I started teaching an entrepreneurship class at the University of Oregon a few weeks ago, and I have to say, it’s been a real treat for me.  I’ve always wanted to teach at the collegiate level, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of students.  I have a class full of fantastic start-up ideas ranging from athletic consulting to mobile apps, and the students are eager to learn.  My “lectures” usually end up more as discussions, and there’s really never a dull moment.

So yes, teaching is very rewarding, but so are the opportunities to learn, even for the professor.  Last week, Tim Berry of Palo Alto Software spoke to our class.  Having met thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs over his career, he had a lot of great advice, but my personal favorite:

Passion and persistence are great for an entrepreneur, but they are not the keys to success.  The real measure of success is in sales.

This may seem like a no brainer, but in the process of launching a business, this key idea oftentimes gets muddled.  You’re working day and night trying to get the business up and running, and somewhere along the way, the idea of the business takes over.  Your grand vision.  How you will change the world.  It’s an all-powerful notion that somehow becomes bigger than the business itself, and when the sales don’t come flying in, you might be tempted to think there’s something wrong with the world.

Of course, that’s ridiculous.  It’s your job as an entrepreneur to convince people to buy into your idea, not the other way around.  The world will not change to accommodate you.  And if your idea isn’t good enough, no amount of passion or persistence can change that.  Knowing when to throw in the towel is just as useful as knowing when to continue.  Make sure you know when to do both.

-Deborah Fike

P.S. For more great insights into start-ups, check out more at Tim Berry’s blog.

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