Context is everything when it comes to startup advice. It's not enough for the giver of advice to provide context, however. The receiver must also understand his or her own context.
Hidden in this article (superficially, a criticism of the Startup America initiative announced by the US government recently), is a list of four primary "entrepreneurial contexts":
- Small businesses: businesses which do not aim to scale to huge sizes, do not get venture funding, and whose success criteria is to "feed the family and make a profit".
- Scalable startups: businesses which shoot for the moon, have a chance of getting huge, tend to be disruptive, hire the best and brightest, and often attract venture investment. Their purpose is to search for a repeatable and scalable business model and then pump money into it to scale it up.
- Large companies: businesses have existing competitive advantages, are already making a lot of money, but are looking to innovate either because their cash cow is eroding, or they are being disrupted by competitors (startups or other large companies) or even are looking to be the disruptors themselves).
- Social enterprises: businesses, non-profits, or hybrids whose purpose to make the world a better place (rather than to take market share or create wealth for the founders).
Each of those is a unique entrepreneurial context, and advice that works in one may not work in another, or not without significant adaptations (which the best startup mentors understand and provide). Make sure you know which context you're operating in and understand whether advice being offered to you fits in with that context.
For example, E-Myth is a great book for the small business contexts, but its suggestion to design your business to be operated by the "least skilled operatives possible" will sink your scalable startup like a stone.
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