Posted by: Mark Sorenson | February 6, 2010

How to Start a Business (Part 2)

A while ago I wrote about some advice I got from a seasoned entrepreneur named Greg Warnock, who I admire. His first piece of advice was to get into a position where you can be in front of customers. He mentioned that it’s the best way to identify problems that can be solved and possible new business ideas.

The second piece of advice he gave me was this: He said, “You know, I’ve known so many entrepreneurs who have their spreadsheets and figures all calculated; they know all about the market and the trends of the time, but all they seem to do is talk without a lot of action to back it up. If I were you, I’d not worry so much about the details. I’d just go out and do something. Do anything, even if it’s not perfect. The rest will work itself out, but you’ll never get anywhere if all you have are a bunch of spreadsheets.”

This seemed like something I had heard before, but hearing it this time made me stop and think about my plan and my actions. Do I just talk about being an entrepreneur without doing much about it? Or do I take action. Well the answer to that question for me, at least, is that both are true. I talk a lot about starting a business. I have my own spreadsheets and figures planned out. I also am taking action to try and start something of my own. Even though I run into road blocks, I can’t give up. I have to keep trying to make something work. It’s in my nature to keep pushing despite the opposition.

In this cut-throat business environment we live in, we must be more willing to let our ambition drive us. We must not let our fears stand in the way of accomplishing our dreams. So ask yourself the question: Am I a person of action? Am I going after the prize I have my eye on? Am I sacrificing what needs to be sacrificed to accomplish what I set out to accomplish? And in the end, you will have started that dream business and will be able to look back and feel the satisfaction that it was all worth it.

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Posted by: Mark Sorenson | January 30, 2010

How to Start a Business (part 1)

A few months ago I wrote about the two pieces of advice a seasoned entrepreneur, named Greg Warnock, gave me about how to start a business. The first thing he told me was to get in a position where I could interact with customers. He said there is nothing that will give you better experience to be a entrepreneur than to talk to customers. I have thought about what that means and why it is important and wish to share some of those thoughts with you.

As an entrepreneur, your job is to identify and solve problems. And whose problems are you meant to identify and solve; why, your customers problems of course. That is why it would be great experience to closely interact with customers, regardless of whose customers they are, because it gives you a chance to really find out what problems they face that you could solve. Starting a business is all about adding value to the marketplace while capturing profits at the same time. You must have both of these elements for your business to survive. If you only focus on profits, you will soon lose your customers. If you only focus on adding value, you will soon be working for free.

As you rack your brain for a good business idea, it might be helpful to get some experience in sales. This will allow you to interact directly with customers in an industry and listen to what they have to say about what they want. As you do a needs audit, you may hear common complaints or suggestions which will help you identify a need in the marketplace. Then, you can evaluate to see if a business could truly be built around this need. This will not only help you identify who your customers are, but ensure you are trying to satisfy your customers needs, not your own.

Once you have figured out who your customers are, you must make sure your business will make money. This step is the one most entrepreneurs skip and consequently, the one that is most important. Before you spend any money starting a business, you must do research and due diligence to plan out your execution strategy. Include a thorough financial analysis to see exactly what your costs will be, what your break-even points will be, and when you will be profitable. Don’t start a business based on your assumptions or you will become part of the statistic of failed businesses.

If you can follow these two steps before you start your business, you will already be ahead of the game. Good Luck!

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | January 23, 2010

Blog Conversion

This semester I am taking a business writing class at BYU. Part of our class assignments are to write. Imagine that. We are supposed to create a blog and write in it once a week. Well this blog has already been created and I’m going to use it for this assignment. Here’s the catch: There may be some posts on here that don’t fit into entrepreneurship. There may be a random post that may not have anything to do at all with business. Keep that in mind, and I will do everything I can to make these posts interesting.

So what kinds of things am I going to write about? Currently I am taking two land use planning classes, and we often write short papers reacting to articles we’ve written. I may post some of my thoughts on land use planning every once in a while. I may just talk about the current events in my life. Some posts may get personal while others may just be down-right boring. In any case, feel free to add your two cents if you care to. Who knows, we may end up having a fun little discussion.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | January 17, 2010

Are You 1st Place?

Many times entrepreneurs who have a great idea for a business were not the first ones to think of that idea. Chances are there is someone out there who is not just thinking of your same idea, but who is actually trying to start a business with it. If you don’t believe me, do some real thorough market research on any idea you have for a business and see who else is out there doing it. Ideas area dime a dozen, and what really matters is not that you are creative enough to think of a good business idea, but that you have the executions skills to take that idea and build a business that generates revenue. Since it’s a good bet that someone else is out there working on building the same business you are, it’s only a matter of time before one of you succeeds and gets there first.

I am trying to build a tech start-up. It is a mobile advertising company that delivers discounts to users based on their preferences. This is a hot market right now and if you listen to the buzz surrounding mobile advertising, you will see that it’s getting a lot of attention. There are companies popping up left and right, trying to figure out the best way to deliver targeted ads to customers. As a scramble to put the right pieces together, I feel like I am working on a ticking time-bomb that will go off any second. I feel like I am racing to get ahead faster than that competitor who is racing just as fast as I am.

In summary, my start-up is time sensitive, and I am learning that a good entrepreneur is a fast actor as well as an innovative thinker. So if you have that perfect idea for a business, what are you doing to turn that idea into a reality? Are you just sitting on a time bomb hoping it will never go off, or are you being proactive with your business idea to make sure you are the one that comes in first place?

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | January 9, 2010

Do I Have What It Takes?

This semester I am more actively pursuing my ambitions to be an entrepreneur. Last semester gave me a lot to think about in terms of idea generation, evaluation, and execution.  I learned how to scrutinize a business idea and put it to the test to see if it would make for a good business. I came up with an idea that, so far, will make a good business while adding value to the marketplace. I would love to share with you the details of this exciting new mobile service I am working on, but it’s very much in the idea phase still, and you’d have to sign an NDA first. I do want to talk, though, about some of the challenges I am facing while trying to bring this idea to fruition.

This business primarily revolves around a phone app. Since I don’t know anything about computer programming, I have searched for a skilled phone app programmer who I can partner with to help with the tech side of things. Last month I met with a young BYU student who showed a lot of potential for being a great partner. He was everything I am not and wish I was, which was perfect. He was a very technical thinker who could identify potential problems that needed to be solved before they came up. He had a great knowledge of programming and what’s best, he had published a few iPhone apps on the iPhone app store already.

We met twice in person and talked on the phone a lot. Things were going great and I was getting excited to start building this business with him. Last week when I called to set up another meeting, he informed me that he was so busy with school this semester that he didn’t think it was the right time to be designing a phone app for a start-up. In an instant my dreams were crushed. I had looked for two months for a programmer and now that I finally found a good match, he was gone. For a moment I thought about calling him to re-sell him on the idea and get him excited again. Then I though how I want my partner to be on fire about our business without me having to keep reminding him. So again, I am searching for someone who will be the right fit for this job. I realize that are what they are, and this bright young programming kid just proved that he really wasn’t a good fit after all. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, I see this as an opportunity to find someone even better suited for this job. I will have to dig deeper and search harder for that person, but in the end, I know it will be worth it.

Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of determination to push through when things don’t go your way. It’s easy to get discouraged. I used to hear those words a lot growing up and I always thought how “pushing through” would be the easy part. You never know until you get there how hard that might really be. You may even find that you need to be a little stubborn when it comes to turning your business idea into a real business.

So what kind of entrepreneur are you? Are you the type that prefers to take the easy way out, or convince yourself that your idea is just too complicated to make into a business? If so, then your experience as an entrepreneur will likely be limited to just talking about it. Or are you the type that sees a challenge as an opportunity and racks your brain for a solution so much it hurts? If this is you, then you will likely be a successful entrepreneur. Because you can rest assured that things will not always go your way as you start your business, and when something unexpected takes the wind out of your sails, you’ll have to ask yourself: Do I have what it takes?

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | December 16, 2009

Semester’s End

It’s finals week and I thought I’d post a quick update in between studying for my exams.

To recap, these are the things that have gone on that I plan on writing about in a little more detail over the Christmas break.

  • Working on a new tech start-up called “Fashion Genome” – Allowing online clothing shoppers to browse clothing items based on their body measurements and style preferences.
  • Working on another tech start-up called “Findeezy” – A phone app that uses geolocation to notify users when they are physically close to stores and restaurants they enjoy shopping at. Special discount feature included.
  • Went to my first Web Start-up group meeting where I pitched Findeezy and received a lot of great feedback.
  • Met with a few phone app programmers to see if they are a good fit to work on the Findeezy team.
  • Landed a job with OptionsANIMAL – A stock options and adjustments education company.

I hope this post finds everyone well and in good spirits for the coming holiday break. Would love to hear from any of you who actually read this blog.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | October 28, 2009

More from Greg Warnock

I am taking an entrepreneur class at BYU called “Creating New Ventures.” It is an awesome class. Recently we had a panel of entrepreneurs come to class and speak. There were two current entrepreneurs, two angel investors, and one venture capitalist. The venture capitalist happened to be Greg Warnock, of whom I have talked about in earlier posts. After class I walked Greg to his car and had the chance to have a brief chat with him.

I first thanked him for the inspiration he gave me earlier this year. We talked about my goals to be an entrepreneur and what I was doing about them. He gave me a two pieces of advice I would like to share here. When I told him I wanted to help Imaginal raise money, he told me this, “Don’t waste your time trying to raise money for a company. If you want to get good experience, get in front of customers. Do something where you can have conversations with customers. Maybe something in sales.” I thought this was really good advice. I think what he meant is that as an entrepreneur you solve the problems of your customers, and what better way to be tuned into the kinds of problems that are out there to be solved than to be in a position where you interact directly with the customers themselves. This reassured me of the value of being in sales. Yes, it’s good money, but you are able to interact with customers and hone in on problems they are facing. Sooner or later you may run into a problem that you could solve with a business, or at least change your current business to accomodate these perceived customer needs.

The second piece of advice Greg gave me was this: He said, “You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’m surrounded by hundreds of entrepreneurs every day and most of them are so busy planning and they have their spreadsheets and are crunching numbers, but what they really need to do is go out and do something. I think if you can just go make something happen, the rest will fall in place. Just go out and do something.” Those would have been sobering words for me to hear last year. He was right. Personally I got so caught up in the planning and number crunching that I procrastinated to the point where opportunities passed me by. I’m not saying I’m totally different from that, but now I feel like I am capturing the opportunities that come my way as much as possible.

Every day I am amazed at the opportunities you can find all around you if you only look for them and take action on them. A little effort can go a long way.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | October 7, 2009

Utah Student 25

Utah Student 25

One of the best things about going to school is the amazing opportunities you have to network and get involved in things that really interest you. For me, the subject is entrepreneurship.

This year, BYU is hosting the first ever Utah Student 25. This is an awards program designed to recognize and reward the top 25 student run businesses in the state of Utah. It is meant to spark connections and synergy between student entrepreneurs and the local investment community in Utah. The criteria will be based on profitability and the winners will be recognized at an awards gala at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

I volunteered to help gather all the nominations and help them register their businesses to be candidates for the Utah Student 25. I have been able to put my sales skills to work as I call these students and “sell” them on the idea that they should complete the registration process. It is an easy sale since the advantages to registering are endless and the disadvantages are none. I am in charge of recruiting, organizing and managing a team of students to help me with the task of calling everyone who was nominated.

I consider this kind of service an privilege. In return I am able to network and rub shoulders not only with other student entrepreneurs but many of the key investors in Utah. This will help me down the road in funding my own company. I am also able to get a better idea of what kind of opportunities are out there of entrepreneurs.

So, go back to school. Because you never know what kind of service projects will result in such great opportunities.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | September 10, 2009

Get Less Sleep

My favorite class I am currently taking at BYU is called “Creating New Ventures.” In it I will join in a group of four students and start a company. We will do everything from brainstorm the business idea, to write a business plan and pitch it to real investors. Periodically, I’ll share some nuggets of knowledge I learn from this class. Here is one nugget:

An entrepreneur is someone who is willing to give up almost anything to make his business work. That includes sleep. A study was done on billionaires in the world and what they share in common. There were only two correlations that could be found and one of them was that all wealthy people or entrepreneurs have the ability to function on less sleep. They are able to get 5 or 6 hours of sleep every night. That gives them a distinct advantage over those who need their 8-10 hours of sleep a night.

I thought about this all day yesterday and did the math. If I can cut my sleep down to even just 6 hours of sleep a night instead of 8, I will have 2 extra hours of productivity everyday. That means over a 6 day work week I will have 12 extra hours to get things done. If I continue to do that for a month, I’ll have a whole 48 hours of “extra” time on my hands. Those are waking hours too. That’s almost 3 days worth of time per month, and about 32 extra days a year. WOW.

Now, if I can cut my sleep to only 5 hours, I’ll have a whole extra 18 hours per week to get things done. That’s a whole extra day! That means in a month I’ll have 4 extra days and in a year I’ll have 48 extra days!

That is mind blowing to me. I’m gonna try it.

Here’s the breakdown so it’s easy to read:

7 hours of sleep:

  • Week: 6 hours
  • Month: 1.6 Days
  • Year: 16 Days

6 hours of sleep:

  • Week: 12 hours
  • Month: 2.67 days
  • Yeah: 32 days

5 hours of sleep:

  • Week: 1 day
  • Month: 4 days
  • Year: 48 days

*based on 18 hour days and compared to normally getting 8 hours of sleep.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | September 4, 2009

Revised Goals

It’s the start of a new semester in school, and along with that comes the time to take a look at my goals. I want to see where I am with each goal, and try to see if there are some goals that don’t fit into what I want to accomplish this year so I can remove them. I have changed some, removed some and added some. If you want to see the updated list, just click on the goal button at the top of the page.

One goal I have now, especially for this semester, is to create a start-up venture. This semester I am taking a class where we will essentially accomplish this task of starting a new venture. So far the class is amazing. I am going to love every minute of it. During the first day of class I realized I have not been writing down new business ideas that I think of. I have since started doing that and trying to get in the habit of thinking of new ideas for businesses everyday. Writing down business ideas is a very helpful way to continue your own personal brainstorming activity. You will not only get in the habit of looking for new opportunities and problems to solve, but you may even collaborate your ideas that may turn into your next venture.

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