Starting your own business is hardly ever a smooth sail, we all know this. Come to think of it, whether you want to be an entrepreneur, a doctor or a baker, you will face a few bumps on the road. However, ruining your dough for croissants and making a bad investment don’t really weigh the same, which got me thinking: “What would existing entrepreneurs say to themselves, let’s say, 5-10 years ago?”
Everyone makes mistakes, but usually, mistakes are great opportunities to learn and if you can learn from someone else’s, instead of your own, that’s even better. So I did a little digging and came up with 17 tips for dreamers that see running a business in their future.
1. Ask questions
I know a lot of people who have too much pride to ask questions when they don’t know something, so they stay quiet or pretend like they understand it. Mostly it ends in two ways: either it looks like they don’t have an opinion, or they eventually say the wrong thing and end up looking stupid.
Don’t be afraid to be curious and, more importantly, don’t be ashamed when you don’t know something. No one knows everything, so there’s no point in pretending like you do. Asking questions is the only way you can learn, and no, you can’t figure everything out by yourself. When people share their knowledge with you, you will be able to make better and more informed decisions in the future.
2. Assemble a creative team
Okay, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a team, it could be just a co-founder, but my point is – two brains come up with better solutions than one. If you can find people who can complement you in the best way, your business is much more likely to succeed.
If there’s an area that’s not your forte, finding a creative team member to whom you can delegate the task to is a huge relief. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable a strong team is. With a creative and devoted group, work will be less stressful and more productive.
3. Take risks
If your work day isn’t exciting enough, that’s probably because you’re not taking enough risks, but I wasn’t trying to say that you should take chances to feel exhilarated. It’s a bonus, but not the main purpose. You should take risks because that’s the only way your business will prosper.
The world is constantly changing and evolving, so your business has to, as well. Technology develops, demand for certain things increases and decreases, so you need to adapt to the market all the time. The only way to come up with a groundbreaking idea is to take chances, see what works and what doesn’t.
4. Socialize all the time
You can meet people who are above you that will become mentors, peers that could work with you or newbies that might be useful someday. It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that the more connected you are, the better.
I have a friend who literally has a guy for everything and it’s a great thing, because whatever he wants to do, there’s someone he can turn to. Socializing is important, especially when you’re an entrepreneur, because often, your skill to make connections is what will secure the deal.
5. Never get offended by negative feedback
Even bad comments can be taken with appreciation, because it means that someone took the time in their day to express their negative opinion. It says that you’ve made enough impact on the person that he or she would think about you. You should never get defensive when you’re being criticized. Listen, try to think objectively and if there’s truth in it, do better next time.
6. Accept advice
Whether it’s advice from a colleague or a customer, being open to advice will only make you better. With that said, you shouldn’t listen to everyone and try to please every single person, that’s impossible. But after you’ve analyzed what someone said, you will know if it’s a useful tip or not. This is especially true with customers, because you are here for them. If they want something that you could pull off, it’s worth it.
7. Learn to take a break
As a new entrepreneur, you will be tempted to work non-stop and try to get as much work done as possible. While productivity is great, you need to learn when to pause and recuperate. If you push yourself too hard, the results could be disastrous and you will, in fact, be less productive.
Learn to read the signs that your body is sending you and, when you need a break, don’t be afraid to take one. When you feel energetic and ready to work, it will be easier to actually get things done.
8. Be careful about giving up too much equity
When you’re just getting started, you might feel like you don’t have a choice when it comes to sharing equity. Sometimes, you won’t have much more to offer than a piece of the pie, but be careful with that, especially when it comes to giving shareholding to investors. If you give up too much, you might not end up being the one who’s calling the shots. You shouldn’t give more than 20% to investors. This way, it might be harder to actually get you business running, but it will pay off in the long run.
9. There will always be somebody who is better than you
While you should aim to be the best, be the best version of yourself, don’t try to be better than everyone else. Chances are, you’ll never get to a point where you’re the top entrepreneur and that’s totally fine. If you try to be the best and fail, you’ll feel discouraged and low, and we don’t want that.
It’s a ride and you should take the most out of it, so it’s better to just be happy with yourself and know that you’re giving a 100%, regardless of where you stand in rankings.
10. Don’t try to do everything yourself
As a business owner, you’ll be the brains behind the operation, therefore, you must act accordingly. This is where you’ll learn the skill of delegating. If there are smaller tasks that can be done by someone else, let them do it. You can’t be in control of everything and constantly keep tabs on everyone, it will drive you insane. You have the big issues to worry about, so let your team do the rest. If you try to do it all yourself, you’ll constantly be occupied with trivial tasks and won’t be able to progress.
11. Be clear about your goals
A lot of people want to dabble in business, but don’t really have a strong vision about their place in the market. Before you take any steps to becoming an entrepreneur, make sure that you are clear about who you are and where you want to go. If you don’t set your goals right from the start, you will probably waste a lot of time with irrelevant projects that won’t really get you far. Trying to find yourself and your place as you go is a big time-eater.
When you know what your goals are, every action you take is for the purpose of getting you closer to these goals.
12. Prepare yourself for the unpredictable
It’s great to have a business plan and follow it, but the truth is, you can never fully predict what will happen. There are just factors that we have no control over, no matter how much we try to stick to the plan. You can plan everything to a T and it could still not work out the way you wanted it to. Don’t get too frustrated when this happens, just try to make the best of it and continue your journey.
13. Stay at your old job
When you first start, you’re unlikely to start making profit right away and the last thing you need is to worry about paying rent next month (on top of everything else). Since your business will still be in its inception, it’s a good idea to stick to your old job for a little longer. Although we admire giving everything up and doing what you love, this kind of impulsiveness might not be the best business decision. It’s better to make a gradual transition and dedicate yourself completely to the startup once you feel a little more secure.
14. Appreciate smaller victories
While we totally support dreaming big, don’t forget to feel proud when you accomplish smaller things, no matter how insignificant they might seem. You’re still a beginner, so biting more than you can chew is not a good thing, anyway.
Be grateful and proud of everything that you achieve, because hey, every small victory gets you a step closer to your ultimate goal. Plus, you’ll feel more satisfied because you’re getting things done, even if they’re not huge projects.
15. Be careful about spending money
You won’t have an endless supply of funds, so you need to really be careful about every dollar. Be economical and don’t spend money unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is a commonly-made mistake and can cause a lot of trouble. If you can manage with a team of five, don’t hire a team of 20 just to occupy the titles. There will be time for it later in the game, but in the beginning, be wise about spending and creative about getting the most out of what you do have.
16. Surround yourself with positive people
I’m not saying that you should go with people who are blindly optimistic, but, trust me, you’ll need little uplifting.
When you first declare that you want to start a business, most people will probably be skeptical. Don’t hold it against them, it has nothing to do with how capable or smart you are, it’s just that they prefer to play it safe. You want to surround yourself with positive and passionate people who will think of it as a challenge, not an idea that’s doomed.
17. Never give up
Let’s be honest, you’ll succeed, but then you’ll fail. Then you’ll succeed and fail some more. It’s a rollercoaster so you need to take it as it comes. Don’t get arrogant when the company’s doing great and don’t get disheartened when it’s not. Ups and downs are all a part of it, so don’t lose perspective. What will matter in the end is how persistent you were even when things were less than great.
No matter which area of business you choose, remember to have fun. You’ll never be at that exact point in your life ever again, so you might as well enjoy it.