Interview with Markus Biegel, Serial Entrepreneur

Markus Biegel is a serial entrepreneur and business consultant. He started his first company, a tech startup in the education sector, in 2007. In 2008 he launched his consulting company named Startup Elite which has served to date over 100 clients internationally. In 2009 he became a business partner in the clothing line Unified People which he grew into an internationally recognized name and founded his digital media company named Need Media Now which has launched over 30 websites since the company started.

Markus Biegel, Serial Entrepreneur and Business Consultant

How does a company become successful and stay successful? How much risk does a company need to take to make it?

A company certainly does not become successful by playing it safe and following the traditional ways of doing business. As an entrepreneur you are taking on a lot of risk as is but you got to be careful about selecting what you are willing to risk and, at the same time, what you are not willing to risk. Being an entrepreneur does not mean that you should be fearless. Risk has to always be managed otherwise you could fall hard.

There is nothing wrong with the traditional ways of doing business (most of them work just fine) but as entrepreneurs you can often not compete based on “traditional ways” so you have to be innovative. If you are not an innovate person or have a person like that on your team your chances to succeed are in greater jeopardy.

A company's greatest assets are the people working in it. A company cannot grow faster than it can acquire quality people. Therefore becoming successful and staying successful is greatly a function of being able to recruit and retain great people which is not easy in the startup world when you only have small budgets for personnel. Luckily nowadays young ambitious people are not just looking for well paying jobs but "cool" jobs which is where startups can try to put together a value proposition that will get them quality talent without having to pay top dollar.

What is the most common mistake that you see entrepreneurs do, especially those that are new to starting a business?

Especially for entrepreneurs, who are just starting out, the most common mistake is not asking the right questions and not asking enough of them. Sometimes entrepreneurs rush into some entrepreneurial venture without a business plan and without doing their homework. Going in somewhat blind is a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes a business idea may seem very simple and that is why new entrepreneurs are just rushing into it but experienced entrepreneurs already know that a business that may look simple probably has some hidden complexities in it. When you can anticipate your problems it allows you to prepare for them so that when they knock on your door you know how to handle the situation.

How do you come up with the ideas for your entrepreneurial ventures? How do most entrepreneurs get their ideas?

Sometimes you just get an idea out of nowhere, I suppose that happens to people all the time. The difference is that some people think deeper about those ideas, they analyze them and write them down while others don’t bother thinking it through. I believe a lot of people are pessimistic about their ideas and therefore they don’t think of them as “worth the time” to give them a deeper evaluation.

Most entrepreneurs that I met with over the years got their ideas from identifying problems. In our lives we probably encounter various types of problems on a daily basis. Whether it is the bad service at a restaurant or a product that is missing and would help you so much in a particular situation or a service that you wish existed. Once a person has identified a problem some choose to complain, others choose to find a solution.

Regardless of whether you first have an idea or a problem identified, at the end of the day you will need to have both. Based on those two variables you should be able to come up with a strategy, a few marketing ideas, maybe financial model etc. and all of the sudden you have somewhat of a  business plan. Where you go from there is up to you.

Since you just mentioned a business plan. How do you start writing a business plan? Do you have any tips you can share with us?

Some people like working of a template or using a software while others like to start from scratch. On that note I would not recommend ever paying for a template or software if you value your money because there are plenty of free resources out there that you can use which are just fantastic.

When I write business plans I like starting from scratch. I just grab a blank piece of paper (or blank Word Document) and just start with a sentence about the idea for the business. Then I write whatever comes to mind while at the same time organizing all the content that I am writing into sections like Marketing, Finances, Operations and so on.

After I have written down everything I can think of  I go into my custom business plan template and copy paste the sections I have in there and check what sections I still need write more about. This way the business plan evolves naturally instead of trying to force myself to think about topics like Target Market, Company Weakness, International Expansion and many others. If you force yourself to think about something your brain might not want to play along but if you just write what comes to your mind that is probably a way more effective (and also more fun way) to write your business plan.

What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?

Once you have a solid plan then you are ready to start your business. The most effective way to grow your business from there is to get other great people involved. Combining the strengths and networks of two or more people can make a huge difference to any new entrepreneurial venture.

It is crucial that you select people that will add value to your business. If you get people involved just because they are willing to help they may distract you from getting work done instead of being the helping hand that they are supposed to be.

Need Media Now Co-founders: Christy Buena and Markus Biegel

What do you look for in selecting business partners? What does it take to get on board?

I believe that having passionate and committed people can be far more important than money for any entrepreneurial venture. I look for partners and key players who have complete trust and respect for each other or who can develop that level of trust rather quickly.

I don't look for people who follow exactly what I say, I look for people who push back when they know something that I don't. I am not interested in working with people who work long hours, I want to work with people who deliver excellent results no matter how many hours they spend in the office. Ideally I want to work with people who are fun to be around, you need to have a sense of humor.

You would obviously want someone who knows the industry, has a successful track record of working in the industry and has all the skills required to make your business a success but without sincere passion and commitment for your business they are not going to perform well and therefore not make the cut.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I get to enjoy a great amount of freedom which tends to increase the more successful I become. I can technically wake up whenever I want but in reality I am up and working while most people are still in bed. I make my own schedule which is nice but my schedule is usually filled with meetings and work sessions all day long. Waking up early and working long hours does not sound like something positive about being an entrepreneur but it actually can be just that considering that you are doing what you love all day long.

The challenge you face as an entrepreneur is to delegate all the work that you are not good at or rather not do to someone who is more passionate about that sort of work. That way you get to enjoy doing the work that you are most passionate about without neglecting the other important tasks. This emphasizes again the important of hiring great people that you can trust to do good work.

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