Heart of the Start: Introduction

Hey there! I’m Mike ODonnell. I’m honored to be your personal guide through this material. Thanks for giving this book a good read. I hope it becomes an indispensable guide on your journey.

There are literally thousands of great books, blogs, and articles on starting a business. There are more than 2,000 startup accelerators that teach it, and just about every college and university offers classes on entrepreneurship. ‘How to Start a Business’ is probably one of the most written and talked about subjects. We live in the golden age of entrepreneurship.

My purpose here is NOT to replicate that content. My purpose is to distill the heart of the start into easily digestible, bite sized chunks. This guide is designed to give you the actionable steps and supporting resources to make good decisions and get the RIGHT things DONE in the right ORDER. My purpose is to give you the nuggets and the best sources of additional information and tools.

After 30+ years of starting businesses and helping thousands of other aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, I’ve learned three critical things:

First, startup success does not happen in leaps and bounds. It happens in little hops. It’s a series of Stepping Stones. You will find in this guide the important hops. Your job is to hop from one stone to the next, then to the next…and the next….until you find yourself in business. But not just any business. A viable business. There’s a difference between starting a company and a viable business.

Read more about that here: The Difference Between Having a Company and a Business and How to Tell an Entrepreneur from a Wannapreneur.

Second, just about everything you need to launch a viable business has been created. Just reach out and take them. Leverage the knowledge, tools, and short cuts that others have already blazed for you. Too many first-time entrepreneurs try to go it alone and reinvent the wheel. I’ve assembled for you herein the links to many of those resources. Take a deep dive off the steps you need more help with. Surface, then take the next step.

Third, the single biggest MISTAKE most first-time entrepreneurs make is working on the wrong things in the wrong order. They don’t focus on the most important and immediate next step. They try to jump too far ahead. They waste time, money, and energy on the wrong tasks. This guide presents the right steps in the right order.

Read more about how to do that here: The Startup Founder Imperative: Balancing the Important with the Immediate

In this process, don’t try to fake it. Don’t try to pretend you know more than you do. It’s okay to: Admit It, You Don’t Have a Clue What You’re Doing.

There are many other lessons you can leverage to make these hops, like these: 19 Lessons from 19 Years Working with Startups. This guide tries to touch on the most important ones.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t define what it means to launch a viable business. The definition will differ depending on the size and scope of the startup. A scalable startup planning to raise millions of dollars to serve a global market, will have different requirements than a self-funded lifestyle business serving a local market.

In this guide, launching a viable business means introducing a product or service that people want or need, with a competitive advantage in a market that is large enough to generate profitability, and promises to be sustainable and worth the effort for its founders and employees.

My greatest hope for this guide is that you use it over-and-over again. Look, many startup ideas don’t work out. That’s fine. Most successful entrepreneurs had several failures before hitting on the one that took off. I am hoping you find this guide just as valuable when you start your second and third business, as you do for the first. Enjoy the journey!