LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman: Success Tips from Silicon Valley

Entrepreneur

Technology and globalization are forcing everyone to be more entrepreneurial, said LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman and entrepreneur Ben Casnocha at the event Secrets from Silicon Valley. Hosted by CreativeLIVE, the two-day series featured free, live workshops about how to run a successful business.

Hoffman and Casnocha, co-authors of popular book The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (Crown Business, 2012), spoke on Friday about how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs build amazing companies amid rapid economic change.

Here are their tips for finding business success in a still-uncertain economy:

1. Find the intersection of your strengths and aspirations and market realities.

When starting up, the standard advice is often to play to your strengths, follow your passion and capitalize on market needs. However, "thinking about any one of those in isolation is wildly insufficient," said Casnocha. Instead, he says to look at how those three intersect and integrate them into your business plan.

The plan should map out the next couple years, but it's not set in stone. Over time, your passions can change, your strengths will likely improve and the market will change, so you'll need to reevaluate as you go, Hoffman said.

2. Establish a small group of allies and a large network of acquaintances.

Social and professional networks connect us with acquaintances across geographies and professions, providing a valuable source of diverse information. However, it is also important to build a small network of emotionally rich and collaborative relationships, said Hoffman. "It's critical to think about growing networks, but you can do it in a very human way," he said.

Early on in their friendship, Hoffman and Zynga Founder Mark Pincus had an explicit conversation about how they were going to help each other. "It isn't a trading pact; it's an expression of alliance," Hoffman said. Having close allies is equally, if not more, important to your future success as having a large group of loose professional ties.

3. Don't risk more than you can afford to lose.

There is a common misconception that all entrepreneurs are "crazy risk-takers," said Casnocha. However, he said there is a way to take intelligent risks in times of uncertainty or with limited information.

Assess risks by considering the worst possible outcome of your decision, Casnocha advised. Then ask yourself: if that happened, could you survive it? If the answer is yes, be open to taking the risk, he said. If it's no, you may want to reconsider. "If I feel like the worst-case scenario is my company goes under, I go bankrupt and my reputation is destroyed, then I'm really weary of that risk," he said. 

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