Starting your own business is one of the most difficult things in the world.
Starting a business that makes money, and keeps doing so for many years is even harder.
This is both part of the appeal and the biggest obstacle holding people back from becoming an entrepreneur.
Even so, it’s not an impossible task. Virtually everyone who has achieved greatness in some form has left a few pearls of wisdom for those seeking to emulate them, and their unique insights into the challenges facing somebody trying to become a successful entrepreneur are worth both repeating and exploring.
So let’s get started.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Taking calculated risks is a principle you will see espoused over and over again by all great entrepreneurs. The alternative is to lose out on opportunities, and resign yourself to stagnation.
Technology, politics and social values are in a state of constant change. The only way not to be left behind is to keep moving yourself so you can position yourself with an advantage over your competition before they can.
The advice is equally applicable to those who are already in business for themselves, and those who have yet to take the leap. A simple example to illustrate:
Imagine you worked for a company, and received a wage in return for the work you do for them. You’ve been planning on starting your own business, but are reluctant to leave the safety of steady employment.
The next month, the company is forced to downsize after losing a significant chunk of the market share to a new competitor. You find yourself out of a job, as they can no longer afford to retain you.
Instead of taking a risk, you allowed your future to be decided by the actions of others. The truth is that taking no action is also taking a risk, but it’s one in which you cede the initiative to somebody else who will be more ruthless in using it.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour.” – Elon Musk
The life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Those who push through the barriers and resistance don’t succeed because those obstacles were easy to overcome. They become stronger to smash through whatever threatened to hold them back.
If running your own business is truly important to you, then you will find a way to make your dream a reality. You can guarantee that it will be a struggle, because nothing good is ever handed to you on a silver platter until you make it so.
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – J. D. Rockefeller
The worst thing that can happen to you as an entrepreneur isn’t a catastrophic failure. That would teach you an invaluable lesson, and give you new experience to draw on in the future. It may even inspire you to do better.
The worst thing is far more insidious. If you ever find yourself feeling comfortable, it’s quite easy for your ambitions and dreams to slip away in favour of preserving the status quo.
This doesn’t seem like such a bad deal on the surface. After all, if you’re comfortable then things can’t be that bad, right?
And it’s true. Things could be much worse. But what if you were able to peek into two possible futures – one in which you stopped and life went on much as it does now, and one in which you kept the momentum screaming forwards until you reached a point of success so far beyond what you could have ever expected at the beginning.
Would you regret not going for the greatest possible outcome more than you would regret having to start again if it went wrong?
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee
There’s nothing particularly special about successful people. They don’t have superhuman abilities, and many people with seemingly impossible situations have transformed their lives.
What sets them apart is their ability to follow through. How many times have you made grand plans, and then not bothered with them? Work, the latest series on TV, going out for drinks, gossiping about colleagues – all of these are distractions. They provide short-term satisfaction, at the cost of sapping your energy.
This isn’t to say you can’t have a well rounded life. In fact, becoming a social recluse and doing nothing but working for your entire waking life isn’t a very solid plan for consistent results. But you must be able to set boundaries so that you can work uninterrupted on the things that matter most.
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky
You’ve probably already thought of a dozen different ways to make money today.
But thinking and doing aren’t the same. Coming up with an idea for a novel isn’t the same thing as sitting down and banging away at the keyboard until you’ve got a 200+ page novel ready to send out to publishers.
Being creative is important, but it’s not enough by itself. You’ll need patience, focus, determination and the right skillset to make your ideas come to fruition before they become anything more than fantasies.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
You can plan until your brain dries up, but you can bet your own soul on the fact that, sooner or later, you will do something incredibly stupid. Especially if you’re just breaking into something, whether it be learning a new language or starting a new venture, you will make a mistake due to a lack of knowledge, experience or just sheer overload.
Don’t be afraid of this. Mistakes are simply opportunities for learning. Ordinary people make mistakes and feel embarrassed, trying to avoid any possibility of being humiliated by their own actions again. Successful people just plow right on through, barrelling with glee towards the next mistake.
This isn’t because successful people like making mistakes. They like to take on challenges, to improve themselves and to learn. Mistakes are simply a natural part of their journey towards betterment.
“The minute you start compromising for the sake of massaging somebody’s ego, that’s it. Game over.” – Gordon Ramsay
Ego is a killer. It could be yours, a partner’s or even a client’s. Allowing it to dictate your actions instead of the bottom line is foolish, because you lose sight of your true objectives and engineer circumstances that can undo all of the hard work you’ve put in.
You can’t afford to keep bad influences around because it will upset them. You don’t owe people their sense of pride. Anybody worth keeping around will work damn hard for their place, and even some of those will simply not make the cut regardless of how hard they work.
Business is ruthless. In order to truly thrive you have to be equally ruthless. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of your goals, especially something as fleeting and ephemeral as ‘feelings’.
This doesn’t mean you should be an abusive and cold hearted monster. You have to be willing to recognise when those around you aren’t pulling their weight, and understand that catering to those who underperform is like handicapping yourself on purpose. You don’t stop talking to your mother just because she’s got no business sense, you just don’t put her in charge of your marketing department when there’s somebody more qualified.