Week 6 of 13: Piecing Together The Business

Starting a business means piecing together buyers, suppliers, operational systems and all sorts of other bits.
One of the really interesting aspects of business school is that you're thrown in with people from all over the place: people who have done all sorts of different things in their career to date. Even casually speaking to these people, I get a lot of useful feedback on what I'm doing from a variety of different angles. Though a lot of my classmates have fled town for the Summer, to pursue their internships, a fair number are still around Evanston. I have also started to get to know some of the students from the One Year Program. This is a four quarter program that starts in the Summer. Talking to a student from the One Year Program this week, I realized I really need to get a solid product working, and that I need to have all the other pieces around it in place, so that it works as a business.

With time ticking away, I get an urge to just call potential customers up and start doing some kind of selling. However, I know this will be disastrous. How do I know this? Because I've already tried it in little drips. Without anything to show, I find it difficult to even know how to broach the subject: "Erm, so we're building a product that looks a bit like X and does Y... is there anything preventing you buying right now?". I inevitably end up explaining why it's not like ten other things available right now. So we've been beavering away at getting a version of the product ready for sales purposes. The plan is to get something completed by the end of July, ready for showing around during August.

Another activity this past week has been testing whether it's going to be possible to get some of the non-customer parts of the business in place. Getting a startup going is like piecing together a system of different parts. In some senses, the business plan is written to try and describe how these parts fit together. But hypothesizing on paper is different to actually getting the parts together in real life. In real life, there are egos to be massaged and hidden personal incentives to be accounted for. I've spent some time this week meeting a few people and checking things over. Will I be able develop relationships with universities? After the summer, who could help run this business on an ongoing basis, given that I have another year of school left? Should the company be incorporated as an LLC or C-Corp? I've been fortunate in making some positive strides in answering some of these questions, at least tentatively until revenue starts flowing through the machine.

In the meanwhile, the scent of Fall quarter is already apparent. Bidding for courses has finished, and the free-for-all for unclaimed class spots has started. Some student clubs are starting to think about their plans for the next year, including one I look after - The Merger, Kellogg's school newspaper. The deadline for CMC's resume book looms just over a week away. I've said before that I feel the only significant obstacle that I face is a lack of time. With Fall quarter on the horizone, it's difficult to not feel the grains of sand falling through my fingers.

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