As I have watched entrepreneurs over the years, first as a corporate lawyer, then as a manager of private equity funds, I’ve been able to discern a few fundamental ingredients necessary to the success of any new venture. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, but exceptions to the following rules seem to only make success that much harder to achieve, significantly increasing the time necessary (and capital necessary) to achieve profitability (the only real benchmark of entrepreneurial success). Consequently, I now advise entrepreneurs and startup managers that the following ten factors are each equally crucial to the speedy success of any new venture:

1. Be Honest – Investors, employees, partners and customers can smell dishonesty – your lies will find you out. Those people important to your success can distinguish . . . a) True Integrity vs. Appearances b) True Humility v. Façade (Pride)

2. Do Your Homework – know everything about your idea, concept, business and industry (and never stop learning). This begins with what was discussed above – humility. Admit you don’t know everything (a true sign of wisdom), and crack the books.

3. Count the Costs – be resolved to pay the price(s) for success. Nothing of true value comes without a price. You should know as you embark on any project that its success will come at a price. The process of counting the costs is assessing what those costs will be, and then entering into an honest evaluation as to whether you are willing to assume those costs.

4. Commit – Dedicate yourself to the project with unwavering resolve. Every project eventually hits the proverbial wall. The differentiating factor between those that succeed and those that fail is how they respond when they hit that wall. Some have the resolve necessary to break through the wall, others decide to walk away.

5. Sacrifice – Pay now or pay later, no such thing as something for nothing.

6. Network – all the time, with everyone & with confidence.

7. Get Help – Be willing to ask anyone for help, and always accept help from seasoned, wise, experienced people – Pride has no place in new business ventures. a) Accept criticism/critique from others – you want the cream to rise to the top. b) Surround yourself with smart people (smarter than yourself) – accept that you don’t know everything. c) Don’t hire “Yes” people – and if you already have, bite the bullet and let them go before it costs you dearly.

8. Make Adjustments – be flexible, always be ready to respond to adversity. I’ve never read a business plan or met an entrepreneur or start-up manager that can predict the future. Plans must change in response to the market (e.g. cost of goods/services sold, competition, regulations, human resources, etc.).

9. Don’t Try to Do It All – because you can’t! Partner with other key people and companies – no person or company (even Gates or Microsoft) can do it all. Don’t bite off more than you can chew (and finance). For example, don’t try to be the manufacturer, distributor, retailer and after-market support, etc. Instead, partner with existing companies, leverage their clout, credibility, success, business, customers, channels, pipeline, etc. a) Product/Services Partnerships – Manufacturer, Distributer, Retailer, etc. b) Strategic Partnerships – e.g. hardware/software

10. Get Tough – starting your own project is hell. The business world is “dog eat dog.” You must be ready for anything and everything. Take into account Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will go wrong – and prepare for inevitable set-backs. This translates into a number of important factors, some of which are: a) Money (the rule of 2) – every venture capitalist will tell you, if you think you need one million to execute a plan, you probably need 2 million. b) Management – you can’t wear every hat in the company. You need experienced intelligent managers to help you succeed. c) Mentor – everyone needs someone to use as a sounding board, a confidant that will give us honest advice and guidance, and support us along the road to success. When the going gets tough, all great entrepreneurs retreat to their mentor, sage and/or support group for comfort and advice. No one is exempt from this truth.

Certainly there are ways to cut corners and avoid some of the above factors for success, but such detours normally come at great costs (e.g. reputation, family, friends, and finances). I believe the above defined principles are what separate the truly successful entrepreneur from the rest. There may be additional elements of success, but adhering to the above rules will certainly ensure a proper foundation is laid for a rewarding venture.