The Ultimate Crash Course in Entrepreneurship

If you're crunched on time, here's how to get started

Small business owner working in the cafe

Sunwoo Jung/Getty Images 

You want to start your own business, but you don't have a lot of time. No worries—here's a crash course in entrepreneurship that'll get you started in the right direction right here, right now. 

Classic Books for All Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Have you done your research? While blogs and newsletters have a lot of good advice for entrepreneurs, a little strategic book-learning will prepare you for the road ahead. Here are a few books that deserve a place on your bookshelf: 

  • "Business Model Generation" is an excellent book that breaks down the nitty gritty details of planning a profitable small business.
  • From managing your time better to outsourcing everything you find tedious or boring, Tim Ferriss' provocative bestseller "The Four-Hour Workweek" offers a number of strategies for getting more done in your busy day. 
  • Pamela Slim's "Escape from Cubicle Nation" explores both the intricacies of taking the leap and the important steps to take before launching your own business.
  • Cal Newport's "Deep Work" is a must-read for those entrepreneurs that are easily distracted or tempted to jump ship on a project that isn't immediately getting massive traction. The core principle of his book is centered around the importance of creating extensive blocks of time to go deep on the work that's most important to your success—and that when you do, you'll be significantly more efficient with your time.
  • Ben Horowitz, a prolific author, entrepreneur, and investor wrote the seminal book, "The Hard Thing About Doing Hard Things" as a culmination of everything he's learned building businesses when there is no easy solution—it's a great crash course in entrepreneurship for everyone.

Draft a Business Plan 

No time, you say? Believe it or not, the business plan can be sped up. An accessible primer on writing a business plan, "The One Page Business Plan" turns a daunting process into a series of simple action steps and worksheets. Whether you want to create a full-fledged business plan or you're entertaining the idea of starting up without one -- this is an essential book in planning and crystallizing your ideas. 

Build a Prototype

Prototyping is an essential early step of business planning. It allows you to test out whether or not your vision is feasible.

The goal of a minimum viable product (MVP), in "Lean Startup" parlance, is to test out a business hypothesis through a quickly produced, stripped-down model of a product that can be brought to market quickly and inexpensively.

Examples of an MVP include Zappos, which, early on, took photos of shoes in local stores, posted them online and then bought the shoes from the stores and shipped them out instead of building a large inventory. Groupon also launched with an incredibly simple version of its eventual daily deal email—it was simple PDF and a WordPress site to begin with. 

And "prototyping" is not just for outfits that make physical products. A prototype can also be a simple website representing your future business that you use to collect email addresses from interested parties. If you are after a specific niche like fashion or cooking, you might also consider creating a blog that will help you find a following. The prototyping phase is all about taking your business vision and making it real to test out whether or not real consumers will bite.

Come Up With a Simple Mantra

A clear sense of direction communicated to your partners and potential hires can go a long way toward helping people "get" your vision. If you want to accelerate your path to success, it's all the more important that you have a crystal clear way of articulating your value proposition. 

Startup guru Guy Kawasaki recommends coming up with a simple mantra, preferably three words or less, that succinctly describes your core values. Some examples he gave:

  • Wendy's: "Healthy fast food"
  • FedEx: "Peace of mind"
  • Nike: "Authentic athletic performance"
  • Guy Kawasaki: "Empower entrepreneurs"