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5 lessons for any new venture

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Had dinner last night with an old friend who used to work for me back in the day, proof that not all my former employees hate me. I hadn't seen him in 10 years, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

After recounting some of the more memorable stories from the past -- at least what we could remember considering how much we used to party back then -- we finally got around to the present. Not surprisingly, he wanted to know how I ended up writing this blog. As I told the story, I realized it provided great lessons for anyone embarking on a new venture.

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Relationships lead to opportunities.

Over decades in the high-tech industry I'd always cultivated relationships with coworkers, customers, partners and members of the media. The opportunity to blog came from one of the latter, then CNET editor-at-large Michael Kanellos. We'd known each other for close to a decade and, I'm telling you, relationships that are both personally and professionally rewarding are precious and few.

Never turn down free marketing.

I didn't know what a blog was, but I was already writing a newsletter for my new management consulting company and thought this could be another way to get the word out and reach new potential clients. Besides, it sounded like a lot of fun. That's a great combination for a new venture, if you can get it.

Starting something new requires unwavering commitment, flexibility, time and humility.

I've developed a real passion for writing and found that engaging with readers is surprisingly rewarding. That said, there were loads of obstacles along the way and times when the payoff wasn't entirely clear. Regardless of how accomplished you are, when you start something new you've got to really commit to it and be flexible and humble. If you find yourself saying, "sure, no problem" a lot and you're not sure why, then you're probably on the right track.

The same rules apply to any new product or business.

Looking back on it, I approached this blog the way any entrepreneur or company should approach a new business: strive to develop a unique product that really meets a customer need. To do that, you have to find the intersection between what you're uniquely qualified to do and what your customers (that would be you, the readers) say they want or need. That's a lot harder than it sounds. It takes a willingness to stick your neck out, a lot of trial and error, continuous improvement and paying a lot of attention to customer response, both quantitative and qualitative.

Every day is a new day.

If you've been around a while, you know the importance of planning, organization and process. That said, when you're navigating in uncharted waters, there will inevitably be unforeseen swells, storms and maybe even an iceberg. So don't get too comfortable or make the mistake of thinking you have control over the situation. You don't. Remember that every day is a new day, and that works both ways. Just try to enjoy the chaos and keep some Dramamine handy. 

Image courtesy of Flickr user PaulSteinJC

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