As a serial entrepreneur, you learn a thing or two about small business. You learn the ins and outs; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most importantly, you become highly aware of simple truths — things that seem way too simple — those “things” that are behind the scenes of successful entrepreneurs.
In retrospect, I’ve learned the following indisputable truths about entrepreneurship. When you tell would-be entrepreneurs these truths, some novices will “Gasp!”, “Awe!” or outright ignore them, but it doesn’t make them any less true:
Make your business idea plain.
It sounds counterintuitive, I know. But before you pull out all of the stops, showcase all the bells and whistles, and develop layers and layers of your genius … get back to basics. Starting a business comes easy for some; and may be extremely difficult for others.
But one thing I know–unequivocally–is this: get your business idea out of your head and make it plain. Put it on paper (i.e., a business plan, napkin, carve it on a tree … you get the gist). If your idea is only in your head, that’s likely where it will stay.
Before your business idea becomes “grande”, it should first be very simple. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein said it best: ‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.’ I’ve found the same to be true of business ideas.
Start small and build incrementally.
Small business success is the sum of daily actions repeated day in and day out. I talk to many would-be entrepreneurs with a grand vision, but they never start because they don’t want to start small.
The truth is, generally, most small businesses start with humble beginnings. NastyGal CEO Sophia Amoruso started on eBay, and today Amoruso’s Nasty Gal is worth over $100 million and setting international trends. Airbnb reportedly used Craigslist (yes, Craigslist) to become a billion dollar company.
The lesson here is simple: old-school guerrilla marketing still works and starting small leads to bigger things. So, don’t despise humble beginnings. Start where you are, plan the work and work the plan.
Surround yourself with like-minded peers.
Surround yourself with like-minded peers is “PC” for get new friends. Yep! I said it and I’ll say it again. Build your network. Some of your current entourage will go with you (willingly), others by mere default will choose to stay behind (e.g., “Jane, I don’t know … it’s just … you see … you’ve changed!” (cue the melodramatics)).
I’d wager you didn’t become an entrepreneur to stay the same? Ultimately, building a business from scratch is hard enough without naysayers lurking in every corner of your personal and professional life.
You’ll hear successful entrepreneurs reiterate how important it is to surround yourself with doers, dreamers, and like-minded entrepreneurs because: when the going gets tough you don’t need Sulky Sally, Naysayer Nancy, or Jaded Jerry giving you bad business advice or holding you back. Going at it alone in business is necessary at times, but you’ll find it much easier if you develop a support system that believes in you.
Rededicate yourself to learning.
Can I tell you a little secret? When I started my first business in 2007, I needed a company website. However, I did not want to invest in hiring a developer at the time. So, I had two options: a) don’t startup or b) teach myself. I chose the later …
In 2007, I taught myself how to code. And while these days, I have a full development team at my disposal, the education was vital. For starters, no one can take me for a ride when it comes to web design and development; I know just enough to be dangerous. And most importantly, I know what a good developer looks like, and when they’re giving me lip service.
The point is, I took it upon myself to learn (with the help of W3Schools Online Web Tutorials). And the successful entrepreneurs among us make it a point to continually learn. So, understandably, I am always confused by would-be entrepreneurs that spend four-plus years studying at a university and yet refuse to learn something new that will move their strtup aforward.
When you refuse to learn, you limit your growth. When you aren’t amenable to learning from a business mentor, entrepreneurial peer, or random good business advice all I can tell you is (in my best James Gandolfini, Soprano’s voice) “Get outta’ here!”
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