Once you’ve got your great business idea and you’re on your way, is all done? Not so fast; be prepared to zigzag through your journey as an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship often requires you to take detours and make new plans. I have gone through this process many times. At first, I felt dismay and confusion, but found that those feelings quickly changed to delight and confidence.

When I worked at Novell I met three individuals who took detours to their ultimate success; Jan Newman, the vice-president of Worldwide Services; J.D. Brisk, a director at Novell Labs; and Kevin Turpin, a senior software engineer. They were all Novell lifers who became disenchanted with the direction the company was taking and who decided to set off on their own. Each of them had worked with Novell labs and saw a tremendous opportunity for an Independent lab that could work with Novell, Microsoft, Sun and others. In keeping with the mark of true entrepreneurs—they responded to a need and opportunity and created KeyLabs.

Kevin wrote a piece of software that made it possible for him to sit at one station and run tests on thousands of computers at a time. Customers were amazed at the new feature and wanted it for their own use. All of a sudden, there was great demand, not only for their service but for their software! Two of the partners moved on to manage the new venture, leaving the other to keep the lab running. KeyLabs was fruitfully sold to a corporation called Exodus, and their new software business, Altiris, went public. It was the top-performing stock on Wall Street in 2005. Jan, J.D., and Kevin couldn’t have predicted where they would end up when they left Novell, but they kept their eyes open and were ready to zig and zag forward with each new opportunity. Their huge success was due in large part to their willingness to embrace the journey, with detours, starts and stops along the way.

Starting a business with limited financial resources requires you to chase cash immediately. Rarely are you able to chase your ultimate goal directly. You have to zigzag back and forth toward your ultimate destination, step-laddering the opportunities bit-by-bit as you go. This is actually a very good thing. It slows you down and allows you to trip into all sorts of great little opportunities and nuggets of gold. From my experience, you end up building your successful business on a concept completely different from where you initially set out.

When I was in college, my wife and I mapped out our ultimate career destination. We thought that the ideal job would be to go to Seattle and work for Boeing. There is no ink bold enough to emphasis how grateful I am that my original life plan did not come to fruition. My life has been full of rich and vibrant opportunities due to the zigging and zagging I have done.

You must have a dual mindset. On the one hand, you have to emphasize a “never say die,” “work ‘til you drop,” “do it or die” devotion to your venture. And then on the other, with the speed of a changing market, you have to be willing to jump ship and sail off in a new custom vessel, letting your old venture sink into the water.

Porter’s Points – How Did I Get Here?

• Create your map to success and use it…just know that detours may take you to a place even better than the original destination.
• Realize that markets change, and, as a result, you may need to change too. Do you need to tweak a few small things in order to take advantage of the change, or do you need to create a new venture to catch the forming wave?
• No knee-jerk reactions here. Analyze and act.

That does it for Chapter 2: Juice to the Light Bulb! Next week we’ll dive into Chapter 3: Power Tools.