Ideas, as author Sue Grafton says, are easy. It is the execution that truly separates the sheep from the goat. I believe all of us are creative individuals with the power to look at the world around us and envision a different reality. When I started my journey, I received a range of tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur, but this quote by Mark Zuckerberg stuck with me all through- ‘It is important for young entrepreneurs to be adequately self-aware to know what they do not know.‘
Fire from a Match Flare: We are all ideators — brooding, pensive, pondering, whimsical beings full of Noam Chomsky’s ‘colourless green’ thoughts. But not all of us are entrepreneurs. Converting an idea to an enterprise needs a certain something. An Archaeopteryx connecting vision to action, a Sumerian wheel of tenacity that converts a momentary match flare in your mind to a self-sustaining fire.
It is a hard and windy road, but one that comes with its own special rewards. As the founder of a platform that connects businesses with the right freelance talent on demand, I know this all too well.
It wasn’t long ago that I, too, had an idea flare up in my mind. The only difference being unlike others I didn’t let the fireworks die! Deciding to start up on my own is easily one of the best decisions I have made in my life, and despite the pitfalls, I would highly recommend it to friends, family, and the fellow dreamer; with the caveat that they are ready for a self-evolution. As for the missing link(s) and the secret sauce(s), I have listed down some tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur based on the knowledge that I have accumulated during my growing years:
Persist, Persevere, and Don’t Give Up Hope During the In-betweens
The whole cycle of a start-up – the processes of ideation, testing, implementation, and finally, growth — needs a lot of perseverance and patience. At every stage, you might be faced with insurmountable roadblocks or unexpected problems. There might be times when the solution might not be in sight either. It is hope which drives persistence and perseverance that will sail you through these troubled waters.
There are days when you wake up on the wrong side of Murphy’s Law and everything that can possibly go wrong takes an even horrible turn for the worst. And then there are days when the jigsaw just completes itself, and even your cruelest client compliments your work. An entrepreneur perseveres during tough times and persists during the good ones. The period in between these two extremes, the proverbial calm before the storm, is when entrepreneurs live and dream and hope. Developing these traits of persistence and perseverance should be prioritized over following any/all tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Remember, a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence. Be prepared to do mistakes and learn from them. If you believe in your business plan, then NEVER GIVE UP, definitely not without a fight.
Letting Go is Not Just for Relationships
As a to-be entrepreneur, you probably have stellar ideas that you think will change the world. You so desperately want these ideas to succeed that at times you can become blinded to hard facts. While it is important to back your idea and have faith in it, you also need to temper this deep-rooted love with prudence and objective assessment.
If something is not working out, let go. Tomorrow will be a better day, and you will find the one! To keep on the right path today, you have to set a proper balance between your (and your team’s) objective, and the learning you face. And you must know when to stop persevering and let go. This is one of the master keys to a successful business. You can also take a leaf from Angel Investor Liron Petrushka on the ‘art of letting go’ and how it helps CEOs.
It is a thin line to walk and yes, you might get it wrong the first few times. Even if you were to read thousands of tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur, you would never find anybody saying that it is a piece of cake! Maybe, I never met such a person.
You are not Superman. Admit it Already!
Entrepreneurs have a problem and it is called the ‘Superman Syndrome’. Many entrepreneurs are workaholics, who believe that no one else can do the job better than them. Sadly, that is not always the case. As I have learned from my own experiences, having an able team to support and execute your ideas makes you a better brand. Go on out there and find your ‘Superboys’ and ‘Supergirls’ before you work yourself to death. Among all the tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur, following this tip will ensure that you don’t experience a premature burnout. Remember, there is a stark difference in the working style of an employee and an entrepreneur. Optimal utilization of time is possible when tasks that can be delegated, are delegated to the respective teams.
Also, a note of caution: the first few members of the team are the most difficult to find and retain, but they are worth the effort. Don’t settle for someone who might have to be replaced after the first few months. The initial days of a startup are critical – recruit when you are absolutely certain. So, up, up and away to Planet Teambuilding, right on!
Swallow the Bitter Pill. The Customer is Always Right
Being defensive is part and parcel of being a new entrepreneur. Every time someone says something bad about your product or service, it is but natural that you will get your hackles up. Mellow down, because, despite their seemingly rude and abrasive behavior, and their inability to understand your greatness, your target audiences’ critiques are important. As the old adage goes – you can’t make everyone happy – brace yourself for the brickbats from day one.
The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top. – Dr. Joyce Brothers
Negative feedback or failed processes create resilience. And resilience gives rise to perseverance. Together, they can help you turn seemingly adverse situations into learning. Ignore them at your own peril, because their feedback can help you become even better than you ever imagined. Most tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur revolve around the assumption that you have imbibed resilience as a personality trait in yourself; that is if you are not born resilient. Swallow the bitter pill my friend, and look for the silver lining. In it lies your salvation.
Learn Everything You Can
I said before that good teams make good brands, but I am also telling you that in order to run this team you need to get a taste of all the responsibilities you want them to shoulder. Change your name to Jack if it helps you master all trades, but be a master, you must. Only when you understand what is needed, will you be able to set up perfect SOPs.
Make cold calls, follow up with your clients, handle client servicing and know their grievances. Get your hands dirty doing real-time issue resolutions and use apps to track on-ground situations. Be everywhere, learn everything; because you cannot teach others what you do not understand, and nobody can fool you when you know something like the back of your hand. A successful business owner is one who can lead by example. Millennials are the majority workforce today and believe me, they know more motivational quotes than you. Nothing motivates a team better than a leader who they can look up to when they are in a fix.
Another benefit of learning everything is that you can pitch in either to train or share the load when unexpected volumes hit you. When a leader fights the enemy standing shoulder to shoulder with the army, the battle is rarely lost.
I enjoy seeing ideas grow, and all the advice above comes from my own experiences. I have had my share of stumbles and dreamy days, and I still have my sanity intact thanks to the help I get from my lovely team. These are life-lessons, and it is prudent to learn from other’s experiences.
Tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur : The Missing Link is…
What I know now is that if there is a mother of all missing links it is our inability to rise above our fear of failure and its abyss of mediocrity. This inability can render all the tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur ineffective. There is no formula to fight this fear. You will find mentors to show you the ropes, and teammates to share the burden, but no one else can fight your fears for you. Once you find that inner strength, you would have found the most important link of all. And your journey to becoming an entrepreneur would have begun in earnest!
A version of this content was first published by Entrepreneur.
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