreneur, aimed at those looking to start their own business, in the early stages of their own venture, or simply looking for another entrepreneur’s advice. I reference engineers in some places below, because this is my experience, but the thoughts presented below should be applicable to all would-be entrepreneurs.
Get used to being uncomfortable: more uncertainty and growth
I believe that running a business is more likely to be successful (or at least feel not so intimidating) if you have the support of your family and/or friends behind you. Bringing your family into the decision making and making them an integrated part of the progress greatly reduced stress on my end.
While I felt that being an entrepreneur was low risk, that was not true for my family. My children were too small at the time to understand, but I can only imagine what my wife thought the day we started discussing that I wanted to leave that regular paycheck. I had 6-year-old triplets when we started talking about it, and they were 9 the day I quit. Be sure you have the support of those you ultimately report to.
Pivoting Your Business: Having confidence, humbleness, and resilience
When pitching your business be confident. If you are not 100% convinced in your business, you will not inspire confidence with whomever you are asking to invest (whether that be an equity investment or a bank loan) that you’re worth the gamble. Understand that I used ‘business’ intentionally. Ideas are a dime a dozen. How are you going to turn your product, software, service, whatever into a business? Who is going to buy it? How big is the market? How much money will you need? What does the cash flow look like? Who is your management team? This is a business, not an idea, and this is what you are selling to investors. You need to be able to address all aspects of your business.
Confidence is key, but it’s also crucial to be humble and listen. Whether investors like your idea or not, they have experience you don’t. Their ideas may be helpful in your business long-term, or it may just be helpful for your next pitch. You do not need to accept all the ideas and criticism, but do not argue and listen with an open mind.
Learn to take no, hear critique, and move on. You will hear “no” a lot. If you are looking for equity from angels, you will hear no 20x more often than yes. If you hear maybe, this is a soft no, not a soft yes. Think about what they are saying and actively decide what to do about it.
For example, when I was pitching a few ideas with some angel investors I knew, the advice I heard over and over was ‘think bigger’. This is not necessarily bad advice, but for me, it simply wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I wasn’t looking to be the CEO of Facebook, or the next Bill Gates, although that’s what angel investors wanted. I would have been perfectly happy with a nice profitable business that does $10M / yr. That decision for me meant that in the end, after all the meetings, for me and for Mimo Monitors, equity wasn’t really an option. Knowing this, I pivoted my entrepreneurial ideas in a different direction. Do not get discouraged but be okay with pivoting if you need to. As the owner of a new business, you will need to pivot a lot.
Stay Tuned For More Insights:These are a couple of the key insights I’ve gained in my path making the transition from engineer to business owners. With the new year underway and with Mimo Monitors continuing to grow, there’s many more that have shaped the way that I run the business and control frame of mind. I’ll continue to share some lessons along my journey in this series as it unfolds.
Jan 29, 2019 • Posted by Charles Barebo
I too started my own Business, that was 40yrs ago. With my wife’s HELP we were a succes. Our 3 children now own the company. They continue to be successful and are preparing the next generation.