Being a successful entrepreneur takes a lot of work. Everybody knows that. Every book on the subject pretty much says the same thing, but they don’t seem to give any specifics.
Over the past few days, I’ve been in contact with several young people who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. They’ve asked for some advice, and I think it is important enough to go into some detail here.
1. You HAVE TO do something you are interested in. Not doing so is an invitation to failure. To give you an example, my wife likes to cook. She’s really good at it too. She could easily make a living cooking, but for her, cooking is a way to get hot food into her belly– not a way to get hot money into her account.
2. You have to understand that being an entrepreneur takes more than not being able to hold down a job. Look, I’ve been fired a lot. I’ve said it before, and I’m not ashamed of it. Does that make me a good entrepreneur? No. It makes me a difficult employee. There is a difference.
3. You have to have a plan. I used to dream about getting a bunch of old cars, fixing them up, and renting them at a premium. Sounds pretty cool, right? That was the end of my plan. Get cars, fix them, rent them. With that type of plan, all I would end up with is a lot of used cars sitting in my driveway.
4. You have to do a lot of research. This kind of dove-tails in with the last one, but its true. You have to know the ins and outs of whatever business you think you want to start. You have to understand the trends, what has worked for other companies, and what other companies are missing. Without that, you are forced to learn by mistake, and that is a pricey way to learn anything.
5. Become an expert. When others look to you for advice on something, you have to make sure that the answers you are giving are right, all the time. It doesn’t cut it for you to say to a paying customer, “oops”. At the end of the day, whatever you do, your reputation is what you are selling. Make sure you have a good one.
6. Learn as much as you can about whatever it is that you want to do. I like to read books, but that doesn’t mean I can run a bookstore. I want to someday own a bookstore, so I took a few years to work at some successful bookstores and learned the business from the inside. Someday, I might get that bookstore, and I can assure you it will be successful, because I took some time to learn how to make certain.
7. You have to be willing to go hungry. When you start a business, it won’t be successful right off the bat. That’s okay. This is one of those long-term investments. For this reason, I don’t suggest people go into business for themselves unless one of two things are true: Either you are financially set, and can afford to live without a paycheck for a while, or you are willing to scale back your efforts temporarily, working full-time at a job while you slowly build up your own business to the point where you can afford to do it full time. That’s what F4Y is, something I do OUTSIDE my normal day-to-day job. When I’m ready, I stop doing the day-to-day, and focus 100% on F4Y.
8. Prepare to go without a lot of sleep. I spend at least 8 hours a day at work. I spend 3-5 hours a day working on school. I have a wife and family that I like to devote as much time as possible to. Figure out sleeping time, and time where I am doing something else that I have to do (stuff around the house, family I don’t like spending time with, etc.) and that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for anything else. So I have to find the time to do the things that are important to me.
9. Focus on doing things with integrity and honor. No matter what it is you choose to do, if you don’t have integrity and honor, you will never derive any real benefit or sense of accomplishment from doing it.
10. Always understand what you want to accomplish, and why. I never want to get to the point where I am so successful that I no longer have time to spend with the people I love. I also never want to be successful at the expense of my own well-being. When that becomes an issue (and it has), I have to make some hard decisions about what is more important to me– success or happiness. My wife is there to make sure I never lose sight of that.
I’m sure there are many more things, but 10 seems like a good starting number. If you have others, let’s discuss: