The Internet has made building and running a business far more accessible than it used to be. Anyone can cheaply and easily build a website, set up shop quickly in a global marketplace, and work from home in their pajamas. So here’s a selection of the secrets of successful entrepreneurs that I have learned over my 20s.
As an entrepreneur, I can tell you what a fulfilling career it is. I’m 29 today and I built my first business when I was 21. This is why, like many of my millennial pals, I can’t imagine working for someone else. Though I did initially. As many entrepreneurs do, I worked a 9 to 5 job (until I was 26) while building my own businesses on the side.
So, I remember what it was like to… Have someone else rule my financial destiny. Wake up at 5am for a one-hour (sometimes two-hour) commute to the office. Request permission for time off. Ugh!
I also remember how creatively starved I felt. I had to defer to the higher-ups to make key decisions. They ultimately controlled the destiny of the business.
These are some of the reasons many people switch to entrepreneurship:
The lifestyle allows you to be fully self-expressed in your career. It provides you full ownership of your time and money. And, there is no roof on your income potential! All of these are priceless.
But, if you choose the entrepreneurial route, step into it with your eyes wide open. Its has its challenges.
For wannabe entrepreneurs, and those in the throes of building a business, there are pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. Follow the rules below to fast track to business ownership success:
Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs
Build a war chest
Having little money to support yourself is a surefire way to get in action fast, but it’s extremely stressful. Financial stress is debilitating. It will impact your ability to make smart choices for your business. You may find yourself making decisions based on fast-money versus thinking about what the business needs. Too many people quit their jobs before their business is stable.
That being said, it can be tough and exhausting to work in a high-pressure role for another company while building a business.
Before you jump into entrepreneurship, ensure you have an ample war chest, or build it around a full-time job. Make sure you have an income or structure that supports basic survival needs. At a minimum, you need to have enough money to cover housing, an Internet connection (of course), a mobile phone, groceries, and transportation expenses like a car, subway, bike or bus, etc. The private jet comes later!
Don’t expect overnight success
Successful entrepreneurs can make running a business look glamorous and easy. Ever watch an ad for a webinar about becoming an entrepreneur? They show scenarios like this: A millennial entrepreneur stands in front of a giant mansion with a pool, his laptop at his side. He shares a story about how he has automated his business. He makes millions and spends his time traveling the world.
While this life is possible for entrepreneurs, what’s left out of this story is the time it takes to build a successful business, and the struggles most entrepreneurs go through.
Similar to many of my entrepreneur friends, when I built my first business I had a bit of a “build it and they will come” mentality. I created a beautiful website, got some fancy business cards and started hitting networking events.
But I soon found that clients weren’t flocking to me as I had envisioned. It was my first hard lesson in the importance of learning about my target market first and doing more work to build a killer brand that would attract the right people.
Rarely are new businesses overnight successes. It takes time and a great deal of determination. Many entrepreneurs fail because they aren’t patient. Entrepreneurship requires mental toughness, immovable resilience and a granite-chiselled conviction to succeed.
A great idea for a new company is easy to churn out. However, the real work is creating a business that serves an unmet market. You may discover you need to tweak your initial strategy, sometimes many times over before you hit growth and revenue that will support your dream life (or frankly that even pays the rent or mortgage).
A business can take years to build, even when you’re following the advice of experts and doing all the right things. Be patient, determined and believe in yourself.
Be flexible and adapt your plan
Businesses sometimes fail because the person running the company is an artist or creator and not a true entrepreneur. To succeed you need to be both business-minded and creative. You need to be willing to do the books, create the products, build a team and hire people, open the mail and be social media savvy all at once!
Like most entrepreneurs, you may find that some of these jobs are not your strengths. And worse, you’ll hate doing a few of them. For instance, I handle the books for the digital marketing agency my husband and I own, and I don’t particularly enjoy it. But it’s a requirement for the business, and I like saving the money and being involved knowing what’s going on in the company finances.
You also need to be a strategist. That means deciding and choosing what the business needs by listening to what your customers need, not what you want to create. These are two very different approaches.
For example, let’s say you want to run a successful clothing boutique. You create a target market, then purchase an initial inventory of clothing that you love and think will be great. Now, you can be an artist and continue to buy items you like, or you could pay attention to what the hot items are selling, and buy more of those. Too bad if you don’t like the in colors or fashion trends. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own flare to the inventory you buy, just make sure it also moves off the shelves and keeps you in business.
Entrepreneurs are willing to crush all their notions and ideas about how their business should work. They let the business lead. They take themselves out of the equation.
Be 100% responsible
Young entrepreneurs often look at business as an easy way to make money in their sleep while they spend their time having fun. And yes, this is part of the beauty of living the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
However, it’s important to remember that even if you automate your business and free up your time, you’re the one in charge.
You always need to be the visionary behind business and, to think ahead. This is true even if you done a great job setting the business up so it runs without you. When your business is doing well, you must consider what it needs to stay doing well, or how it could do better. When it is struggling, you need to double your resolve and get through the hard times.
As an entrepreneur, you pay you. This is both exciting, as you have ultimate control over your financial destiny, and scary. It’s on you, and only you, that ensures the success of the business.
Find a mentor
If you want to build a successful business and you’ve never done it before, seek out a mentor. Look for someone who has a proven track record for success, and choose someone you trust.
I can guarantee that wouldn’t be in business today if it wasn’t for the mentors and life coaches I’ve had along the way. Think of it this way: An Olympic-level athlete would never train for a competition without a coach. It’s the same thing in business.
Your mentor may be someone you hire and get coached by. Or it could be a collection of online experts you follow and learn from. A mentor is paramount for your success as an entrepreneur. Building a business can be a lonely, frightening and confusing process. A mentor will teach and guide you. Use them to answer questions and bounce ideas off.
Find a incredible business person who is willing to be your mentor and suck all the business marrow out of them. For many successful business owners getting to coach a newbie entrepreneur is a joy. They’ll be as grateful to you as you are to them.
Mastermind your way to success
Surround yourself with a group of entrepreneurs by joining or creating a mastermind group. It might be a group made up of local entrepreneurs that meets weekly in your community. Or it could be an online group that meets in forum or on a weekly Skype call.
When I recently found myself stuck in my business I remembered what I learned from a mentor: “go to your community”. I realized that in the new area I’ve recently moved to, I didn’t have a group of entrepreneurial friends. So I quickly made some requests and connect through social media. It doesn’t have to be complicated to get a few like-minded people together.
A mastermind group can provide a weekly accountability structure; a way to make sure you meet the targets you set for yourself. It also gives you a platform to ask questions, share ideas and resources, and learn from other entrepreneurs.
Learn digital marketing basics
Entrepreneurial success requires basic literacy in digital know-how. This is true, even if you hire an agency to build your website, run your email campaigns, or drive traffic to your website. Third parties care less about your business than you do, so understanding the mechanics of digital marketing and hiring experts to execute the strategy is key to your success.
You will save a great deal of money if you learn how to do the simple things like:
At minimum, you’ll need to learn how to write great blog content, and use social media platforms to promote your business.
Find a digital marketing savvy friend to school you. Or seek out online experts or groups. Take an online course. Watch tutorials on Youtube. Learn digital marketing so your business stands a chance of being seen.
Use failure to succeed
Building a business is a process. You won’t do everything perfectly. Be okay with mistakes and failure, and understand that failure is a gateway to success. The more you fail, the more you can tweak your strategy, and the closer you get to learning what works.
When you accept failure as part of the process, and not something that can stop you, you’ll be on your way to great success.
Yes, there are times when running your own business will be confusing, challenging and frustrating. Find comfort in knowing that these tiny hurdles along the way are part of the process. Believe in yourself and keep going.
Being an entrepreneur with all its challenges is an incredible livelihood. It allows you to be self-expressed in your career. You get to be in complete control of your financial destiny. And, you get to live the life of your dreams.