There have been millions of words written about the “secrets” to becoming a successful entrepreneur, as though there’s a heavily guarded vault buried deep in a mountain that’s keeping the information from ordinary people. But what’s needed to succeed is hardly a secret. In fact, most of what you need to know is just good common sense coupled with a little business savvy.
While it would take a textbook-length treatise to teach you everything about entrepreneurship, my 20+ years getting businesses up and running has shown me that there are a few basic “rules” you need to know. Without them, even the best planning could be undone – turning success into failure.
1. Get up, get out, and get started!
Plan, dream, think: None of these will put a dollar in the till if you don’t put those plans, dreams, and thoughts into action. Yes, starting a new business is scary, especially when it all rests on your shoulders, but waiting for “the perfect time” (there’s really no such thing) could mean lost opportunities. You’ll never know if your idea is a winner or what problems you’ll have to overcome until you’re actively involved in the day-to-day business of running your own enterprise. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’d better get started NOW!
In the film “City Slickers”, Jack Palance’s character tells Billy Crystal the secret of life. “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean *&%$.” I’ve known would-be entrepreneurs who had a great idea, but instead of concentrating on developing it to its full potential they began working on a dozen more, meaning none of them were done well. It’s better to have one good, achievable goal than 10 you can never fulfill. Do that one thing well and only then can you move on to the next idea.
3. Work with the best people and inspire them.
Your organization is only as good as the people who are on the front lines. If they believe in your mission, that enthusiasm will transfer to your customers. But you have to be the inspirational leader they need. After all, if you can’t inspire the people you’re paying, how will you ever inspire the rest of the world to believe in your product/service? Get the best people you can find, lead from the front, and they’ll be your most enthusiastic ambassadors.
4. Define your brand.
You’re bound to have competitors, possibly offering close to the same products/services as you. Your differentiator is your brand. You must clearly define what it is you’re selling and why it’s better than the competition. That’s more difficult than it sounds. Coke and Pepsi (though they would disagree) are selling the same basic product, yet they both have loyal consumers. It’s all about their brand and how it’s seen by the world at large. Your brand marketing, communication methods, and identity distinguish your company from competitors. Without a strong brand, you’re just another cola company.
5. Be ready to change course.
The one constant in the universe is that nothing is constant. Circumstances, consumer tastes, products, and a host of other factors change, evolve, or become obsolete with time. You must constantly monitor what’s going on in your business, your competitors’ businesses, and with the world. If tastes change – and these days they do, and quickly – you must change with them. As they change, you must adapt. It doesn’t necessarily mean a complete overhaul of your business, but it could require changes in how you advertise, which markets you target, and some improvements to your products/services. One of the greatest threats to growth and survival is inertia. Be proactive and be ready for anything.