Entrepreneuring Alone Is Even Worse Than Bowling Alone

by Ash Kumra

This chapter is a free excerpt from Confessions from an Entrepreneur (Volume 1).

Aaron Schwartz: Serial Entrepreneur

You can’t do it by yourself. And even if you could, you shouldn’t. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an “intrepreneur” at a big company, the most important thing for you to do is to build the right team.

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Aaron Schwartz: Serial Entrepreneur

You can’t do it by yourself. And even if you could, you shouldn’t. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an “intrepreneur” at a big company, the most important thing for you to do is to build the right team.

Why? Well, starting something new is one of the most stressful things in the entire world. More stressful than moving to a new continent. Harder than any standardized exam you ever took. Even worse than spraining your ankle and knowing you’re going to be on the sideline for a few weeks. How much easier is a move when your friend is there? Test prep is less painful when you have a study-buddy, and stumbling to the E.R. is definitely easier with a shoulder to lean on.

Creating a new business—or a new project within a company—requires many things: 
  • High-level strategy is just the start. You also need to find customers for your product or service; and satisfy them with exceptional service. You need to have a strong financial plan; and back-end technology that works to support your day-to-day operations. You need processes in place; and the skillset to execute and optimize them.
  • Having a group of employees working with you sounds great. But there’s something incredible about having a partner or partners, someone with whom you can share the ups and the inevitable downs. Does this mean that you need to have an “equal” in terms of equity or project leadership? Not necessarily. I deeply believe that you can find support from every person who has a stake in your business—you just need to be open to receiving it.
  • Build a team you love. Treat them as your best friends. Take care of them. Listen to them. And most importantly of all, be transparent with them. I think the worst thing one can do is to think of colleagues as employees. You have a shared mission and you are on the same journey. They are all your partners.
  • Build a strong network of formal and informal advisors. Give up equity to experts to be on your Advisory Board. Talk to old professors. Find a group of entrepreneurs who are at all stages of their business and create value for them. Offer your help, and in exchange you will get a friendly ear from someone who has an incredibly valuable—read: Different!—opinion than yours.
  • Consider partners, not in the equity-sense, but in the “every day I do business with this person” sense. With Modify, I considered my team at the beginning to be Waina, Rico, and Tony at the North Berkeley post office. Why? Because I saw them every single day! We talked about my business and they were always incredibly helpful. And I was always incredibly thankful. Your manufacturer. Your accountant. Your retail partners. All of these folks will bring a unique perspective that will help you as you grow. Be open with them, and they will teach you how to improve your business.
  • Your family knows you the best. Share your struggles and your successes. Do not close off your world to them—they want what is best for you. And don’t forget to listen to them.
Being a creator is incredibly stressful. You have the mission of making something exist that wasn’t there before. If you are positive, hard-working, and industrious, you will do great work. Without the help of others, though, you’ll most likely only hit a local maximum. To hit the global maximum—the best result that you can deliver—build your great team.

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Aaron Schwartz is a two-time entrepreneur. His team is currently building Modify Industries, Inc. a leading interchangeable products company; their first products are Modify Watches, mix-and-match timepieces that allow you to show your colors. He loves basketball, reading, traveling, and taking long walks with friends. From Cleveland by way of New York and London, he now resides in San Francisco.
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