It’s the clarion call that motivates thousands of people every year to become an entrepreneur. However, if you don’t know what you are doing, it can become “sleep less, work more” before you know it. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur is rooted in how you think about money, Business, and yourself. If you adopt the right mindset, you will be on the path to long-term success. However, if you hold on to old ways of thinking, you’ll always find your dreams beyond your grasp.
Whether you are starting out or looking to grow your business, consider these 7 keys and you’ll find yourself on the path to working less and earning more.
#1 PASSION BEFORE PROFITS
It’s understood that you can’t pay the bills with enthusiasm, but the most successful entrepreneurs know that if they aren’t passionate about their business, they won’t make it.
Often people become an entrepreneur because they don’t want a boss. They don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle for the rest of their days. They want out of punching the clock. Sadly, they’ve only decided what they don’t want. These are people running away from something. They lack passion. People with passion are running to something.
As an entrepreneur, there will be more hard days and long nights than you will care to count. However, if you move through those times with a driven purpose, something remarkable will happen. You will have the strength to push through. Your need to fulfill your passion will be greater than any obstacle you can encounter.
So what about the company that manufactures cardboard boxes? Does anyone think the founder has a passion for corrugated fiberboard? Not likely. In cases like this, the entrepreneur’s passion is simply being an entrepreneur. They enjoy the thrill of building something from nothing and leaving their stamp on it. For people like this, profits are more a way to keep score than to keep a business afloat.
So whether your passion lies in what you’re selling or in building a business, if you know what your passion is, the money will follow.
#2 BUILD A BUSINESS, NOT A PRODUCT
The halls of capitalism are littered with great products that never made it. Conversely, other businesses seem to find success in spite of their product.
While many would-be entrepreneurs have a “great idea,” few have the business and financial skills to support that idea and make it work. If you plan to build a successful business, you need to think about your business in its entirety and not the product alone.
As an individual, you don’t need to know everything about all of aspects of a business, but you do need to have a team and the resources to provide you qualified information and opinions. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs try to save money by doing it all themselves. They believe in their product so much they think that the product alone will cover a multitude of business sins.
Remember, you’re in business to run a business, not push a product.
#3 THINK SYSTEMS
Often people start a business dreaming of freedom, but soon come to a startlingly conclusion. They find out that if they’re not there to run the business, the business doesn’t make any money. They realize they aren’t the owner of business, but the owner of a job.
In the beginning, being an entrepreneur is a lot of hard work. However, if you aren’t constantly thinking about building systems and automating processes that can function in your absence, you’ll be working hard for the rest of your life.
One common mistake is being so concerned with making a sale that you bend, break, or ignore your processes. While it might benefit you in the short-term, over time all that is created is organized chaos. You and your employees will feel a need to reinvent the wheel every time a new customer comes through the door. By having systems and processes that you can move customers into and through, decisions come easier. Customers have a more professional experience. And best of all, your staff won’t be constantly asking you for guidance and direction because your best thinking is already contained in your systems.
#4 EVOLVE OR DIE
“Lead, follow or get out of the way.” While it’s a maxim that sets the tone for a company’s culture, it also serves as wise counsel for entrepreneurs. It’s a reminder to not only stay relevant, but also to constantly redefine what is relevant.
Technology commonly redefines how a business does business. From an online presence to Smartphone apps to customer analytics, it feels as if “how to run a business” changes daily. With how fast things change and the expenses associated with implementing some of these changes, it can be intimidating for entrepreneurs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and do nothing.
But when it comes to evolving your business, if you don’t do something, your competition will. Look at it this way. If you solve a problem, you can make money in your business. The bigger the problem you solve, the more money you can make. As markets evolve, the solutions created yesterday will become obsolete and new problems will emerge. An entrepreneur that isn’t constantly evolving will be left behind.
However, don’t think that technology is the only way to shake things up and evolve your business. Simply listening to your customers can often spark ideas that produce dramatic results. In fact, many of these ideas are small tweaks to what you are already doing as opposed to massive overhauls.
Be willing to try something new and resist doing things the same just because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”
#5 BE A LEADER
Many entrepreneurs fail to see the difference between leadership and management. In fact, some think of them as the same. As an entrepreneur, you will need to fill both roles. However, because of the constant urgency that goes with running a business, it is tempting to spend your time in the manager role. Focusing on management gives you the quick win. It gets things done today.
But while management is about tasks, projects, and getting things done right, leadership is about people, vision, and getting the right things done. Leadership is essential and you are responsible for providing it.
Now if you’re worried about your ability to lead, put your mind at ease. Great leaders aren’t born. They are made. But they aren’t made sitting in their corner office. They’re made in the trenches.
To be a leader, you need to make tough decisions. You need to say, “No” to what appears to be a great opportunity, but distracts the company from reaching its mission. You need to take responsibility for the company’s morale. You need to be a cheerleader for the projects and efforts of your employees even when you’re worried about greater matters. And while your job isn’t necessarily to make your staff’s jobs easier; you are responsible for removing obstacles that keep them from doing their best work.
Leadership doesn’t just happen and neither does success. In your quest for success, make sure leadership is part of the equation.
#6 BLAZE YOUR OWN PATH
Your job as an entrepreneur is to 1) convince people they need the product or service you are selling and 2) that they need to buy that product or service from you instead of your competition.
Job #2 requires you to be different. To be successful, you need to make your business stand out. Otherwise, you will just blend in with your competitors and they already have a head start.
Your business is differentiated from the competition when it becomes an extension of you. Most entrepreneurs started their own business because they wanted to leave a legacy. They wanted to express their passion and share it with the world. In doing this, they stayed true to themselves, discounted the naysayers, and above all else, had fun.
The more you can do blaze your own path, the greater your chance for success.
#7 FAIL FAST, EARLY, AND OFTEN
The education system by itself isn’t necessarily the best preparation for becoming an entrepreneur. The reason this is true is that our education system teaches people to try and not make mistakes.
Mistakes, according to the schools, are something to be avoided at all costs. Every mistake moves you further away from receiving an A+.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, aren’t afraid of making mistakes. They see mistakes as valuable course corrections that build a successful strategy over time. For entrepreneurs, mistakes equal learning and insight.
Also, consider this: With today’s technological advances, mistakes aren’t as costly today as they once were. When you compare the cost of leasing a building and hiring employees to launching a web page and outsourcing various job functions, the cost of failure can be significantly lower. In fact, many of today’s Silicon Valley success stories come from the founder’s history of failed businesses.
Don’t let fear of failure hold you back from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While there are many paths to entrepreneurial success, some are easier to tread than others are. By using the keys above to start and grow your business, you can put the odds in your favor for an easier journey. And more importantly, start working less, and earning more.