Mark Herschberg is an entrepreneur who has launched several successful ventures in his career. Mark has trained himself to become an entrepreneur and now shares these tips with us. If you want to become an entrepreneur too, listen to this episode to learn some valuable tips.
In this episode, Tina Persson talks to Mark Herschberg about how to learn to become an entrepreneur. Mark’s recently published book “The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You” gives deeper insights into this topic.
Mark has a diverse background ranging from Physics, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Cryptography, to extensive business expertise. His wide experience has enabled him to launch and develop new ventures at start-ups and Fortune 500s. In addition to this, Mark also annually teaches in the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, famously known as MIT's “career success accelerator”.
During the conversation, Tina asked Mark about who is an entrepreneur, how to train to become an entrepreneur, and what are the challenges in it. Mark addresses these questions and many more such as describing types of entrepreneurs, the required mindset, and how to find business opportunities.
Finally, Tina inquired about his three top tips for starting a company:
Create a supportive business network in different fields.
Look for a co-founder, make sure you are compatible, and make written agreements.
Don’t worry about being right. Just try not to be wrong. It means that when you build a product, you should keep other possible options around as long as you can, and at the lowest costs possible.
Is being an entrepreneur the next chapter in your life? If so, you cannot miss this episode!
Mark: Hi. Thanks for having me on the show today.
Tina: Yeah, delighted here. So who are you, Mark? Well, this is a person with a huge background. We have a super interesting topic. It's how to learn to be an entrepreneur? And who could be better talking about that, listen to this here: he has a Bachelor in Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Master in Engineering and Electric Engineering, with focus on Cryptography. And have built and created over a dozen of companies in the United States, with several patents. Add to that, teaching over 20 years at MIT, at the Career Success Accelerator, and recently wrote a book which is called The Career Toolkit, in which he discusses and writes about something super exciting, I think: skills no one taught you. Skills no one taught you - what have I been missing here, Mark? You know, so my question to you is, if you want to be an entrepreneur, because we are going to discuss how to learn to be an entrepreneur, my first question is, can you learn to be an entrepreneur?
Mark: You absolutely can learn to be an entrepreneur. Now, we know there are people born with skills. If you think about, for example, sports, there are natural athletes or there are people who are naturally better at standing up on stage in public speaking. But for the rest of us, and I say this as someone who wasn't good at sports but became a ballroom champion, who wasn't good at public speaking but became a public speaker, we can learn if we just put the time into it.
And the same is true for skills I talk about in the book, like leadership, networking, negotiating, and it's true for being an entrepreneur. Some might be born naturally, but even if you're not, you can learn. And if you are, you can learn to be better.
Tina: When you say some people are naturally born entrepreneurs: Why do you think that some are born naturally and some are not?
Mark: When I think about what innate skills people have that tend to lead to success and entrepreneurship, there are some people who are inherently better at seeing opportunities. There is that classic line. Some men ask why, others ask why not? And so seeing “Hey, I think there is an opportunity here. I think there's something no one else sees.”, some of us are naturally good at it. Other people like myself have to train up to learn how to do that, or skills like taking risks. Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks and being comfortable in failure. Some people, of course, are very conservative. They don't want to fail. They want safe. They want certain. That is not the life of an entrepreneur. So even if you are not in that “I'm okay with risk mode”, you can learn to change your values that way, if you want to do that. So you can be born anywhere on the spectrum. But if you don't like where you are, you can change where you're positioned.
Tina: So it's a lot about mindset then.
Mark: Some of it, some of it for being an entrepreneur is mindset. And that comfort with risk is a really big part of it. So entrepreneurs, you have to be ready for a few things. First, having little or no money. If you're an entrepreneur, do not expect to get paid for one, two, maybe even three years. I would say that's okay. Either you have savings, or you might be young and can still live with your parents. Or you have a spouse who happens to have income. Yeah, you have to not know exactly when you'll get income, and you have to be comfortable with rejection. When you are an entrepreneur, the word you are going to hear more than anything else is No. No, I will not buy your product. No, I will not invest. No, I will not work for you. No, I will not partner. No, I don't want to do a deal with your company. No, I don't even want to extend credit as a supplier. No, no, no. You're going to hear that over and over. And as an entrepreneur, you have to be okay with that. And you have to have this very important dual mindset where on the one hand, you have to say, everyone keeps telling me no, but I know better. I know there's an opportunity, I know this can work. And so you have that resolve that you're not going to let it take you down. But at the same time, you also want to have the humility to listen. Why are they saying no? Why are they saying, I don't think this will work? Do they know something I don't know, because some of them might? Others might not. And so you have to have that resolve and humility both to get through that valley of rejections.
Tina: I'm curious, you said you had to learn to become an entrepreneur. How did you learn it? What did you do?
Mark: There are certain skills that I had to develop. Now, some of them are the ones in the book. I had to get better at networking. For example, if you're an entrepreneur, you're not part of some big company and Sales just magically come in because there's a whole Sales Team, you know, Sales is on you. Strategy that's on you. Building it, that's on you. But you start to say, “Well, I don't have to do all of this. If I have a network, I can start to get customer introductions, supplier introductions, I can meet people and chat with them and get ideas about strategy.” So you have to create your own network. I had to learn to be a better networker. I had to learn to be a better negotiator. When I would negotiate investments or partnerships or other types of deals. I had to learn how to hire people for my teams because it wasn't just going to be me the whole time. I also needed to learn how to see opportunity, how to recognize when there is a challenge, how to say, “You know what? There is an opportunity for a product or service that no one has seen”, and that's led to my patents and then different product lines that we've eventually sold.
Tina: I'm super curious about seeing opportunities. Help me and I'll follow through with it. How can you train that? Because that's what I see as curiosity and also connecting the dots somehow. How can you train that?
Mark: That's exactly right. It is curiosity and creativity. There's no “Oh, do this and you will magically uncover a product.” It's not like the way we solved math equations in school where you just apply this formula and it all works out. There's no one formula, but there are techniques you can apply. Now, one thing I've done throughout my life is I have worked in different fields. I have read about different fields. So I'm trained primarily as an Engineer. I did Physics, I did Computer Science, as you noted earlier, and I started my career as a Software Engineer. But I wanted to understand other fields. Now, first, whenever I worked in a particular space, in a vertical, in an industry, I would understand the industry. I would read articles about the industry.
I would speak to people who've been in the industry for years. I'd learn how that industry works. Who are the big players? Why are they big players? What's the ecosystem? What does a whole supply chain look like? Why are margins big or small? What are the five forces in the industry? Then I would also just read up on different functions. I've read accounting books. Accounting books aren't the most exciting things in the world. You know, I should know a thing or two about accounting. I've learned marketing. For marketing in some cases, I specifically worked at marketing companies because I said, I'll be immersed in it, I'm going to learn. I also took marketing classes, so it's however you want to learn, but by putting it together you start to say, I now have different ideas from different fields.
Now I'll give you a classic example. Some of you might be familiar with the Black Scholes model. This is a model for option pricing. Option pricing back in the 1960s was a tiny business worth a couple million dollars a year. And these two men, Black and Scholes, were trying to figure out how to price options. They met a man named Bob Merton, and Bob was a, I believe, Physicist by training. And Bob, when he was talking to them, said “Oh, you know, we have this model in Physics, it's called heat transfer model, and we can apply the model here.” That was the missing piece. They said “You, you solved it.” Then the three of them went on, they published the paper, and they won the Nobel Prize. They all became extremely rich. And you had these two economists, these two finance people stuck until a guy who understood Physics showed up and said, “Well, here's a model.” I remember as an undergrad I was studying Physics and we were looking at the Ising model, which is how you get magnetic properties within objects. At the same time, I also minored in Computer Science and we were looking at different types of voting blocks. We have small groups of people who vote, and then if they all vote a certain way, they become a bigger bloc and they vote with other blocks. I looked and said, “Wait, this is a magnetic model applied to voting”. I can use the same type of modeling in theories. So by looking in different fields you can say “Here's a solution in one field, we can apply this to another, and that usually leads to opportunity.” For the app I just created to go along with my book, I combined ideas from marketing, ideas from education and ideas from media. I put it all together in a way that, this is totally obvious now that I think about it, but no one had come up with it. In fact, I first thought someone must have come up with this, so I'll just go license the technology when I realized no one did. So this is new and I filed a patent on it and I started a company to do it. So really go broad, explore lots of things, explore different ideas in different fields, in different industries, talk to lots of different people, fill your head with lots of ideas, and then look for ways where you can say, “I can take this pattern, this model, the solution, and apply it somewhere else”.
Tina: But you come into some skill that I think is very crucial for entrepreneurs, because, in the local city where I'm living, Malmö, we have many entrepreneurs, some of them with million dollar businesses. But when I meet these people, they are very social. They're interested in people. They're always curious, “What are you doing, Tina? Oh, you're running a company. Tell me about your business.” They are very, very curious and they remember me. So next time we meet, they come back and say, “How is it going?”. And I think that's amazing because when I go to Lund and I meet the professors there, they don't remember me and they are not curious about me. This is a different mindset somehow. They are naturally interested and I have a vague feeling that they are always in the hunt of a new business. It is like they are interested because they are looking for something. Because they know, I ask questions, you never know, what are you doing? And they are very generous. So if they find a person, they are glad to support them because they have succeeded so much themselves.
Mark: Yes, a lot of entrepreneurs, we all know we didn't do it completely on our own. We had people supporting us. And as we gain success, we want to help others. But you hit upon a key point. When you meet people, you spend the whole time talking about yourself, talking about me and my company and my needs, then you're not hearing from other people. You're not getting those new ideas. So it's always important to listen, to listen more than you speak and get those ideas. You never know where it's going to come from.
Tina: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I agree with you. Super interesting. But going back to this, you know, curiosity and mindset of these entrepreneurs, because you're touching on a risk factor, which I also believe can be country or continent specific. You are in the United States, I'm sitting in Europe. We have a very safe system. So if you are in the security system, should you risk all that to start a company? Whereas the mentality, I have a feeling at least, when I look at the United States from my point of view, you have a more risk taking mindset. Can you comment on that? Would you say that could be a reason why you have so many successful entrepreneurs in the United States compared to Europe?
Mark: I think so. Now it's not the inherent safety in the system, because as I understand, I don't know. I know a bit about the Swedish system. I was lucky to go visit the country years ago. I have friends from there. If you're unemployed, you know that there is a social safety net. You don't have to worry about how I am going to afford health care, for example. You can also get much better unemployment benefits than what you can get in the US. You have a better safety net. Here in the US, if you leave your job, you might wind up with no insurance. You might not get a lot of unemployment benefits. So that's a little riskier. It's easier to say for some, “Okay, I'm secure, I've got the safety net, now I can focus on my business.” Granted, there are some people who say I work best without a net. I work best saying “if I don't work really hard, I'm not able to pay my rent this month”, so that's going to motivate me. But there's a more fundamental issue that is almost literally in our DNA. If you go back about 200 or so years, there were a bunch of people in Europe and some people said, “I like it here. This is where my family's from. We've been here for hundreds of years. I'm going to stay.” Some other folks said, for whatever reason “I don't like it here.” Maybe they see better opportunities or maybe as in the case of my ancestors, they were leaving, fleeing persecution. But they said “We're going to take this big risk. We're going to get on a boat. We are going to sail across the ocean, which might not work, not 100% or whatnot. But we're going to give up everyone, everything we've ever known to go to a land we've never seen before. We'll probably never see our family again, probably can't even write to them, and certainly no telephones or internet. And we're going to hope in this strange new land about which we know very little, we are going to do better.” That is incredibly risky. And yet that's what basically most Americans did, 200 years ago, those who were not forced to come here. So we are a nation of risk takers. And then further on, we said “Hey, Americans, if you want to be prosperous, go West.” There's a famous saying “Go West, young man”, back in the 19th century, which was to go to these new territories, that we were unfortunately taking by force from the indigenous population. But it was to go to these new places. Don't stay in these established cities. Go somewhere new, stake your claim. So we have always encouraged risk taking in this country and it's just built into almost literally in our DNA, because people that came here have that in their DNA, but also in our culture. And so I think that's why the US is a little more pro-innovation. And of course, we've created a legal system and cultural system to support it. On that last point, in the US, if I say, “Hey, listen, I spent the last two years trying to build a company and it bombed. It went nowhere. I made no money. Whole thing went bankrupt.” No one's going to say “Wow, Mark, you're a complete idiot.” Instead they say, “Well, that happened, you took a chance”. In other cultures, this is particularly a challenge in Asia. That type of failure is looked down upon. And so innovation in Asia, I remember talking about this back in the nineties, they were struggling to create innovation because no one wanted to fail, it would bring shame and that was a cultural norm they had to start to adjust.
Tina: And this is, you know, the failure thing is crucial, but I like to share on the podcast, because half of our family emigrated to the United States and then another part to Canada. We had a family reunion 20 years ago, and I went there with my brother and mom and dad. And they were very interested in what happened here in Sweden and why they left, because they just took what they had and left over. And we have all the letters. So they had described the new life and the challenges they had. But what I noticed when I came over: We met in Canada, but the Americans came with vans, you know driving two, three days to meet us. And I remember, I said “Yeah, I have a dream to start a company.” And my parents in Sweden “Yeah, but you know, it's risky”, but my American relatives “Wow, take a chance Tina, why not, just go for it”. Completely different attitude. And that got stuck with me. And I remember, they never said anything about “You could fail, it's a risk”. They said “Go for it. If you have a dream, take a risk, it's worth it”. Because they are running companies and half of the family there are very successful entrepreneurs. So if you grow up with people saying “Go for it, failure is okay, taking risks is okay”, you may be a grown up in a family and an environment where you do that and you get these skills no one taught you without knowing it, because you check how you dad do, how your mother do. But if you're coming from a working class family, as I see it in Sweden, where, you know, you should be secure, don't take the risk. It's not really compatible with being an entrepreneur in the end. So you have sort of your mind-set against you. But now you say that if you now have that dream, you can change that mind-set. So changing your mindset, if we could go back to that, to your book. So if you sit there, you have someone sitting there, you know, "I don't know how to do it. And I have this little dream. No one believes in me, but I really would like to." What kind of steps could they take to change the mindset to help themselves?
Mark: If you're thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, but feeling uncertain, you want to surround yourself with other people in that mindset, with other people in that field. I don't mean your particular domain, just entrepreneurship. Two ways you can do this. One is to consider going to a different startup and not being the founder, but working at one. That's what I did early in my career. Back in the nineties when I came out of school, that was a dot.com era. Now I could have just said, “Oh, hi, I'm 24 years old, I graduated MIT, give me money, I'm going to do some dot.com”. I could have gotten the money, but I knew I didn't really know what I was doing. I'd probably waste it. Instead, I went to other companies. Some of whom wasted it. But in doing so I watched it. I wasn't wasting the investor's money. And I learned. I learned what worked. I learned what didn't. The great thing about startup companies, the old joke is we don't have any walls because back then we couldn't afford an office with walls with these open spaces, but you could walk over to the CEO and say to her “Hey, I'm curious, why are we doing this? Can you tell me about that?” You can walk over to Sales or Marketing. You might even just overhear them because they're sitting only five feet from you as you're working at your desk. And so there is some learning by osmosis. There is some better exposure than if you're at some large corporation where you're sitting in an office and you have other people just in the same team, in the offices in your building, and everyone else is on a different floor, maybe in a different city, and you don't get that exposure. So one thing you can do is be in another startup and just avail yourself of what's around you. The other thing you can do is join entrepreneurial groups, whether it's a meetup group or some other type of community. Maybe at some university, just meet with other entrepreneurs, hear their stories, hear their challenges, help solve their problems. When they say, “I'm stuck on this”, think about what would you do in that situation? Give them advice if you can. Listen if you don't have an answer and learn, and just expose yourself to that community because that's how you're going to start to learn. You're going to hear all the setbacks. You're going to understand what it's like. You know, I'll share, one of my favorite TV shows is an HBO series called Silicon Valley, and this is about a fictional startup company in Silicon Valley. Very funny show. I recommend it. One of the things that they captured so well was the volatility. It was at each episode, Oh, they just landed a big investor and go, okay, we finally got the money and then all of a sudden they get sued by someone for patent infringement. Then they get through getting sued and they, you know, discover some other problem. Every good thing that happens, there's another bad thing. And so the show goes like this. Now it happens obviously over a short half hour window. It normally happens over a period of weeks, but that's life. That is the life of a startup company where every good thing that happens is almost always offset by something bad. Two steps forward is followed by one step back. But as long as you're just slightly more forward than back, you make progress. Understanding that is important and when you, whether see it in a show like Silicon Valley, or just hear from the entrepreneurs you talk about, Oh, we're doing such a great job, and then this key person quit or we lost a big customer, or suddenly a product didn't work. But that's okay, we're going to get through it and you see they overcome it. That's important for when you lose your key employee, you lose your big customer, your demo doesn't work. You're going to need that because you're going to have that same volatility.
Tina: So what are you talking about here, if we just cut that down, you need role models. Surround yourself with people that will support you to become an entrepreneur, because the people you surround with, they define your future basically. So if you're sitting with people that don't believe in you to become an entrepreneur, they are holding you back, you actually need to move to another network. So you know different people. You have maybe even to leave them, if I put it that way. And I know that from my own experience, I had to say, I can't sit here, listen to that. I have to go somewhere else with people who actually have a different mindset. And then you talk about something else here that's interesting and I almost dropped the point here, but what you say does really make sense. As an entrepreneur it looks really fashion-like, because we only see the success story in the end and all the money in the end. But we don't see all the failures or the fights because there's so much hard work behind it. Sometimes I think that should be shared more so that people get perspective of why there is so much money on the bank account, it's because they put a lot of time and effort into it, and risk.
Mark: That's an unfortunate outcome of survivorship bias. We only look at the survivors. We only look at the success stories, particularly in the US. Even more so. Who do we celebrate? The overnight successes. We celebrate that young kid who within a year suddenly built a $10 million, $50 million company. Those are not only successful companies, they are the exception, not the rule. The ones that get that overnight success, the ones that become a unicorn in two years. No, that's not normal. Really, the bulk of them. What we should look at most just completely fail. Most make little or no money and have to shut down. Even the ones that are successful, and by successful I mean they didn't shut down, they didn't go completely bankrupt. Their success is what we consider a lifestyle business. So lots of people say “I want to build the next Google, the next Facebook, next big company.” They wind up creating a company where, well, I make enough to support myself, maybe have some part time employees, or if I'm really doing well, I've got a couple full time employees. I've seen startups, they've taken outside investors. They expect to be a 100 million, 500 million company. And five years later, they're a dozen employees and they're just plodding along. They're supporting those employees. They're technically making money to support it, but they're not growing. We see those all the time, but they don't get written up. We write up the people who fly high, who get close to the sun and don't quite get burnt.
Tina: And this might be something that kicks back on entrepreneurship because for the younger people on Social Media, that's the people we see, the one that in one year or two years, you know, multimillionaires. But as you say, that's not the majority. So when the younger people say “I'm going to be that”, then they don't realize, okay, it's maybe a journey of ten years for me. So they give up too early because they have the wrong expectations from the beginning. Could that be a risk?
Mark: There's also a saying about Social Media. Social Media is seeing everyone on their best day. I've got the perfect Instagram pose, or after I baked seven different cakes, here's the one that came out right, so that's the one I'm going to post. We only show the best. We only show the highlights and in fact, that's the same thing that we do generally, whether it's social media or news coverage, most people only show the highlights. They show, “Oh, just landed this major client, just closed this partnership.” They don't say “Just spend two weeks talking to a bunch of companies. And they all told me no interest.” You don't have people posting about “Yeah, I could not raise $20 million, I couldn't raise a penny, and I'm going to tweet about it.” That doesn't happen. They only tweet the success and the articles that we have covered tend to be about the winners. Now there are occasions and it's fashionable for people to talk about their failures, but still people do it a lot less. The ratio of success to failure, I'm going to guess, is about 95 to 5. And so we just see this bias towards success when in fact, it's really about 5 to 95 the amount of success to failure.
Tina: I'm glad because when I started my coaching and training business in 2016, no one told me the numbers. So I've just decided it's going to work. Yeah, but if they had told me that 1% of all coaches can't make business, you know, living out of the business, I probably wouldn't have started my business, but I didn't know these numbers and I'm very glad I didn't know the numbers because they are so bad. I know them now. So I think that, you know, we need to commit. And you said something very interesting here. You say lifestyle entrepreneurship. And I call those people that decide to run their own company, not to become multimillionaires. But it's like the farmers. I see them also as entrepreneurs. It's a lifestyle to be a farmer, but it's not so that you become a multimillionaire. But you can still run a business.
Mark: And it's important to recognize which you want to do. They are both fine, but there's a difference between saying “I want to run my farm, my bakery, my coaching business, my small whatever, and it'll just be me or maybe me and a handful of other people.” And you can actually do pretty well. I know people who have become millionaires doing that, but we're talking millionaires because they're making extra hundreds of thousands of dollars and go, okay, I'm going to grow my bank account. But that's never going to be a $100 million business. That's different from the people who say 100 million or bust, right? That's what I'm shooting for. I'm going to just keep doubling down, putting in more money, trying to grow the business. They are both acceptable, but be very conscious of which type of entrepreneur you want to be. And I see, especially when I look at podcasts, because I've been on a number of entrepreneurial podcasts, they say “We're about entrepreneurs”. I always need to ask which type? “Is it the Silicon Valley bang or bust?” Or is it the “I'm just doing my own business, I'm doing my side hustle.” They're both entrepreneurs, but they're very different in really kind of the direction they're going in and even some of the risks they need to take.
Tina: And this one I like to stay on just a little bit because here I think, this is not what people are clear about when they say “I want to be an entrepreneur”, because this is also what I do Mark, I ask this question. What kind of entrepreneur is it? I don't call it lifestyle business, but I say, is it so that you like to have your own company, so you don't want to be employed by someone. You just want to have your own business? And many people say, yeah, actually, yeah, that's what I want to do. So is that actually then an entrepreneur or could we call it something else? I'm just curious.
Mark: I do think we should have different names for it, for those two paths, but I don't know of one. They all fall into the bucket of entrepreneurs.
Tina: Because they say “Tina you are an entrepreneur.” I say “No, I'm not.” Entrepreneurship for me is that I go in, I need risk capital and really to grow my coaching business to be something huge, you know. But that's not my aim with my business. I'm happy to have, you know, my team of ten people working there and I can do that and I can develop my concepts. You know, that's a risk I'm willing to take, at least so far. And that's sort of the comfort zone maybe. But what we're talking about is running maybe a classical company, which many people did, and I call the farmers and bakeries. We have these small companies also in the steel business. They have ten or 12 people working for them. They earn a decent amount of money, but there is no need for growing it. So maybe you should think in your next book, would you like to be that or that and have a different name for that sort of entrepreneurship. I call the other companies more risk capitalist companies like, you know, the patents I have in life sciences. You know, you can't just say “I have this patent because you're going to need extra money to invest it into it, otherwise you can never grow it. Whatever you do.”
Mark: You might call them a growth business versus a small business. Because in one case, you really do have to grow. Certainly if you're taking capital from venture capitalists. It's different if you take it from your brother in law. But if you take it from a venture capitalist, they want to see a 50x return. They want to see that you have grown so big. Now they know that a bunch of companies they put money into will fail. That's why they need someone to be 50x. To make up for all the zeros on their portfolio. So they really go for that high growth, high return. As opposed to, you're not trying to get 50x, you don't need capital for what you're doing. It's like, you know, if you do 2x tomorrow, fantastic. But you're very happy with that. The outside investor would not be happy with just a 2x return over a five year period.
Tina: No, no, no. That's too different. So we are digging into different kinds of businesses and entrepreneurship here. Would you say that is different personalities?
Mark: I would say it probably is. It's more subtle. Certainly both people are inherent risk takers, but some, for example, have the motivation for the small business. Some just say “I don't want to work for someone else. I want to be my own boss.” Okay. Now I'm my own boss, check. Done. I don't have that drive to go further. As long as I'm bringing in enough revenue, doing what I want, having the lifestyle, maybe I like taking off at 3 pm each day and okay, I can do that. So I think their motivation tends to be more about their own maybe personal interest and what they want to experience day to day. It's the job that they want, that they create. Whereas when you go into the growth business, it's not just, well, here is the type of job I want. There's this drive to grow, whether it's because I like money and I want to be really rich or just I want to conquer or I like the challenge, or I just always want that next challenge. I always want the next step. Great. I've created a $20 million company. Now how do I make a $200 million company? So there's always something new that they tend to strive for.
Tina: Yeah, and you need to deal with different sorts of stakeholders as well, particularly if you become an open market, you have all the stockholders that you have to deal with, which you don't have to do if you're running your own company with 2x growth in five years.
Tina: You have only yourself and the mirror.
Mark: I can tell you everyone of those growth entrepreneurs longs for the day where the only person they have to report to was in the mirror. Because everyone I know complains about their investors. Yeah, but they are a necessary evil.
Tina: They are a necessary evil. That's just how it is. So yeah, very interesting dialog. I have one last question before we start to round up, let's say I want to have a growth business. I have this idea that I really want to grow and I'm sitting there dreaming of it. Is there a particular country that you would say that if I'm sitting here, I mean, Europe, you have the United States, you're in Asia. Is it so that you can actually be born in Europe, you know, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and you start here. But when I move to the United States, let's say, then I could be even more successful. Or is it better to stay on the market that, you know, what would you say?
Mark: Good question. I'll tell you, here are some of the factors I would consider. One is where are your customers? Because you probably want to be somewhat close to your customers. Famously, Israel develops wonderful technology, but Israel is such a small country, it's just not that big at market. They try to sell into the US, but they just don't have good connections or they don't know how to sell in the US and they fail. Not because the technology is not good. So you want to be near your customers, but you also want to know how to sell to your customers. And so if you don't know how to sell to Americans showing up here, you either need to learn fast, find someone who can do that for you, or you might be better off staying home. Now, there's also some advantage. Whatever country you're in, you probably have a good network. Now, if the network is just well, these are my friends growing up and family, but they're not necessarily useful for my business. That doesn't count as a network. Obviously they're in your network and keep them in your network, keep your friendships. But when you think about your business network, if you have a strong network to investors, to customers, to partners, to suppliers and you go to another country where it might not be so easy, you're giving something up. And that's part of the tradeoff. So you really want to think about these factors and what's stronger in each case. If you can perhaps start where you are, where you have that network, you have that support system, and then you move to a different country to expand. I know lots of businesses who start in a country and then say we're opening up a US office. But again, the key thing, when you move countries, find a local partner, find someone who understands that business, that industry, that culture ideally also understands yours and can be that bridge and can help you, whether it's the classic naming of the product. Oops, this word being something horrible in that language, to just knowing how to open doors to knowing. Do you show up to the meeting and say, okay, let's sit down and bang out this deal versus let's spend three meetings, having tea and getting to know each other. Before we even begin to discuss, I have to wait for you to bring it up. I can't bring it up. There are just subtleties of how it works. And you want that local tour guide.
Tina: Thank you. Listen to these tips, because I know some of our followers,they come with these questions, they ask how can I go to the United States if I'm sitting in Europe? Because many of our followers here are from Europe, but we're going to end the podcast here. And I really want to thank you for a wonderful discussion and sharing so, so many great tips, Mark. But just to wrap it up here, if I'm now sitting here dreaming. To very shortly wrap up, let's see if I want to start a company. I want to, let's say start my entrepreneurship career road trip. What are the three top tips you would like to say? Do these ones. Don't forget these three tips.
Mark: It's hard to limit to just three, but here are some thoughts. One is to create a supportive network with as many people as you can with different things that you will need, whether that's in your industry directly. These are people in my field and they know people and can connect me to people, to just certain knowledge and services. I need people who understand finance better than I do. People that understand marketing better than I do, even if they're not in my field. So create that network. Second, I'd say if you have a co-founder, I see this screwed up time and again. Be very careful picking a co-founder. When we think about dating, I won't say “Oh hey, we just had a date too. I like you. Let's get married.” No, no, that's a little fast. Let's really get to know each other. And yet we jump into bed with our co-founders “Oh, yeah, I met you at this entrepreneur's meetup. You seem nice. You're a tech person. I'm a business person. Let's do this.” No, really. Get to know your co-founder the same way you want to date your co-founder metaphorically to get to know and make sure you're compatible. Equally important, get that prenup. I see this so many times when we get together. Even if we've known each other for 20 years and we've dated. You want that prenup. You want that written agreement about your responsibilities and mine and how equity will be split. And what happens if someone leaves because that gets screwed up time and again.
And then the third thing I would say is, don't worry about being right. Just try not to be wrong. And what do I mean by that? When I build products and systems, I don't try to be perfect because I know whatever I build, we're going to have to shift, whether minor adjustments or sometimes outright pivots. What I try to do is keep as much optionality on the table, now options cost money, as my friend Steve Zimmer used to tell me. Options cost money, but if you can for very little cost, keep a lot of options on the table, this means if you do need to pivot or change, you have that opportunity. If you went in a path where you no longer have those options and suddenly your path isn't working after switching, now there's a much higher cost. So keep that optionality around for as long as you can, for as little as you can pay for it.
Tina: Thank you very much, Mark. And dear followers, this was Mark Herschberg from MIT, from the Career Success Accelerator and also a huge entrepreneur with so many successful businesses behind him. So thank you very much, Mark. And this is Tina person and it's time to close up here. And don't forget to check our web page, phdcareerstories.com. You find us on Facebook, on Twitter so just follow us and never hesitate to contact us. If you know anyone with a great story or something they'd like to share. Have a great day.