A Crash Course in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur working late at computer in office
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You want to start your own business, but you don't have a lot of time. No worries -- here's a crash course in just the bare-bones essentials. 

Get Hooked on the Classics: 

Have you done your research? While blogs and newsletters have a lot of good advice for entrepreneurs, a little strategic book-learning will prepare you for the road ahead. Here are a few books that deserve a place on your bookshelf: 

  • Business Model Generation is an excellent book that breaks down the nitty gritty details of planning a profitable small business.
  • From managing your time better to outsourcing everything you find tedious or boring, Tim Ferriss' provocative bestseller The Four-Hour Workweek offers a number of strategies for getting more done in your busy day. 
  • Pamela Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation explores both the intricacies of taking the leap and the important steps to take before launching your own business.

More essentials for the entrepreneur's bookshelf here

Draft a Business Plan 

No time, you say? Believe it or not, the business plan can be sped up. An accessible primer on writing a business plan, The One Page Business Plan turns a daunting process into a series of simple action steps and worksheets. Whether you want to create a full-fledged business plan or you're entertaining the idea of starting up without one -- this is an essential book in planning and crystallizing your ideas.


If you want to invest the time in a full-fledged business plan, here is an outline on all the steps you'll need to take to write your business plan, along with a timeline and tips.

More on business plans.

Build a Prototype

Prototyping is an essential early step of business planning. It allows you to test out whether or not your vision is feasible.

The goal of a minimum viable product (MVP), in "Lean Startup" parlance, is to test out a business hypothesis through a quickly produced, stripped-down model of a product that can be brought to market quickly and inexpensively.

Examples of an MVP include Zappos, which, early on, took photos of shoes in local stores, posted them online and then bought the shoes from the stores and shipped them out instead of building a large inventory. Groupon also launched with a incredibly simple version of its eventual daily deal email -- it was simple a PDF and a WordPress site to begin with. More on 

And "prototyping" is not just for outfits that make physical products. A prototype can also be a simple website representing your future business that you use to collect email addresses from interested parties. If you are after a specific niche like fashion or cooking, you might also consider creating a blog that will help you find a following. The prototyping phase is all about taking your business vision and making it real to test out whether or not real consumers will bite.

Come Up with a Simple Mantra

A clear sense of direction communicated to your partners and potential hires can go a long way toward helping people "get" your vision. If you want to accelerate your path to success, it's all the more important that you have a crystal clear way of articulating your value proposition

Startup guru Guy Kawasaki recommends coming up with a simple mantra, preferably three words or less, that succinctly describes your core values. Some examples he gave:

  • Wendy's: "Healthy fast food"
  • FedEx: "Peace of mind"
  • Nike: "Authentic athletic performance"
  • Guy Kawasaki: "Empower entrepreneurs"

More Guy Kawasaki's advice for getting started quickly.

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