I’ve learned that many entrepreneurs face similar challenges. I’ve also learned the hard way that there’s no way to avoid these challenges.
If someone had told me early on that I’d be challenged in certain areas, I would have been able to identify these issues not as problems, but as tests that would make my business stronger. If you are working on your own entrepreneurial journeys, I want to offer some seasoned advice from challenges I faced and how I overcame them.
Navigating financial decisions and challenges
Money is the often the biggest challenge you will face as an entrepreneur. Your own name, debt and general state of finances are tied to those of your startup. This is true for anyone who also has a stake in your company, which magnifies the scale of the challenge.
Understand the nature of financial decisions
There are difficult financial decisions you need to make every day, from the initial pitch to ten years down the road when you are making money and need to figure out what to do with it. Financial decisions are prevalent through every stage of business including the choice to bootstrap or raise venture capital, to hire or to pass on a candidate, to give out raises, to sign a new contract, etc.
Have a game plan
Decide from the start how you’ll be funding your startup or your next wave of growth — and exactly what it will take to get there. What helped me navigate this is having a game plan. As someone who takes comfort in planning, I’ve always had a roadmap of where I wanted to go. My first game plan started on the back of a napkin, and this strategic plan has since evolved into a living document that I update on a regular basis.
Having clarity on the financial aspects of my business helped me to maintain it — and at times, regain — focus over the years. The game plan has made it easier to say “No” to distractions and “Yes” to opportunities that align with our mission, vision and values.
Handling customer relationship and challenges
As you take your first product or service to market, customer feedback will start rolling in. Anticipate both praise and criticism. Handling praise is easy, and should be done gracefully with gratitude. However, handling criticism is a more touchy subject.
For a truly disruptive business, you’ll get pushback from customers and entrenched providers alike, possibly even damaging slander. From my perspective, though, the volume and intensity of customer feedback is a great indicator of how much you’re innovating within an industry.
As a rule of thumb, take all feedback seriously, but recognize that it’s not all valid.
Distinguish between customers and critics
Consider your relationship to each source and whether or not that person is qualified to comment. Concerns voiced by actual customers is one thing; criticism from people who do not do business with you is different. Being able to distinguish between customers and critics will help you determine who needs a response and who does not.
Now that I have this customer-or-critic filter, the decision on whether to engage is easier. If they’re a customer: Yes. If they’re a critic: No. Armed with this filter, you won’t go unknowingly into a trap. Critics dig pits that they want you to fall into, so be careful. Remember that there is a time to speak, and a time to be silent.
Thank customers that share praise
I like to thank those who give praise by sending a personalized email or even calling them. By doing so, you’ll earn a customer for life and an advocate who may just feel compelled to stand up on your behalf in difficult times.
Develop a process to address criticism
Navigating criticism should be handled with equal delicacy. As the owner, I feel it’s my responsibility to clarify misinformation by connecting one-on-one whenever possible. This might mean getting on the phone or replying to an email. At times, you might even think it’s reasonable to jump into the fray via social to provide clarity. This is where you need to consider if the person you are answering is a customer or a critic.
Cultivating entrepreneurial resilience
I’ve discovered that resilience is something you can only learn by identifying a challenge for what it is: a test of your ability to navigate a delicate or complex issue. Being able to push through the pain, although seemingly counterproductive and at times unpleasant, allows you to come through the other side stronger.
Being able to overcome an obstacle takes perseverance, courage and the belief that what you’re doing truly matters. Is your business, your idea or your vision worth fighting for? If so, you’ll need to be resilient. With each challenge you overcome, you’ll find new ways of turning what some might perceive to be a mess, into a masterpiece.
This article has been edited and condensed.
David Ciccarelli is the co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent. The unique blending of his audio engineering background with business savvy and product development afforded David the creative freedom to pursue his passion for innovation. Connect with @davidciccarelli on Twitter.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.