In this series of posts, Influencers and members share their advice for entrepreneurs. Read all the posts here and write your own (use the hashtag #mystartupstory in the body of your post), or upload a SlideShare.
In honor of small business Saturday I wanted to share my top 10 tips for budding entrepreneurs. This list was first published by CBC News and I often refer back to it when I’m meeting with new ventures or training our sales team at Herjavec Group. I hope it helps jump start your weekend—and put you on the right path to your own entrepreneurial success…
1. Believe in the business – and yourself
There are so many people that will say, ‘No – bad idea, it’s never going to work’. You have to have a senseless belief in your idea and yourself – almost to the point of being delusional. Remember that everyone has advice but no one knows what you have to go through to start, grow and scale a business until they live it! Talk is cheap, but action speaks volumes.
I often tell the story of the ancient general who took his troops to battle and when they got to the foreign shore, he burned all the ships so there would be no option of retreating. That is the kind of belief you need. There’s no going back.
2. Test before you jump in
Don’t ask your mom, your wife, your friends, your barber what they think – those are opinions (and often biased one’s at that!). Test the idea with the only people who really matter: the ones who are going to cut you a cheque for it. Call on some potential clients and see if they will buy whatever it is you’re selling.
3. Everyone lies
Some people will lie to you because they mean to. Others will do it to tell you what you want to hear. Either way, test everything you are told. If someone tells you they are going to invest, get a date. And if the date passes, make sure your spider senses are tingling. If a client tells you he is giving you the order, ask him if it is in procurement yet; if not, ask him if he minds if you call the purchaser yourself. Test what people tell you. They don’t always mean to lie to you, but they do lie.
4. Bring a compass
“It’s awkward when you have to eat your friends.”
That’s a cute saying I saw a long time ago, but it’s very true. When you’re starting out, you have to realize that it is going to be hard and then it will get worse…far worse than you think. Be prepared to survive the worst situation you can think of – and then assume that things will still get even worse than that.
Be prepared – it’s much better to have a compass to get out of the woods (just in case) than to have to eat your friends to survive.
5. If they can’t catch you, they can’t overtake you
Go fast – really fast. The elephant can’t catch a running mouse, but he sure can crush him when the mouse is standing still! When you’re small, you’ve got to be faster than the competition. Be nimble, be agile, be responsive. Learn from your customers. As you grow be prepared for the new entrants that want to take you down and ask yourself how you can maintain the sense of agility that led to your initial success.
6. Train for a marathon
This is where I completely contradict myself, because diligence is so important. Once you find a good opportunity, go slow and check and double-check everything. Business is a sprint until you find an opportunity, then it requires the patience of a marathon runner. I know this is hard and trust me, I am not a marathoner – but I have run two of them just to reinforce this point to myself.
7. Hunt for your dinner
No matter how full and fat you get, don’t stop looking for opportunities. You can never be satisfied as an entrepreneur, and the basis of any successful, growing business is new clients. Make sure your company always has the attitude of going out and hunting for its dinner. We don’t pay our salespeople for renewals at Herjavec Group, that’s a customer service job and not a sales job. Sales people should be hunters.
8. There is no work/life balance
Your business is a living, breathing thing, and it has to be fed and grow to survive. There is no balance in your life when your business is in trouble. If you are under the illusion that you can start a business and run it at your life’s schedule, you are mistaken. The business is like a starving puppy – when it needs to eat, then it needs to eat regardless of what you have going on personally.
9. Being committed to business is hard
The reason so few companies and people make it: It’s not easy.
Be honest with yourself. What price are you willing to pay to make the business work and be successful? Would you sacrifice your time, your family, your friends, your golf game, your entire social life? I am not advocating that you should, but you have to ask yourself if you are prepared to.
10. It’s all about the approach
Work hard…have fun…be nice…play fair…dream big.
We only get one chance at this life. If you’re going to play this game, play it to win.
To your success,
Photos: Getty Images