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Some People Say the Best $20 You Can Spend is On… | 35grove.com | Where Ideas Grow

Some People Say the Best $20 You Can Spend is On…


[Photo by psd]

One of the more compelling posts about entrepreneurship I’ve read in a long time is over at GetRichSlowly.org, by guest blogger Ramit Sethi, entitled: The Best $20 You’ll Ever Spend. And I agree wholeheartedly with Ramit’s suggestion: if you want to start a business (or have started one), the best $20 you can spend is to take an entrepreneur out for lunch, during which, you spend 90% of the time learning about their successes, failures, and insights into an industry, and then the remaining 10% getting their opinion on your business/idea. In addition to learning about their business and yours (very valuable), you’ll also begin to spot trends (the cherry on top). Sounds solid, right? Right.

But I think you can take it several steps further, without spending a dime!

In fact, most cities will provide you with forums for chatting with fellow (and even very successful) entrepreneurs without spending the $20. How? Tap into your local network of groups.

If you’re in the tech scene in NYC, there are at least 20 tech events each week (nicely chronicled at Gary’s Guide, which also covers other cities). On top of that, you can check out Meetup.com to find groups that focus on your interests and that regularly meet in your area. And then there are all of the organizations, like the IxDA (Interaction Design Association), that aren’t listed in Gary’s or on Meetup, but that still hold meetings. It’s a ton of people with similar interests (entrepreneurs), learning from one another. And the best part? These meetings are all free. (While this paragraph is about NYC, I promise that you can find the same in your city with some minimal digging.)

However, in addition to learning about your industry, there’s an even more important reason to spend $20 to take out entrepreneurs and/or to attend free, local community meetings.

When you start a company, usually it’s just you, or better yet, you and a partner. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time selling, and a lot of time trying to build your product/business. One thing is for sure though: you’re going to be spending 110% of your time on your business, which doesn’t leave much time to meet people and gain new perspectives. It’s very easy to isolate yourself.

So instead, make it your mission to attend at least one local, community event per week. Or take one person out for lunch. Or, take it to the max. As good friend and successful businessman John Saroff mentioned recently, Jeffrey Katzenberg ate two breakfasts and two lunches every day until he became uber-successful. Let that be a lesson to you.

But before I make any suggestions I always put my money where my mouth is, which means I’ve been attending at least one event/lunch/etc. per week. And where has this gotten me so far?

  1. I was introduced to Twitter and learned ways to leverage it for my business
  2. I was given a free ticket to the recent NYC Affiliate Summit which provided me with an intense and very helpful crash-course on social marketing (if I’d paid, it would have cost me hundreds)
  3. I was introduced to the IxDA, at which I met interaction design guru Will Evans who not only sent me a list of beginner IxD books to read, but generously took 30 minutes of out his week to give me a ring and chat about my business

Plus, a whole lot more.

What can you learn?

PS: If this sounds daunting to you, then you’re probably in the wrong business (i.e., you shouldn’t be starting a company). One of the most exciting parts of starting and running a company is to talk about your “baby,” sharing your ideas with fellow entrepreneurs, getting their feedback, and incorporating it in your vision (within reason). However, always keep in mind that these conversations need to be a means to an end, not an end in itself.

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