Avoid the hidden sniper that kills most businesses.
Ready to go into business for yourself? Think you’ve got what it takes to succeed?
70% of new businesses fail. Most people who are brave enough to take the leap into entrepreneurship end up falling short of their goals. This short ebook is to make sure you are among the few who not only survive — but truly thrive.
As veterans, we are uniquely positioned to be successful entrepreneurs…
Yet, the success statistics of veteran-led businesses aren’t any different. Most will fall far short of their potential and ultimately fail. Why is that?
Most businesses fail because they are unaware of their start-up’s true enemy, the hidden sniper.
It’s not your competition. I repeat: your the most deadly threat to your business is NOT your competition.
It’s also not a lack of funding. In fact, some of the most successful new businesses start with $0 in funding.
So what is the hidden sniper? What’s the enemy lying in wait to kill your business?
That’s right. You may not believe it now, but the #1 reason why businesses fail is because the entrepreneur made an assumption — often an unconscious assumption — that turned out to be dead wrong.
At Bunker Labs, we’ve walked over 1600 veteran entrepreneurs like yourself through the minefield.
In this ebook, we’re going to show you the 3 most deadly assumptions that new business owners make.
And just like in the field of battle, we’re going to give you the three forgotten keys that will keep you safe from those hidden business-killers.
You’ll learn what you really need to know to create a fail-proof business plan — and avoid the fate of the 70%.
Owning a business will give you the life you really want.
This is the first and most dangerous assumption you can make. It’s especially tricky because it is usually an unconscious thought — you don’t even realize you’re making the assumption. But the majority of new business owners fail to validate this assumption before they invest time, money and resources into their new venture.
Many people equate the idea of owning a business with their “dream life.” More free time, a greater sense of control, work from the beach, financial freedom, you name it.
The truth is that sometimes owning a business is a recipe for a life of struggle. Smart people like you have lost sleep, money, and even marriages while in pursuit of the “dream.” If you’re not careful, you can actually set up a trap of unhappiness while trying to do what makes you happy.
Michael Gerber articulates this point so well in his book E-Myth Revisited. The book is written around the experience of a woman named Sarah who started a bakery because she loved making pies. She was blindsided by all the extra things she had to do (hiring and firing, finance, building maintenance…etc.) as a business owner that she felt trapped in her own entrepreneurial dream.
Sarah was now committed to a lease for her bakery, committed to paying back a loan she used to decorate the store, and committed to paying an employee that she was now supporting. She felt stuck! What’s more, she now despised what she used to love – baking pies. “I can’t stand the thought of pies. I can’t stand the smell of pies. I can’t stand the sight of pies.”
Unhappiness, it is said, is the difference between your expectations and reality. Bunker Labs’ goal in Launch Lab Online is to help you match your expectations to the reality of owning a business. If you understand the reality of entrepreneurship and still want to start a business, you are much more likely to succeed.
Forgotten Key: Know yourself
You will most likely be tempted to skip this step — do not make that mistake!
The idea of knowing yourself on a deep level may come across as “woo woo” or unnecessary for entrepreneurial success. But the truth is that it is often the difference between building a paradise or building a prison for yourself with your business.
In Launch Lab Online, our flagship program that helps veterans and military spouses start their own business, we have what we call the Me Canvas.
The Me Canvas is a one page document that lays out the most essential questions you need to answer before starting a business. By articulating your vision of success, analyzing your interests, looking at your financial readiness…etc. and seeing all those pieces together on one page helps you answer the question, “is entrepreneurship for me?”
People often don’t realize that a business can fail due to its own success! It does this by creating a life that the entrepreneur didn’t want which then causes them to shut it down or walk away.
The crazy thing is that a simple 30 minute exercise asking yourself key questions is all it takes to avoid this situation.
A great business idea is what I need to get customers.
This is perhaps the most common enemy to aspiring entrepreneurs. They come up with a fantastic idea, then get to work building it.
That’s how businesses work, right? Have a great idea, then build it, then sell it?
It’s true that’s how MOST people try to do it. But remember, most businesses end up falling flat. Oftentimes it’s because they assumed their great idea was the ticket to prosperity.
Forgotten Key: Test your idea with real customers before you invest.
You don’t need a great idea to get customers. In fact, the OPPOSITE is true. You need customers to get a great idea.
Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean, shares in his book that of the businesses that ultimately succeed, 67% report having drastically changed their business idea along the way.
“Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources.” -Eric Ries
William Wrigley Jr started a company in 1891 selling soap and baking soda. He offered free gum as an incentive for people to buy his soap and realized that people were more interested in the gum. Thus Wrigley chewing gum was born.
Your customers have a much better idea of what they want and what they are willing to pay for than you are. All you have to do is ask them.
Validation is NOT asking for the opinion of your family and friends. Spoiler alert— everyone will “love it.” Validation means that someone is actually willing to PAY YOU.
This process is easy to skip because it’s often uncomfortable. But it will literally save you years of time and thousands of dollars.
If you validate your assumptions, before you build your product, your new business doesn’t have to be a big risk. That’s why we take every member of Launch Lab Online through our step-by-step validation process with real prospects BEFORE they invest a dime into developing the product or solution.
If I can just get customers, the money stuff will take care of itself.
Let’s say you’ve designed your business to fit your true personality and desires. And let’s say you’ve successfully validated your product with your target market.
If you make it that far, you’re almost in the clear. Almost.
Sadly, too many promising young businesses fall victim to the final deadly assumption: the idea that if you can simply get customers, then all the “money stuff” will figure itself out.
Jesse Nunez, a Marine and alumni of the Bunker Labs chapter in Chicago, was in the early phases of launching an amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight league. Jesse had always been a hard worker, but this new business sparked a new level of excitement and energy for him.
As he started hosting amateur bouts, he attracted a lot of interest from fighters and fans alike. There was a feeling of momentum within his business, but there was one critical problem despite the league’s growing popularity, he was losing money.
When you are starting a business, there are many small wins along the way and the risk is that these small wins give you false signals of success. A customer raving… media coverage… a new partnership… a new product… We aren’t saying not to celebrate these milestones, but you can be a business with all of these milestones and still not be making money.
Forgotten Key: Your financial model must be bulletproof from the start
When we talk about understanding the financial aspects of your business, we aren’t talking about building some complicated financial model. We are talking about basic things like what your expenses are, how much revenue you are forecasting, where the money will come from and when will it land.
Believe it or not, this can actually be a difficult challenge, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. It’s a skill-set that visionaries often aren’t wired for.
When he started working with us on his financial model, Jesse learned something surprising.
The most profitable aspect of his business was not the league fees or ticket revenue, but actually jerseys sales. That knowledge has equipped him to shift his business model and leverage customer apparel to drive up profitability.
Here’s the point: your plan will change. Unfortunately many first-time entrepreneurs wait too long and bleed too much capital before seeking the in-depth financial understanding they need to create the business of their dreams.
Don’t assume that the money stuff will take care of itself. If you don’t understand the basic economic drivers of your business, it most likely will never get off the ground.
Starting a business is not like taking a test like the GMAT or running a marathon. Those are solo endeavors – and entrepreneurship is a team sport, even if you are a one person business.
Developing business partnerships, becoming an industry expert, knowing how to find tech talent, finding customers, and getting the support you personally need – all of this requires finding people and partners in the world. When you put yourself out there, people really do show up to help you.
Stephen Davis, CEO of EarIQ and Bunker Labs Nashville alumni, walked into class one evening feeling ready to shut down his business. He had developed a software that could match the audio coming out of any device to your unique hearing to create the perfect listening experience.
It was a great idea, but he was struggling to keep things afloat. Several potential big deals had recently fallen through. He was running out of money and running out of time to fix it. Quitting seemed like the only logical thing to do.
When our group heard his situation, we put the planned curriculum on hold — everyone in the program turned their attention to Stephen. Not for a shoulder to cry on, but to offer real solutions to his business problems:
– “Could you license your software to X company?”
– “I know somebody at this company?”
– “What if you partnered with Y company?”
By the end of the night a workable solution was found and Stephen’s spirits were revived.
Stephen didn’t quit that night. Taking the advice of his Bunker Labs network, he was able to quickly leverage a partnership with a leading international company in his industry and save his business.
Unlike most first-time entrepreneurs, graduates of this program avoid the most common pitfalls of starting a business, including:
- running out of money
- failing to get enough customers
- creating a business model that traps them with no freedom
- getting isolated with no clue what to do next
Launch Lab Online helps you acquire the 3 keys mentioned in this ebook. The results?
You’ll create a business model designed to actually fulfill your dreams and complement your personality
You’ll avoid wasting any money on an idea that won’t work because we will help you validate your idea with real customers
You can operate your new business stress-free because we guide you through an iron-clad financial planning process
If you get stuck — you have the single greatest network of loyal, experienced and smart veteran entrepreneurs to help you move forward
We could easily have taken this training to the open market and charged $10k or more for it. But we are on a MISSION to equip as many veterans as possible to prosper in business.
So as a non-profit, Bunker Labs has leveraged its network of high-level CEOS and fortune 1000 companies to make this program available to veterans FREE of charge.