I think the toughest lesson for me has been when to let go of something that isn't working. We're always told, "You've got to keep at it!" But after awhile, you need to realize that it just isn't going to happen. This could be a minor thing, like when to drop out of a networking group. Or a major thing, like when to fold the effort on a major product or service, and focus your resources on something new.
To avoid this, set your success metrics at the beginning, and also your failure metrics. "I'll know this is working when...." and "I'll know this is NOT working when..." This is part of your planning process, and regularly reviewing your progress is an integral part.
Then have the guts to stick to your rules...unless things have changed, and there's reason to change your rules. But at least you're bringing this unconscious decision into your awareness, where you can stick to it or change it with good reason.
It also helps to get other people's feedback on such decisions--knowledgeable people who have no stake in the game except your success. If you have to explain your decisions to them, it makes it harder for you to fool yourself.
If you build it, they do not necessarily come! You have to go out and get the business, and that means marketing yourself proactively to a targeted audience.
Nothing will come easily or quickly. Success take time and often entrepreneurs quit too soon and often just as things will break for them. The wheel to make money moves slowly and it takes persistence and determination to succeed.
My advice: just when you want to quit, never give up, especially if you believe in yourself and your idea.
Truly unique business ideas that are ahead of the curve are the most difficult to fund. Most capital sources prefer to be fast followers instead of pioneers.
Sourcing capital requires an enormous amount of exposure to investors. Specifically, you cannot "fall in love" with a group of investors who express interest until the funding comes through. Present your business opportunity as broadly as you can to a carefully selected set of different investors with whom your proposal is potentially a very close fit. And then present to another. And another. Repeat the process as often as is required to realize your funding objective.
Also, do not be afraid to admit you ventured with the wrong capital source. If a split is necessary keep it amicable and professional. However, if your interests are not properly aligned with your original investor, keep seeking out investors whose goals and objectives are consistent with your own.
I think for me it has to be is that you have to be able to sell! You know your product/service the best and you have the ingrained passion which comes from total commitment and belief, so why wouldn't you use that to sell it! Many entrepreneurs (myself included) outsource or employ the selling as soon as is humanly possible and remember these people are paid to sell and be passionate... it's never as good as the real thing!
One of the entrepreneurs I mentored said to me why should I have to sell, what is the point I own the business and should be pushing it forwards! What he didn't realise is that by getting himself and his product in front of buyers and potential customers and making sales he was pushing his product forwards.
So I encouraged him to dedicate himself to selling his product for 3 months, in that three months his sales went up 235%... why?... he believed and understood about what he was selling.
This is just one experience but a very important lesson.
Find good mentors and those smarter than yourself and LISTEN TO THEM!
I have two lessons to share;
1. hire people who will compliment your skill set and will challenge you to get the best leadership for your business
2. always have the final say and don't over- analyse in decision making - if you believe it's right, then do it.
All the other comments make good sense.
1) get revenue as soon as you can - no revenue=no business
2) even if you offer product/service at a low price, or can you use your expertise to get consulting income - anything to get the cash flowing
3) manage the cash you get very carefully - if you can't buy materials, you're done
4) listen to feedback, especially from customers - they'll tell you what's important
Two things. 1) Don't ever assume your interests are representative of those of your target market, or your investors. 2) Get the timing and scale of outside investment right. If you can, get professional VC money, not amateur Angel money. The former will guide you to financial success, the latter may lead you down an ego-centric path to disaster. Do not yield control early in your business; remember there may be 2 or 3 rounds of financing and your ownership is diluted every time. If you are at a "take the money and a bad deal or shut the business" stage, shut the business and start again with a better plan.
My difficult lesson was to sit next to your phone and wait that customers call you.
Advice: extend and intensive your network, be active on social media, participate in discussions.
The most difficult lesson is the one to make sure to select and hire people carefully. As a small business, there is temptation to "act small" in this area. Try to avoid that and to make the extra effort to get the right fit for your business!
Getting out of a partnership is not always easy. Make sure you have a good buy/sell agreement in place that will allow a partner to exit on the fairest terms possible.
The most difficult lesson that one of my clients had to learn was that not every dollar earned was a dollar that he could put into his pocket. Contrary to the "pay yourself first" philosophy expounded by personal finance gurus, an entrepreneur is only entitled to pay him/her self last, after all of the obligatory cuts have been taken and savings have been invested to look after ongoing cash flow and future capex needs. As an entrepreneur, you have to be disciplined enough to do this. If not, then you need someone else trustworthy and knowledgeable enough about the business (e.g. bookkeeper or accountant) to do this on your behalf.
I have 2 answers for you!
1) Don't get in your own way! Often we listen to those little voices of doubt in our heads - and they often don't tell the truth. Stay with your plan.
2) Hire a coach or a business consultant. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you may not see the forest for the trees. A good consultant will help you set up for success and help you "get out of your way" and keep you moving forward. It's worth the investment to get it right the first time.
The hardest lesson I've had, that I listened to much to all the good advices telling how to improve my business. One of my best friends didn't tell me anything. He asked me questions, made me looking deeper into my business. My lesson for you, make your own decisions, follow them but also keep asking questions to yourself. Force yourself to stay curious.
I made some painful mistakes but always asked the questions - "what can I learn from this and how can this make me better. It's easy to get knocked back by customers or individuals who in spite of your best and warmest efforts seem impossible to please. Learn from these experiences but don't be hurt by them.
Finally, always ask if the changes or adaptations you might make in light of your lessons learnt could harm your business.
I had a customer who made me feel dreadful because they thought i was ripping them of on price, despite me being 50% cheaper than a national competitor. I changed my website saying that the local authority offered a similar but less comprehensive service that was cheaper. The customer was charmed by my honesty, but the phone stopped ringing so I quickly realized after losing thousands in potential business that this was not the best result. I had simply sent customers to the local authority who were snowed under with work, and then recommended other contractors from there own list, that I was not on at prices higher than mine.
Result? I changed site again - I had more customers, and as a result of improved pricing strategy, I had more repeat business.
I had to learn that "business owner" is a euphemism for having an infinite workload. There is no such thing as a day off once you become a serious entrepreneur. Sure; you can go on vacation, but I highly doubt that new ideas, business processes, marketing strategies, etc. will take any time off from overloading your brain.
And to be honest, everyone isn't fit for that. An aspiring entrepreneur should truthfully evaluate him (or her) self to determine if they have the stick-to-it-tiveness to build a successful company.
Not necessarily a hard lesson but still useful:
Only work with committed, professional people sharing the same vision. Don't waste time on others.
The greatest lesson I've learned is to train well and than get out of the way. As a passionate business owner its still important to trust your employees and not micro-manage every aspect of your business. I truly got so much out of The 4-Hour Work Week and The E-Myth. Set up systems that check themselves and don't get caught being the technician.
Stop thinking like an Entrepreneur! Think like an Enterprise leader instead.
That's not to say that entrepreneurial thinking isn't necessary, or that it's bad - only that to create an effective system, you must at least think a level above it.
You can't create 1st grade curriculum if you're still in first grade. You have to view it from beyond first grade, in terms of the results it will create later, in order to be effective.
We try to model the great 'titans' who have matured far beyond entrepreneurial thinking, starting with questions like: "Would Richard Branson do this?", or "Would Steve Jobs think like this?"
- They defend their vision and culture to the death
- They're obsessive about the quality and development of the people on the team
- They never use a lack of resources as a reason not to do something
- They move only if they have a game changer
"As goes the head, so goes the body!"
It all starts with how you think.