4.06.2015

An entrepreneur shares 11 things he wishes he knew about business when he started out

By Brian Roberts, businessinsider.com
lectureI've been an 'entrepreneur' since as far back as I can remember.
From candy bars in grade school to resume writing in high school and beyond, it's encoded in my DNA.
But a 'successful' one?
Well, let's just say every company I started either fell flat or fizzled out. The only thing I had going for me was persistence.
But the "fail, get up, and try just
to fail again" cycle was a vicious one, and it was starting to take its toll on me.
Until something interesting happened.
I began to take inventory on all of these failures.
Suddenly, every setback became a lesson within itself — a lesson on what not to do. Over time, after putting this newly acquired knowledge to use, my fate changed.
What follows are the 11 hard-earned lessons I wish I had learned sooner.

1. Don't always do what you love

Do you know why most businesses fail? Because they are based on selfish needs — founders doing what they want versus what their customers or their market wants.
People don't care about what you love unless you're exceptionally skilled at it. Even then, they aren't going to shell out their hard-earned dough for something unless it benefits them in some way.
Following your passion into business is fine, but make sure you research and focus your efforts on the customers' needs, not your own.

2. But don't start a business just to make money, either

Chase money and it will elude you.
Focus on offering pragmatic value and meeting needs. Go above and beyond with customer service, listen closely to customer feedback, and use this information to improve your offerings.
These habits will keep customers around and, by proxy, keep the cash coming.
Chase value and needs, not money.

3. Can't scale? You'll fail

It all boils down to simple math.
The more lives you impact with your business, the more successful your business will be. To make millions, you must serve millions.
If you run a local store, you can only serve so many customers in a day. Your scale is limited and thus, your financial potential is capped. Begin to sell your wares online, though, and you open up the flood gates. Your business now has scale.
You'll know your business can scale if it allows you to divorce time for money.

4. Respect the process

Most people want things like money fast and easy.
It's no coincidence that these same folks usually have the least amount of it. To get what few have, do what most won't. That is, start something and stick to it. Most people are impatient, get bored easily, and quit when the going gets tough.
Tangible results come from rigorous patience.

5. Market and innovate

Some of my first business expenses included business cards, custom letterhead, custom envelopes, t-shirts, office space, and other ego-stroking starter kit essentials.
But did you catch what's missing? Anything to do with my customers.
Your purpose at the outset is simple: effective marketing to distinguish and inform others about your business and to innovate. And by innovate I don't mean create some revolutionary new product. I mean create constant new value for your customers.

6. Do more with less

Mindless spending is bad. Eliminate it altogether by looking at your purchases differently.
Keep your instant gratification in check and ask yourself: Will you use it a month from now? 6 months from now? A year? 2-3 years?
One of the best purchases I ever made was on a postage printer. I've been using the same one for years, and it saves me both time and money on trips to the post office.
If the ROI or long-term value isn't there, skip it.

7. Test then invest

Despite what movies and mainstream media will have you think, entrepreneurs and business leaders aren't crazy risk-takers.
Well, at least the ones like me, who learned the hard way not to be.
Test, then invest. Don't bet the house on anything until you've tried it on a small scale and see that it works.
Constantly ask yourself how you could improve your marketing or value. Then, do a small rollout first to test the waters. It'll save you time and money, and will make you much more confident when it's time for the full rollout.

8. Don't be interested, get committed

Interest is having an inspiring conversation with a friend about your goals or reading about a prospective business you'd love to start.
Commitment is applying what you learned and getting to work right after, then working at it the next day, and again the next day, and the next day, refining your process every day until you've reached your goal.
Don't be fickle or indecisive.
Eliminate all distractions and non-essentials, buckle down, and get to work.

9. Fail fast

Most people fear failure like the plague. They cower in terror at the prospect of looking foolish. But this is a naught fear. Why?
You only have to be right once, and once you succeed, it will eclipse any failures before it. So fail fast, because it's the only way you'll be able to rule out what doesn't work and figure out what does. Screw what anyone else thinks.
Keep failing until you don't.

10. Command and control

If everyone is doing it, then you need to move along to something else. Last time I checked, everyone isn't rich or successful in his or her own right.
Never follow the crowd, and seek to control as many variables as you can. As an example, be the one to sell franchises, not buy into them. You want to be a producer, not a package-handler, distributor, or hitchhiker.
The control you must seek should involve everything in your business from the top down. Surrender this control, even just a part of it, and you are allowing someone else to take the wheel and determine your fate.

11. Figure out what drives you

Behind every huge acquisition or success story in the news is a process ... often a long, arduous process. The only way you'll make it out on the other side is by figuring out what moves you.
Do you want the freedom to be with family more? Make a difference in the world? Reclaim your health and vitality? The ability to do what you love free of financial burdens? These deep desires will keep you motivated through the hard times.
Never lose sight of them.


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