If you've read my bio, then you know I'm not an entrepreneur: I work in a library. But I know that you, the readers of The HBS Blog are the entrepreneurial types. To help get myself acquainted with the challenges that you face as you get your companies off the ground, I read Rob Adams' A Good Hard Kick in the Ass: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs. This book really is as entertaining to read as its title implies! It gave me a good perspective of what you, as new business owners, are up against and how you have to eat, sleep and breathe your endeavor. Adams, at the time of the book's writing, was founder and managing director of AV Labs, a venture fund in Austin, Texas. His book provides several pieces of advice, how to implement that advice, and stories of businesses that followed the advice he gave at AV Labs. The stories are interesting and relevant to the advice Adams gives.
As for sound advice, I'll leave it up to you if it's good, or relevant, to your new company. I was shocked to read in the first few pages that he didn't consider a solution 'viable' if the market didn't have revenues of about $1 billion per year. Since Adams comes from the IT world, I presume he sees things a bit differently than somebody who is opening a photo studio, hardware store or a deli. His thinking goes that with a billion dollar market, even capturing only 10% of it means you make $100 million. The bottom line is to know your market. And that is his first piece of advice. Good ideas, he says, are a dime a dozen; no matter what it is, its already been done. The trick is being flexible with your idea and to give the market something that they will pay good money for.
I'm not going to give away the whole book; but I'll give you some hints though. Some of the other areas that made Adams want to give a kick include raising start-up capital, the business plan, time-to-market, sales, and marketing. At least half of the book would probably be useful for anybody looking to start a business. Even if your new business is several years away, this book may help you get a perspective on what to expect.