Leaving a corporate world and starting your own business is something everyone of us wants.
When our founder, Aymeric started off with Week Plan, he learned that he can’t learn and be the best at everything but still needs ongoing improvements to make.
But he has figured out a few things along the way and he can happily report that it’s been many years since he questioned whether this was the right or the best choice for him.
So here are 15 lessons he learned that every entrepreneur needs to acquire sooner or later.
1 - You have to believe!
Being an entrepreneur can be exhilarating, but it can also knock you to your knees. If you’re not prepared to do what you have to do, you’ll never make it.
And when times get tough…and they will, you have to have an unshakable belief in your ability that will keep you in the game.
No doubt, entrepreneurship will test your commitment and perseverance so you can’t be second-guessing yourself or your dream.
2 - You have to take risks.
It may seem obvious, but taking risks is a hallmark of a good entrepreneur. Let’s face it, those who choose this path have to make the leap, usually leaving the comforts of a stable job or path behind.
But taking risks are not confined to launching a new venture. To be successful, you will continue to embrace risk and uncertainty. To quote a Latin proverb, “Fortune favors the bold!”
3 - You have to sell.
Along the way in his career, he’s met and worked with countless entrepreneurs and small business owners who don’t want to sell, don’t have the skills, or don’t have the desire to learn.
Unless, you are able to hire others who can do the selling for you, you’re going to fail. No selling = no clients. And no clients = no business.
And even if you do hire others, you need to have these skills. Don’t get hung up on what you think “selling” is; you may be wrong. In fact, one of the biggest lessons you can learn is to NOT act like a typical salesperson.
Be genuine. Be interested. Be engaging. Be curious. And be authentic.
4 - You have to become a master of a very small universe.
There is no doubt that narrowing your focus and becoming “the” expert is the way to go for success. Being all things to all people, on the other hand, is a path to disaster. Select a Bull’s Eye Market that you can understand and serve better than anyone else. Then, give it your laser focus.
5 - You have to adapt.
I think one of the best traits an entrepreneur can have is nimble toes!
Sometimes we start a business with a clear idea and plan and then we find that our customers want or need something different. Maybe the market shifts, the economy tanks or the competition changes.
If we don’t adjust, it’s likely to have serious, or perhaps even disastrous, repercussions. While a plan is great, being nimble and flexible goes a long way in making sure that you survive.
6 - You have to be decisive (and be willing to make mistakes).
That’s not to say that you can’t change your mind.
But if you want to lead and make progress, you can’t do it by over-thinking or over-analyzing all the decisions that you are confronted with on a daily basis. A corollary is that you will make lots of mistakes along the way.
Learn from them and use them to make better decisions moving forward.
7- You have to act.
There’s a saying that I like to challenge when I’m training a group. It’s “Knowledge is power.” My version is “Applied knowledge is power.” It all comes down to doing something and taking action. Without action, you are just thinking a lot, but that alone won’t move the needle forward. Procrastination and perfectionism are not your friends. Ditch them now!
8 - You have to differentiate.
We’ve all heard that you have to build a better mousetrap. If you want to be successful, your goal shouldn’t be to be like everyone else that does what you do…or to be incrementally better.
How do you stand out and how do you communicate your unique difference in a short and compelling way?
9 - You have to be a lifetime learner.
Things change rapidly. To stay on top of the heap, you have to be committed to lifetime learning. You need to be constantly reading, listening and attending to increase your knowledge and your skills. This entrepreneur gig is not for the faint of heart.
You have to bring your “A” game and that means you have to become an expert and stay relevant. And the best way to do that is to keep learning and growing.
10 - You have to surround yourself with the right people.
Even if you’re going solo, you need the support, encouragement and partnership with people that you trust and believe in. You have to have mentors, partners and colleagues who you can turn to, confide in and rely on.
That means people who share your values and principles. There’s an old idiom, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” And if you want to soar, you want to align yourself with others who can share the sky with you.
11 - You have to charge what you’re worth.
If you’re in the service field, this can be a particularly hard lesson for many entrepreneurs, myself included. It’s not unusual to keep your prices low, so that you get the business. Or to offer special deals to lure new customers.
At some point, you have to realize what you’re worth and not cheapen your offerings by a discounted pricing strategy. Let Walmart be the low cost leader…you can pick a more sustainable strategy that values your time, effort and expertise.
12 - You have to be committed to adding value.
There’s an old saying, “Under promise and over deliver.” I would argue that you should definitely follow that sage advice, but there is more to add to it. You must figure out how you can add value to the relationship. Value that is meaningful and relevant to your customers. Give more and you will gain more.
13 - You have to have integrity.
Your reputation and your credibility are your calling card. People want to work with people who can be trusted. So do what you say, when you say you’re going to do it. Honor your commitments. Be true to your word. Be the person that would make your mother proud.
14 - You have to focus on the 20%.
You have likely heard of the Pareto Principle, also referred to as the 80/20 Rule. The concept is as simple as it is critical. As an entrepreneur, there is never a lack of things to do. To the contrary, the list is endless.
So to survive and thrive, you have to learn to focus on the 20% of tasks that will get you 80% of the results. There aren’t enough hours in the day to spin your wheels in areas where the return just isn’t worth the investment.
15 - You have to seek balance.
This is perhaps one of the most elusive things for entrepreneurs to do, but it’s vital for long-term success and happiness. All work and no play will not make you better at work. It will only make you more stressed and burnt out.
Most of us seek entrepreneurship to have more control over our lives. What’s the point of having that freedom if you don’t enjoy pursuing other areas of interest, make more time for family, travel, etc.
Life Wheels Exercise with Customers. You get them to look at all the different areas of their personal and professional lives. If one or more segment of their wheels is out-of-balance, it impacts the entire wheel.
Try riding a bike with lopsided wheels. At best, it’s a bumpy ride and at worst, it’s downright dangerous. Ultimately, you have to figure out why you are on this crazy ride of entrepreneurship and knowing and honoring what you hold to be important in your life, while doing what you love, is the greatest reward.
What lessons as an Entrepreneur have you learned? Share in the comments below.
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