An entrepreneur is someone who comes up with ideas, products or services to solve problems for the world. The path of entrepreneurship is built differently for every individual, but all successful entrepreneurs need to be prepared for failure and criticism, and they should constantly be learning and improving themselves.
There is no secret recipe or holy grail to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but here are 10 tips to assist you on the journey ahead:
1. Develop a business plan.
A business plan materializes your ideas onto paper and helps you to envision how your business will be operated. In brief, your business plan should at least answer the following questions about your business:
• What is your product or service? What are your priorities?
• Where will you be operating your business? Where do you want to be in five years?
• When will your business operate?
• Why should people buy your product/service?
• Who is your target segment? Who is your competition?
• How will the day-to-day operations be run? How will you deal with unforeseen emergencies?
These are just a tiny sample of questions to start your brainstorming process. The more questions you can answer, the more clarity you have about running your business.
2. Be frugal.
Think twice before buying anything or signing a lease. To determine if the expenditure is a necessary and good investment, refer to your business plan and ask yourself how your purchase will contribute to the success of the business, as well as any additional costs you could be incurring, such as depreciation and maintenance costs. Always aim to do more with less, and look for ways to reduce costs, such as bartering with other companies.
3. Continuously educate yourself.
Be a voracious learner. You can attend live seminars or classes online. I also recommend reading books by a successful entrepreneur you admire. Even if they aren't in the same field as you, you could learn a lot from both their successes and failures. Observing how they solve problems can give you tips on resolving your quandaries.
4. Build a winning team.
Behind every successful business is a reliable and competent team. This can include engaging an online personal assistant or working with a skilled accountant. Considering sales are the lifeblood of every business, I recommend making your first hire someone who can facilitate revenue by either increasing sales or making the sales process more efficient. I also recommend recruiting people who can take charge of multiple things for greater efficiency.
The key is to recruit the best people to help you achieve your goals, but more importantly, people who share your vision. Every teammate might bring a different skill set to the table, but the entire team should always be on the same page about the company’s vision and values.
5. Find a mind-body-soul balance.
Make sure you eat healthily and find time to declutter your mind. Your personal wellness is as important as your company’s bottom line. Even if your office is at home, find ways to unplug from work and recharge by going for a walk or exercising to release some endorphins (your body’s natural feel-good chemical). Excessive stress is detrimental to your health. Remember that your business thrives only if you do.
6. Take advantage of free marketing tools.
Some free marketing tools such as Google My Business and social media can be used for marketing and promotion. Many businesses create Facebook peer groups to spread the word and interact with like-minded people.
A valuable lesson I learned was that having excellent marketing on a decent product or service is better than having little marketing on an excellent product or service. The more people who know of your company, the better. Moreover, this ties in with tip No. 2 about being frugal and doing more with less: If you can gain publicity for no cost, why not?
7. Find a mentor.
Having a mentor you can trust is a valuable asset. Whether you’re in a mastermind group or have stayed in touch with your former teachers or other business associates, guidance is always valuable. Work with someone who has climbed that very mountain you are trying to navigate to shorten your learning curve.
8. Don't be afraid of networking.
Don't be afraid to seek help. Most of us have contacts who can contribute to our success. I’m not saying you should call them up and immediately start pitching to them, but you can always meet them to catch up over coffee or a meal and see if there is any way that they’re able to help.
You could also start with LinkedIn, which was meant for business networking in the first place. A friendly greeting and introduction with no expectations of any outcome is all it takes to start a conversation with a stranger. It might seem unpleasant and awkward at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. I believe your network is your net worth.
9. Be financially prepared.
Starting a business always costs more than anticipated. You can allocate part of your revenue into an emergency fund to prepare against unexpected financial emergencies. As a last resort, you might have to take loans or inject your own money into the business. However, always pinpoint the root cause of the financial problems and resolve them if they are within your scope of control.
10. Invest in insurance.
Risk management is a major part of an entrepreneur’s work. Every decision carries its own risk, some of which are completely unpredictable. No one will ever be able to predict what could happen tomorrow, so you should spare no expense to keep your business and property protected. I've observed many business owners who regret not purchasing insurance, only after misfortune strikes and their bill comes due. Consult an insurer to find out how to protect yourself and your business. Your future self will be thankful that you did.