York’s rules of business: 22 years of duck ups summarised for my entrepreneurial friends

First of all, who the duck is York and why should you care?

I am a 42 year old who worked in 11 countries, got fired 5 times, quit 2 times just before they could fire me, made money in 2, then started 7 businesses, 6 of which failed (the 7th is active in over 51 countries) and yet enjoy each and every single day. I mention all this just to make the point that I have been — relatively speaking — around the block, flirted with Mrs Bankruptcy and danced with Miss Success — so have seen a few things (rough guess, ca. 3.000 businesses over the last 22 years). I certainly don’t know everything, but have learned a few things from the road which I am always happy to share in the hope it helps other entrepreneurs and friends with entrepreneurial attitude.

Secondly,why should his business rules matter?

They shouldn’t. There are no rules in business aside from the Income must be greater than expenses. But there are some principles that just seem to be recurring amongst successful ventures that I picked up over a few years of doing business around the world. Agree or disagree, I hope they will get your thinking juices going.

The rules of business:

  • Income must be greater than expenses in the mid to long term. No exceptions unless you have a wealthy uncle who is part of the FFF investment trio (friends, fools or family)
  • Your best source of investors are your clients.
  • Start with a basic easy to deliver service offering and then grow as you get more clients
  • Don’t just shoot for the stars: developed a nice modest business that pays the bills to start with.
  • Watch out for that little voice called “hope” — it can lead you to fall off the financial cliff
  • Surround yourself with people who — plainly speaking — are making waves. It is more comfortable to hang around with like minded friends and business people, but if you want to grow swallow your pride and hang out in the Lion’s den and leave the penguins on ice :-)
  • Learn to differentiate between what you need and what you want. A fancy phone, nice laptop and an office is a want
  • Whatever you do always always always tap into the selfishness of whom you are sending your proposal to. What’s in it for them first and foremost. You don’t sell for you, you sell for what they need/want.
  • Never forget that we all respond better when it is relevant to us. When something speaks to our core. To our selfishness.
    To really understand what makes a person tick however you really need to learn the power of listening. Learn the art and power of really listening to your users and clients. Don’t listen to friends who think they know what a client wants (usually they don’t).
  • The “once we have a million users we will monetize it” business works in probably only 5.000 out of businesses. If you read this and got excited about your prospects, go and attend a refresher course in stats.
  • If the shit hits the fan, ignore everything that is a distraction and focus on the core issue of the problem.
  • You will have limited resources no matter how successful you become. Watch those margins!
  • As you grow putting out fires will consume 95% of your time. Just try each day to put 5% of you into making progress to your goals.
  • Don’t give away equity to every person that promises to add value. Give it to those who work for it, pay or it or sweat for it.
  • Make sure you have a financial person (your sister, accountant, CFO etc) who protects you from yourself. Put a safety net between you and the money you are making so that you can’t risk it all on the next best idea that creeps into your head.
  • Stay positive. Even when things don’t work out well.
  • Focus on the solution and not the business model. The solution is what you are trying to find — the business model you can (and should) change regularly.
  • If you can’t figure out how to make money out of your business idea, start small but do start. If after a while you still can’t figure it out it is not a business but a hobby. Hope you can afford your new hobby :-)
  • You will face financial duress (multiple times probably). Write on a BIG board in your office “KEEP OVERHEADS AND FIXED COSTS TO AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM AND LOVE VARIABLE COSTS”. You’ll thank me later.
  • No. If only you had an investor is NOT a business model.
  • NPOs (Not for Profit) organisations still need to make a profit. The only difference btw them an a For Profit is how they invest that profit.
  • You have the responsibility to try and leave the world in a little better state than you found it in. Don’t forget it. As citizens of this wonderful egg-shaped thing called earth it is our duty to improve life for all — humans, fauna and flora.

… and finally

Try and enjoy each day… In entrepreneurship it is the journey that counts. The destination doesn’t exist — it is constantly changing. Enjoy this beautiful scary exciting uncertain powerful fulfilling roller coaster called entrepreneurship.

Swiss born entrepreneur, investor & innovator. Passionate about entrepreneurship and expert in access to markets. Drinker of copious amounts of coffee...