As soloists we need to let positive energies drive our new business ventures. However at the same time we need to watch our backs.
One of the great joys of being a soloist is that you can seek out amazingly cool people who also totally get it.
You go to a networking event, meet a like-minded person and talk about doing some work together. Soon you’re working on a cool project together, having a great time and making some money. Life’s great.
But humans are humans. One of the greatest challenges of any new business ventures is making sure we are all on the same page.
The trick is to balance the positive momentum of a business venture with a necessary degree of caution. Here are five ways to help you strike that balance.
1. Accept that humans are involved
Being human, we don’t always say what we think. We change our minds. We get excited. We get scared. We can never fully know what another is thinking and are unable to control others. We are emotional creatures. Go with the enthusiasm, but be ready for change.
2. Get clear on your intentions
Place at least as much focus on identifying the intentions of all parties as you do defining the venture’s outcomes and effects. Like it or not, our intentions will colour the outcomes of our ventures. Setting up a web design business with the intention of “satisfying my need to be creative” with the effect of “creating the coolest award-winning websites”; versus one with an intention of “satisfying my need to enlighten” with the effect of “seeing my customers’ eyes sparkle with understanding” will create very different end results. Similarly, be extra careful when seeking investment from venture capitalists or getting a loan from a bank. Understand that their intentions may be extremely different from your own!
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3. Have reasonable documentation in place, like an MOU (memorandum of understanding) or a more fleshed-out agreement
The process of setting down the core expectations together helps clarify the thinking of all parties involved. The type of documentation depends on the type of business venture and what is potentially at stake. Get a good lawyer! This is about balance. At Vermillion, we try never to get to the point where the project becomes mired with legal and admin paperwork. Legal agreements by their nature try to cover all possible things that could go wrong, and as such they quickly become overwhelmingly negative, injecting fear and doubt into the venture.
4. Be clear about the worst-case-cost you are willing to accept.
What’s the worst that could happen should a business venture fail? You could lose time and energy. You may have to sacrifice some money. Or you might lose a friend. Once we embrace the worst-case, we can move on confident that nothing can possibly phase us. The worst-case game need only be played once, as an empowering and liberating exercise.
5. Expect the best from people, but consciously choose who you want to work with.
Say no to new business ventures when your gut feel says you won’t get along with the people involved or their philosophy. This is sometimes very hard to do when the project involves a well-known client or partners, or when there are significant potential returns (monetary and otherwise)! Life, however, is really too short to work with people you don’t get on with.
One of the great things about being a soloist is that you can do cool new business ventures with others on the basis of trust and shared passion. You can discover the fundamental meaning and joy of business, a very human activity of trading value. Just don’t forget to watch your back.
(One final point – we are not lawyers. This article should not be construed as definitive legal advice. So there).
Article authored in conjunction with Zern Liew.