Managing Expectations: Being an entrepreneur is exciting and potentially highly profitable, but you also have to be willing to take huge risks and learn from your mistakes. You’re not in this alone, though. Our how-to guide will walk you through everything from the qualities you need to be an entrepreneur to the tips you need to succeed once you get started!
Having the Right Attitude
1. Love what you do. Passion is the single most important ingredient for a successful business. If you don’t love what you do, entrepreneurship will be a constant grind that ends in defeat. As the owner of your own business, you have to go all in. You can’t do that unless you love your company.
- Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Have your business play to your strengths. For instance, if you specialize in cooking and customer service, start a restaurant! If you’re more mathematically oriented, go into accounting or engineering. If you’re a people person, start your own party planning business!
- Make a list of your passions. If you love baseball, running, watching sports, and going to the gym, consider starting a personal training business.
- If you are already an entrepreneur, ask yourself if you love what you do. Be honest with yourself. If you truly do love your work, your determination will be reaffirmed. If you’re struggling and don’t like the kind of work your business does, consider changing your company to align with your interests or starting over from scratch.
Running your own business is more than a full-time job. It’s your life. You need to be committed or you won’t make it.
- Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Starting a company from the ground up requires an enormous effort. You need to be committed if you hope to succeed.
- Have a mindset of working as hard as possible. This will be stressful, but especially at the beginning, there’s no time off. You need to work constantly to grow your business. Otherwise, somebody else is working harder than you and they’ll succeed rather than you.
- Work from home. Answer emails and make calls even when you’re out of the office.
- Make sure you take time off too, though. It can be tempting to work 24/7. The trick is to be at 100 percent when you work. Working harder is better than working longer. To be at your best, you need time off. Take a short vacation if you’re feeling burned out. Take time to stretch your legs and relax during the workday. Take lunch breaks every day.
3. Be organized. The organization is key to being efficient with your time. This doesn’t just mean keeping your paperwork and files in order. You have to have systems and routines in place to accomplish daily tasks.
- To-do lists are a great way to stay organized.
- Create a calendar that has everything on it. This is more efficient than separate calendars for separate activities. Include work, social, and family events into your calendar. Keep it up to date, and check it regularly.
- Budget your time wisely. You should look to fill the entire day with productive work, punctuated by short breaks. Don’t waste time on a fool’s errand or a long shot.
4. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Tap into your inner creativity and trust your intuition. A big part of what sets successful businesses apart is that the owners are trailblazers. You can’t just follow in everyone else’s footsteps. At some point, you have to set yourself apart from the pack.
- You need to take risks to be successful. You won’t always have all the information or all the resources necessary to make a decision. Go out on a limb and trust that you’ll make the right choice.
- Brainstorm and come up with new solutions. Try your own method of fundraising or your own approach to managing employees. Better yet, come up with a new product entirely.
5. Be willing to listen and learn. This is essential because you don’t know everything. Build relationships with industry professionals and take their advice to heart. Work closely with your business partners and employees, and ask them for their input. Even if you don’t take it, they’ll appreciate the sentiment.
- Good leaders always ask for help. You need to accept that you don’t know everything, and you can be a better leader with the collective knowledge of your friends and coworkers.
- Try to find a mentor in your industry to help you along the way.
6. Invest in yourself. All the best entrepreneurs take time and money to better themselves and become experts in their fields. Buy your market’s best books and journals, and read about the market every day. Attend business seminars and constantly educate yourself. Practice the relevant skills and take classes.
- Money should be no object when investing in yourself. Those investments will always have the biggest returns in the long run.
- You should, however, balance time spent on yourself and time spent on your business. Your business should come first in the short term, but self-investment should focus on the long term.
7. Be an exemplary leader. Project a positive image and it will pervade your company. You are the standard-bearer for your business. How you act determines how people perceive your business. Go out of your way to make sure your image is professional and welcoming.
- Go out of your way to make a good first impression. This is especially important when meeting with investors or industry leaders.
- Be encouraging and positive. This positivity will trickle down to the rest of your company.
- Be accessible. Have an open-door policy, and encourage people to come to talk to you about anything and everything.
- Always dress for the part. This is essential for your image. Look and act professionally at all times.
- Have a top-notch office if possible. If you work from home, have meetings in a public place like a coffee shop or library instead.
8. Be prepared to face failure and adversity. Eight out of ten small businesses fail. The odds are against you, and you’re sure to face adversity. To come out successful, you need tenacity and determination. Don’t be afraid to take risks. You need to be relentless and fearless to overcome the challenges ahead.
- If you aren’t that kind of person, being an entrepreneur may not be for you.
- Find motivation to keep going. Have a personal mantra, a pump-up song, a person in your life to push you, or an inner flame that keeps you going. Whatever it is, you need to be strong and motivated.
- If you fail, get up and try again. It may take you a couple of tries to get a successful business off the ground. Don’t be discouraged if you fail the first time.
Building Your Business
9. Self-promote your business. Have a perfect elevator pitch that you can confidently give anyone. This 30-second business pitch should be one of the first things you make. Give the pitch to anybody who will listen. Talk about your business constantly, and always look to share your vision. Your confidence and enthusiasm will spread and hopefully attract investors and strong business allies.
- Be careful not to go over the top with your self-promotion. This can easily become obnoxious. Be tasteful with your pitch.
- Practice your elevator pitch in a mirror. Perfect it, and constantly add to it as your business changes. Keep it short and concise, but convey as much information as possible. Make it compelling and interesting. Remember, you’re trying to sell your business!
10. Build a strong business team. Choose your co-founders and employees carefully. As a rule of thumb, hire slowly but fire fast. You should trust your business team entirely, and they should be highly competent and share your passion and vision for the company.
- For your first partners, trust is the most important factor.
- Communication is key. Maintain open lines of communication with everyone on your team.
11. Build a loyal customer and client base. These relationships are among your most important. Keep in contact with them and be as friendly as possible. Always follow up with your clients after a meeting. Make them feel wanted and part of the team, and they’ll give you their full support in return.
- Remember, the customer is always right. Bend over backward to give them what they want.
- Keep in touch with your clients. Let them know when you’re making a big business decision or if you’re changing the direction of the company. Ask for their advice to make them feel like they’re an integral part of the company.
- Your first clients are your most important. Treat them like it. Give them the VIP treatment, and they’ll stay loyal to you and your company.
- Get to know your customers. Spend time with them outside of a business capacity. Become their friend, and they’ll become loyal customers.
- Remember that no matter how good your product is, no matter how strong your business team is, and no matter how hard you work, your business is nothing without clients. They always come first.
12. Attract investors to support your business. Every person you meet is a potential investor. Build strong relationships with people who sound interested in your business, especially those who are industry professionals and known investors. Network constantly to build your pool of potential investors.
- Prove your business works. Even if it isn’t profitable yet, show that your idea is sound. Build off small successes to build support. People are much more likely to invest in an established company than an idea.
- Remember, investors, invest in people. If they trust you and like you, they’re much more likely to invest.
- Establish a diverse pool of investors. If all your investors are the same kind of person, your company is built on shaky ground. Aim to diversify.
- Inspire confidence and positive thinking in your investors. Your company is sure to face challenges. You want investors who can weather the storm, not investors who jump at the first sign of trouble.
13. Invest in a professional workspace. You may start your business from home, but eventually, you need a real office. Your workspace should impress clients and investors, and it should give you a comfortable work environment.
- Aim to be as professional as possible. The more legitimate your business looks, the more likely you are to be taken seriously.
- Organize your office. This helps it look professional and it helps your business’ efficiency.
14. Take full advantage of technology. A fledgling business with two employees can compete with a behemoth company by using technology wisely. Make use of the internet and a variety of apps to be as efficient and competitive as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to invest in building a strong technological infrastructure. Buy top-notch computers and industry products to keep an edge on the competition. Just be careful not to blow money on flashy but unnecessary equipment.
Keeping Your Business Running
15. Differentiate your product from the market. A cookie-cutter product doesn’t make for successful entrepreneurship. You need to have a unique product to make it in the long run. Look at the market and carve out a niche for your business.
- Ask yourself what the value of your product is. Find a way for it to provide value that no other product can.
- A small innovation on an existing product is a great way to differentiate yourself.
- Your product isn’t necessarily what has to be distinct. It can be the structure of your company or the way you go about fundraising and networking. Whatever it is, you have to do something different to make it as an entrepreneur.
16. Maintain constant communication. This is true in all aspects of your business. Failure to communicate is one of the main reasons businesses fail. Communicate the value of your company to investors and consumers and communicate on company matters with your partners.
- Maintain real dialogue with your clients. Communicate through whatever channel is best for them. If you don’t keep a dialogue running, they might leave you. If your clients leave you, your company will fail.
- Be clear, concise, and compelling with your customers. You don’t want to waste their time.
- There’s no such thing as too much communication with your business partners. Keep them in the loop as much as you can.
- There will, of course, be some decisions that you should make unilaterally without communicating. Keep those to an absolute minimum though.
17. Keep your company up-to-date with industry trends. Your business has to keep up with rapid changes in the market in order to maintain a competitive advantage.
- If you decide to change directions to keep up with a trend, do so quickly. Long, drawn-out changes will only hurt your business.
- See trends as an opportunity. As the saying goes, the trend is your friend.
- Organize your company so it can survive rapid changes. Be sure to communicate any changes to your clients and investors.
18. Avoid founder dysfunction by treating people with respect. A frequent cause of business failure is a breakdown from the top. The founder has a scandal or does something to lose the trust of their clients. A classic example of this is Lance Armstrong. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your business can make up for your lack of character.
- Remember that investors are investing in you, not your company.
- Identify areas of weakness and work to correct them. If you have trouble relating to people, work on your communication skills. If you have a tendency for benders or illicit activities, you must stop them before you become an entrepreneur. Investors always do a background check.
- Do everything you can to be likable and respectable. Conduct yourself with dignity, and treat your business partners with respect.
19. Be sure to lock down a profitable business model. You don’t have to do this right away, but if you want your company to be successful in the long run, you need to have a proven revenue stream. Look at what similar companies did to make a profit and use their business model as a blueprint.
- Don’t worry if you aren’t profitable at the beginning. You will rarely start off making a profit. Spend your money building up infrastructure and creating a great product, and investors will keep you afloat.
- Emphasize to your investors that the profits will come. Make sure you have a realistic plan for how to do that though.
- It doesn’t matter how good your product is, if you aren’t making a profit, your investors will eventually lose faith and your business will fail.
- Have a plan from the beginning on how to make your company turn a profit.
20. Reinvest profits back into the company. Once the profits start rolling in, it can be tempting to take them as a bonus for all your hard work. Resist that temptation. Reinvest your profits to build your company.
- Think about the long run. Most businesses fail, so you should do everything you can to make sure that doesn’t happen to your business.
- To grow your company, invest profits in marketing and sales.
21. More tips
Manage your time wisely. You don’t have time to do everything. Prioritize your tasks and delegate responsibility.
Invest heavily in yourself. Even if your business fails, you’ll be better prepared for your next venture.
Nobody is a natural entrepreneur. Work every day to improve the skills necessary to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Remember to take breaks! Overworking yourself won’t help you. Work smarter, not harder.
Talk about your business constantly. The more the word gets out, the better.
Communication is the key to success.
Don’t invest your own money in your business unless you have to. Be prepared to lose money if your company fails.
Eight out of ten small businesses fail. Be prepared for failure.
Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and energy, and it could be for nothing in the end.