The Secret Entrepreneur: Fake it, ’til you make it!

Just how did our mystery entrepreneur secure a six-figure contract without a business to speak of? Find out here

Steve Jobs famously financed Apple by securing an purchase order for 50 non-existent computers from the owner of The Byte Shop in California. He used it to get a credit line on parts. And the rest, as they tend to say when when keeping it short and sweet, is history.

The fact is, sometimes you’ve got to fake it, ’til you make it. Our Secret Entrepreneur knows this only too well and has their own tale to tell of a major deal they won on the back of a big fat promise. If you missed last week’s blog and want to know how The Secret Entrepreneur likes to serve a dish called Revenge, you can catch up here.

In the meantime, see if you can learn a thing or two about doing the necessary to get a foot in the door.

“There is a seldom talked about but fairly universal trait among entrepreneurs, particularly the most successful. It stems from the desire to change things – sometimes a lot, generally for the better, and usually with a financial gain involved somewhere.

This desire for change means that you’re going against the grain and need to convince people to accept your new way. The difficulty is that most people, even when they recognise that the change is good, don’t want to be the first. They want the security of knowing it’s a sure thing, that someone else has been there first. That can make it quite hard to get your first customers.

Which is why successful entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to ‘fake it until they make it’. Sometimes the only way to get the change you want is to convince people that it’s already happened. Then once they buy in, work like crazy to get more people onboard and make reality catch up with your story.

There are of course good ways and bad ways to go about this. In many cases the dividing factor is whether you ultimately succeed, but the difference between an entrepreneur and a fraudster is that the entrepreneur has every intention of delivering.

I’m most certainly guilty of this approach myself, as I’ve confessed to already in earlier columns. What may not be readily apparent though is that the need for this tactic never really goes away, there’s always the next challenge.

Years after my adventures with gangsters I kickstarted a new company by convincing a major organisation to buy a new technology solution I was offering for a six-figure sum. The deal was done in their enormous boardroom overlooking the Thames. To show that we were serious, I brought along the five key members of my team who would be delivering the project and who explained in detail how it worked.

We won the deal. We had six weeks to deliver the first stage of the project, at which point we would receive the first staged payment.

I was banking on this because when we won the deal none of the people I brought to the meeting worked for me. One of them was just someone I once shared an office with who I bribed with the offer of a few pints and who was literally just reading from a script. The solution didn’t exist yet and the limited company had only just been formed.

I was sure though that if we got the contract we could deliver, and that I would be able to hire the people I needed to make it happen once I knew the deal was in place. I was also sure that there was no way in hell we’d get it if the client had any idea that this was the case.

We worked like crazy to deliver the first stage and to keep up the illusion. We hit our deadlines and delighted the client. We managed to do the same for each further stage of the project, building the company up as we went so that three months later reality matched what we’d presented. That deal made the company and gave us the credibility (and the money) we needed to get the next client, and the next one.

Crucially, the first client never found out about the reality gap – this tactic only really works if you keep it secret!”

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