What to Learn before You Start Your Company
Starting a business can be the toughest thing you do. Being an entrepreneur is often mistakenly thought to be full of short days, exiting meetings and luxury holidays, even though the reality can be exactly the opposite.
To ensure you don’t start your business with a naïve worldview, or, on the other hand, with a pessimist attitude, this guide will look at the most important lessons to learn. We’ve compiled four important things you must learn before you start your company to ensure you start on the right path to success. Below you’ll learn how to trust your instincts, to understand the power of failure, to stop looking for the magic trick and to be the expert of your business.
Lesson #1: TO TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
First, you need to understand there is no magic formula to success in business. A large part of your aptness to build a successful business relies on your capability to trust your instincts. Before you venture into creating a business, you must learn to trust your instincts, especially in the three areas of knowing who to trust, what you are passionate about and how to follow your dreams.
Know who to trust
Your business can’t ever rely just on you. You’ll most likely be the main engine behind your business, but a car isn’t a car if you just have the engine. You’ll need a team around you and finding the best people to support your business venture can sometimes be tough.
You need plenty of guts in business. You aren’t going to make it to the top by blindly trusting people and viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Not everything will be what it seems and your instinct can be the key to ensuring you know who is worthy of trust and who isn’t.
Most importantly, don’t simply trust people because you know them or they are your family. You are looking for people who are right for your business, not people who you like to spend time with. Building a team isn’t about selecting the funniest, the most charming or the nicest people, it is about finding the best talent and the person who will help the business achieve its aims. It doesn’t mean you need to put up with jerks, but don’t hire anyone if you don’t feel confident about their skills and talent.
You and the people around you must not take business decisions personally. Not hiring your aunt to be the secretary doesn’t mean you don’t love her or want her in your life.
Know what makes you passionate
Before you follow your dreams to setting up an ice cream parlor at your home town, don’t focus too much attention on scouting the target market or calculating the profit structure. This is important, of course, but you first must know if you are passionate about the industry and your business idea.
The businesses that survive the competitive market are the ones where the founders are passionate about what they do. If you don’t have a passion for the industry, towards the idea and for becoming an entrepreneur, you won’t be able to make it.
While there’s no conclusive data, statistics show around 90% of start-ups fail. This statistic is not to put you down, but it is to warn you about the road ahead. If you don’t have your heart in the idea, you won’t be able to weather the storms ahead of you.
Setbacks in business are inevitable. You need to have passion, determination and sheer willpower to keep going even when it seems impossible.
Follow your dreams
Above all, be aware of your dreams and don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t get into business because you want to make money or get yourself a better car – you can only turn your business venture into success, if you want the business to succeed and to help other people with your product or service.
You can’t be chasing other people’s dreams. Don’t try to build a multibillion-dollar cake company if you truly would be happier just having a small town cafeteria. You are much more likely to achieve the goals you are truly passionate about rather than objectives society tells you are important and valued.
Keep in mind this quote:
“Happiness will never be obtained by chasing someone else’s dreams. Make sure the ones you’re chasing are yours.”
Lesson #2: TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF FAILURE
You also need to learn about failure. You cannot avoid failure as an entrepreneur – indeed, you cannot avoid failure as a human being. But instead of fearing failure, you should try to learn to understand the positive power of failure.
Learn from failure
It is essential to learn from failure, not only from the mistakes you make, but also the mistakes other people have made in the past. If, and when, you encounter a problem and you deal with it in the ‘wrong’ way, look back at it analytically. What can you learn from the mistake? If your business venture suffers a blow, consider what led to the mishap in the first place.
Analyzing mistakes doesn’t mean you must spend weeks looking over your failures. On the other hand, it also doesn’t mean you can just close your eyes and move on. You need to find the lesson in the mistake, whether it was a business error or a bad judgment and move on.
As mentioned, you shouldn’t also focus on just your own mistakes, but learn the lessons from other entrepreneurs’ mistakes. Instead of spending all of your time studying the success stories, spend some time understanding why businesses fail. Sometimes failure can be a much better teacher than success.
Create a coping mechanism
Mistakes are inevitable in the business world. The most successful entrepreneurs aren’t the ones who make the least mistakes, but the ones who know how to pick themselves back up afterwards. For this, you need to be able to create a strong coping mechanism.
First, you need to understand setbacks aren’t going to define or destroy you. Don’t be ashamed of admitting failure and never shy away from asking for help. While being an entrepreneur can sometimes be the world’s most loneliest job, you don’t have to do it all on your own.
Make sure you have people around you to give you advice, to help and to support your venture. You want to be able to talk to business advisors and other entrepreneurs about business-related things. But you also need people around you who can get your mind off business. It’s easy to be consumed by your new business in the early months, but you need to occasionally relax and think something different. Friends and family play an important role in ensuring you don’t burn yourself.
Big part of a successful coping mechanism is understanding your limits in the first place. You must be aware of your financial as well as emotional limits – if you are closing in on them, take a breather and see if there’s anything you can do to salvage the situation. If not, don’t be afraid to pull the plug. Don’t let the earlier statistic of 90% of start-ups failing scare you, but let it empower you. There are other people who have tried, not succeeded, but who are still alive.
Lesson #3: TO STOP LOOKING FOR THE TRICK
If there were a magic bullet to building a successful business, you wouldn’t need to read this guide. Unfortunately, there are only little pieces of information that can guide you in the right direction, but the rest is up to you. Instead of wasting your time looking for the special trick to success, you need to relax and let things happen.
Don’t try to find the perfect business idea
First, as mentioned before, business is about passion and you won’t become successful if you just keep looking for the perfect business idea. You can’t enforce a good business idea on a think-tank. The best ideas sprung alive almost automatically. Some of the most successful business ideas might not even seem good on paper, but which manage to grow into a successful idea later on. Therefore, you don’t want to be cruel to your business idea – even if others think it doesn’t sound conventional, you can prove them wrong.
Your business should be an organic understanding of a product or a service. You will, of course, perfect it and find the best model for achieving your ideas, but the original idea should be almost like the light bulb moment in cartoons. Don’t try to seek the perfect business idea, but rather let it come to you.
If you look at the most successful companies, they haven’t started out as copycats. Facebook didn’t get successful because it wanted to be like Orkut, for example. Don’t look at companies in successful fields, such as technology start-ups, and think you want to get in on the action unless you get a killer idea that would work in the field.
Don’t search for shortcuts
Second point you must learn is to let go of the idea that shortcuts exist. Starting your own company isn’t easy and there aren’t magic tricks that can help you get from point A to C without also dealing with point B.
The important thing is to forget about copying what other people have done. While you can definitely learn a lot by reading about other businesses and entrepreneurs, you should never try to copy exactly what they have done. For example, while some might be able to start a small business whilst still working in another so-called day job, you might not. There are tons of different things that could work in certain situations whilst fail to produce anything good in others.
Avoiding shortcuts doesn’t just apply to the big ideas and frameworks around your company, you also need to keep away from trying to find a magic fix for simple and often small operational issues. It’s much better to dig in and do the paperwork and boring accounting issues properly instead of trying to cheat and find shortcuts.
It doesn’t mean you can’t look for help. There are plenty of useful small business apps, for example, that can make the more mundane aspects of running a business easier. Make sure you don’t waste time where there are easier ways of doing things, but don’t rely on magic tricks.
Lesson #4: TO BE THE EXPERT OF YOUR BUSINESS
Finally, the last thing you should learn before setting up a company is how to be the expert of your business. This means broadly three things: you need to have enough knowledge to start, focus your expertise on the right aspects of running a business and continuing to improve and innovate.
Have enough knowledge to start a business
Although running a successful business is much about being passionate about the product or service, you can’t run a successful enterprise without knowledge. The good news is that passion often means you thrive for more knowledge.
It is important you know everything there is to know about the product or service you are trying to sell. You can’t expect to just have a general idea and to have other people take care of the details – you must understand the industry and the workings of your business inside out.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you know it all. There are always opportunities to learn more and you should never say no to advice or new ideas. But you need to learn to trust your own knowledge and understanding, especially when it comes to making important business decisions.
Focus your expertise on the right things
Social media and the Internet have helped give rise to the small business and entrepreneurialism is on the rise. At the same time, these information streams have also given birth to vast literature on being an entrepreneur. There are guides on how to eat as an entrepreneur, the exercises for business success and all sorts of similar guides. Although they sometimes seem a little silly, there is plenty to learn from many of these and you should always seek to improve and better yourself as a businessperson.
At the same time, you shouldn’t try to become an expert in being an entrepreneur. Rather, your goal is to be the expert of your business and your field – the rest will follow. It isn’t important to know whether you should work at home or go for three holidays a year – all that matters is that you know your business inside out and know how to make it work.
Continue to innovate and improve
Finally, as mentioned above, you will never know everything and there’s always more to learn about your own business. If you work hard, then you might get your business to succeed. If you do, you can’t think it’s time to lay low and enjoy the success – the hard part is starting.
Just because you’ve found an audience for your service or product for this moment, you aren’t guaranteed to maintain it forever. You need to constantly listen to the audience giving you the success – your customers. What would they like to improve? Do they see themselves using your business after one year, two years, ten years?
Don’t focus on the ‘perfect business’, as it doesn’t exist. Your business won’t ever be perfect, but it can be the best it can be. Be proud of your achievements, but don’t take anything for granted. You need to continue to improve your business and your own approach as an entrepreneur. Look to be innovative and creative even when you have a formula that works. Don’t break it, but always have new ways to tweak it.
Whenever you make the decision to start a business, you are essentially stepping into the unknown. No matter how much you prepare yourself for it, you can’t guarantee the outcome. But with the above four lessons, you can ensure you don’t start with the wrong building blocks.
The four lessons will teach you about the right attitude and approach to creating a successful business. You’ll need to learn to trust yourself, surround yourself with the right people, gain as much knowledge as you can and follow your heart. Don’t be afraid to try – starting your own company can be daunting, but it can also be the most rewarding thing you do in life.
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