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Entrepreneurship - 10 Things I Have Learned as an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship is routinely a trial by fire. You prepare yourself as best you can, and then you learn as you go. You tend to get burned fairly frequently, but as long as you take your mistakes and learn from them, they’re just as valuable as your successes.
This process has taught me several important lessons. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been critical to the success I’ve experienced so far. Here are the top 10 lessons my entrepreneurship adventures have taught me.
You Can’t Control Everything, So Control What You Can
In business as in life, there are more factors at work than you could ever account for. Sometimes things turn out the way you expect, but just as often something unpredictable happens and your plans go out the window.
I’ve learned to accept this variability and view it as a challenge. I work hard to control what I can while remaining flexible enough to alter course if the need presents itself. There are limitations in every system, and entrepreneurship requires you to recognize them so that you can plan ahead.
DON’T TURN DOWN OPPORTUNITIES LIGHTLY
I like to think about opportunities I’ve had that seemed small, but blossomed into a large account with a boatload of ongoing work. There’s a chance I might have considered turning one or two of them down, either because I was too busy, the customer seemed hard to work with, or the size of the job wasn’t worth my time. If I had, I would never have known how much future work I was actually turning away.
You never know where your next big opportunity might come from, and you never know where new business ideas might be hiding. That’s why I think long and hard before turning someone away. I might think I know what I’m rejecting, but I really have no idea what it might turn into.
ALWAYS FOLLOW UP
In the same way that you never know which opportunities could grow into something bigger, you never know when someone might say “yes”. I tend to treat a “no” as a “not right now”. My service might not be relevant to a prospect at the moment, but a month, six months, or a year from now their situation could change.
I follow up with prospects regularly and often, keeping the conversation going. I find this keeps me at the front of their minds, and when things change, and they often do, I’m there, ready to help.
HARD WORK TRUMPS ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Statistically, most of us aren’t the smartest, luckiest, or most talented people in our industries. I know I’m not. Thankfully, hard work exists as a great equalizer. To realize small business ideas, you don’t have to be the best as long as you work tirelessly in pursuit of your goals.
It’s the tortoise and hare story. The tortoise wins not because he’s the fastest. He takes the prize because he’s consistent. He keeps putting one foot in front of the other, pushing as hard as he can for the finish line. His hard work ensures that he’ll find success, even if it takes a bit longer than it might for other people. The hare’s superior speed doesn’t help him in the end because he’s presumptuous and lazy. He assumes he’ll win, and doesn’t put in the effort until it’s too late.
RISKS ARE CRUCIAL FOR SUCCESS
How much money can you expect to win if you visit a casino and never play a single game? Winning requires that you sit down at a table and take a risk. You might lose, but doing nothing guarantees that you make no forward progress.
I’ve learned that the trick to successful entrepreneurship is to carefully consider the risks you subject your business to. I weigh each one, trying to determine my chances of success versus failure as well as the possible upsides relative to what could be lost. If a particular chance seems stacked in my favor and I suspect that my company’s strengths will be enough to overcome possible stumbling blocks, I leap in with both feet.
DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
Winston Churchill famously said that “perfection is the enemy of progress.” I’ve learned to take that lesson to heart. You can’t expect perfection from yourself or other people. If you do, you’ll waste valuable time trying to hit an unrealistic benchmark and miss out on opportunities.
If I’m writing a proposal, I shoot for good...maybe great. But once I have something I’m happy with, I just move forward, trusting that the work my team has done will be enough. Remember what we learned earlier. There’s more at work than you could ever account for. Even if you achieve “perfection” it might not be right or enough. So do your best and then let it go.
SEE ALSO: How to be Great at Sales
HIRE GREAT PEOPLE
You may be the founder, the CEO, or a person of significant position at your company, but you aren’t the business. You’re one link in a much bigger chain. You might not be the smartest programmer or the most skilled analyst. There’s likely always someone better than you. So hire them. You can make up for your weaknesses by building a balanced team that does everything well.
SEE ALSO: How to Build Brand Awareness
YOU CAN FIRE CUSTOMERS
If you have an employee that’s not pulling their weight and is resistant to correction, you would eventually fire them because they’re weighing your business down. The same is true for clients.
Occasionally you’ll encounter customers that are difficult to work with, take up too much of your time, or otherwise feel like dead weight against future growth. Instead of dragging them along, cut your customers loose. Their absence will make room for new opportunities that are better for you and your company’s health. You don’t want to miss new business ideas because you’re wasting time with losing propositions.
SEE ALSO: 6 Game-Changing Customer Service Ideas
THINK OF CHALLENGES AS GIFTS
Challenges are opportunities for growth. They can be painful in the moment, but if you persevere, you and your business can wind up stronger, more resilient, and better positioned to take advantage of future entrepreneurship opportunities. In this way, obstacles and difficulties are a gift. They force you to rethink assumptions that could be holding you back and create new ways of looking at your situation. Plus, framing challenges as gifts removes negative connotations that can shut you down, preventing action.
BE CONSISTENT IN ALL THINGS
The blog you’re reading is a lesson in consistency. In its early months, it generated almost no traffic for our website. But we kept posting consistently, week in and week out. At the end of the month if we didn’t see progress we didn’t get discouraged and quit. We kept posting, confident that eventually Google would help us catch wind in our sales.
Six months...seven months...eight months...and then suddenly magic started happening. The work we put in early on started building momentum. Traffic grew, slowly at first, but then took off in a geometric pattern that went straight off the graph.
So work hard and be consistent. Know that your efforts will pay off in the end as long as you keep doing the right things. That’s been our mantra here at Simply Noted, and it’s worked well so far.