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What’s do you think is the most important step to make a successful business happen?

Think about it.

What step, if you left it out, would prevent your business from succeeding?

The most important thing to do to make any business successful is to start.  It’s not having the most novel idea.  It’s not having the most perfect, ideal, flawless product.  It’s starting.

When I was working on my bachelors degree I took this class.  It was called “Entrepreneurship for Non-Business Majors.”  The point of the class was to teach non-business people, like me at the time, what they needed to know to be entrepreneurs.  The #1 lesson that I remember from that class was this.  You don’t have a business until you sell something.

And that’s true.  You really don’t.  No matter how good your product is getting now that you’ve had 20 versions beta tested.  No matter how innovative your idea is getting now that you’ve mulled it over for 5 years.  You don’t actually have a business until you sell something.

So sell something.

Take your idea that you haven’t perfected and make it happen.  Take your product that seems really good and sell it, even if it doesn’t yet please everyone that’s tested it.

In college I also took this entrepreneurship seminar class where all we did was have guest speakers come in and tell us about their entrepreneurial experiences.  We had this one speaker named Josh James who founded Omniture with his friend John Pestana.  They had this idea for providing web analytics for websites like Ebay back in the mid ’90s.  Their idea was good.  It was really good.  It seemed perfect.  So they got some programmers on board and they built their software.

When they then approached Ebay with their software, it wasn’t quite what Ebay wanted.  So, they tweaked and they shopped around for other customers.  Over the next 13 years, they grew from this tiny software start-up into a legitimate software company with web analytics and online marketing services.  In 2009, they were acquired by Adobe for 1.8 billion dollars.  But what do you think would have happened if Josh and John had spent 5 years trying to perfect their product before ever approaching Ebay?

What would have happened if they hadn’t tried to sell it?

They would have spent 5 years making their product perfect for a theoretical customer, and when it came time to launch, it wouldn’t have been quite right for real customers.

I’m not saying to go all in an a half-baked idea, or to get a second mortgage on your house to fund an untested product.  But I am saying to start.

Go sell.  Make things happen.

Be smart about it.  Start small.  Manage your risk.

But don’t waste time thinking your product isn’t quite ready.  Don’t sit around waiting for an epiphany of an idea that will change the world.  Those happen.  Facebook happened.  Google happened.  Apple happened.  But game changers on that scale are so rare.  Don’t wait for one of those to come along.  If one does, jump on it.  But until that happens, take whatever you’re good at or whatever you really like, and make a business out of it.

If you’ve got an idea or a product in the works, I challenge you to make a sale.  If you’re unsure of its quality, then sell it at a discount.  Sell it as a beta version and ask for feedback.  But however you do it, just do it.  Make a sale.

The world isn’t going to wait for you to be ready.  So what are you waiting for?

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