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January 08, 2020 4 min read

A.LISTER EXCLUSIVE: NEIL ST. CLAIR
Neil St. Clair is not afraid of a new idea, especially if it is a challenge. He founded his first successful company AlleyWire in his early 20’s, then joined the venture-backed startup Vestorly, and finally helped launch a global social impact investment media company. His current focus is preventing violence against women and children as the President & COO of the Child Safety Pledge and Fathers of Daughters foundation.
He spoke with the A.Team about starting a business in a saturated market, knowing if your idea is a true differentiator and a few tactics that will help you on the road ahead.

 

WHY HE IS FIT FOR PURPOSE

 DIFFERENTIATING YOUR IDEA

Have a great idea, but scared of starting a business in a saturated market?

Neil St. Clair is a serial entrepreneur and has parsed through this predicament before. It's true, it is always best to try and avoid saturated markets, but if you have a true differentiator roll up your sleeves and let’s dive in.

Neil finds two tactics work the best: distinguish yourself and go small to go big.

“Be the foil to the evil empire or do something that stands out to a specific crowd,” Neil says about finding a distinctive trademark. “Think of how Lyft was the caring opposite to Uber.”

Next, he believes you should “focus on doing one thing well than your larger competitors may have overlooked.” Understanding the competition is a crucial business activity for any entrepreneur or business executive. “Once you nail that one market now you can move on and expand.” 

So how do you know if your idea can break through the noise? Asking a few questions can help as a part of your initial market research. “Why am I doing this and what pain point am I solving?” And finally, he says, “am I the best person to provide this solution?”

“Second-mover advantage is a real thing,” he notes. “Very few ideas are truly defensible, so know that if you hit on to something good, you'll likely be facing competition shortly--so, if you're not an expert or have some truly out-there partnerships or tech, you'll be overtaken.”

That being said, if you believe in your idea buckle in and buckle down. All startups have ups and downs so be ready for an exciting journey. 

And there are 3 things he believes every entrepreneur should know:

1) Learning never stops--keep reading and updating your knowledge
2) Working for yourself is the hardest thing you'll ever do. Self-discipline is tricky. 
3) You'll fail once or twice before you succeed. Be prepared for that and what you'll do when it happens. 

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STYLE THAT FITS PERFECTLY
A.Lynn Asked...

Q: A businessman must have a favorite blazer…What’s your favorite cut? Who’s your favorite brand?

A: 1) More European style, slim-fitting, high armholes, and a natural shoulder. 2) I tend to go custom/made-to-measure.

Q: Where is your go-to summer weekend away spot? What is your Must-Have apparel item on that getaway?

A: 1) We’re summer nomads and don't have a "go-to" per se, but rather have a variety of spots we love--e.g. Nantucket, Sag Harbor, Down the Shore NJ, and Paris. 2) A U.S. Presidential Biography.

Q: Who is your favorite men’s denim brand?

A: Most of my jeans come from Paige

Q: What shoe would you suggest a man to wear to look cool with a casual A.Lynn outfit? And to dress up an A.Lynn outfit?

A: 1) Heeled Loafers (esp. the Van Damme by Paul Evans). 2) Wholecut Lace-ups (no socks).

GET NEIL'S LOOK

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 KNOWING WHEN TO PIVOT

One of the toughest aspects of being an entrepreneur is gauging when an idea is stalled and how to pivot.

First, you will know when and if your idea is not making headway because frankly, you will “feel it in your gut.” Neil explains, “you'll feel things slowing down and falling apart.” Most importantly, you will see it in the numbers and your team. When reviewing your KPI's, metrics will begin to be missed and the velocity of the growth will slow.

So when do you know that it is time to pivot? Well, it is tough. Neil says he is a bigger fan of refinements. “I'm hard-pressed to think of businesses that truly pivoted post-launch that came to great success.” But, he believes if it is time to pivot or refine, “it’s best to have full team, customer, and investor buy-in.”

Overall, he says when you start your endeavor, “it's best to put hard timelines and financial risk assessments in place prior." 

Starting a business can be the best learning experience and whether or not your first one is a unicorn, everything you gain from the experience is immeasurable. 

Check out Neil and his family on Instagram and follow his work on LinkedIn.

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Neil is wearing A.Lynn's LS Crew Tee, Light Thermal

 

Every man deserves one less decision to make in the morning. That’s why every day can be a Crew Tee day. As an undershirt, this long sleeve tee excels in comfort, performance, and durability. Worn with a blazer, Crew Tee’s slender, fitted, and professional cut puts your personal edge on the workday or night out.

Order your size in short, regular, or long for your perfect fit.

GET NEIL'S LOOK

 


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