15th of September 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of my entrepreneurship journey. Its seems like it was yesterday when I was thinking about leaving a safety of regional position in international company and starting my own business. Actually, I’ve never planned to be an entrepreneur. All I wanted in my professional life was to have part of my working hours allocated to people development and the other part to business development. I did my best to find a position that fits my criteria, but I didn’t succeed. So, in 2008 I started my own company. Now, after 10 years of entrepreneurship, I am sure that you really don’t know where entrepreneurship can take you, metaphorically and literally. Since 2008 I changed 3 passports and first 3 years I had only 30 days of vacation. That means that 90% of my travels were related to business. During these years I visited around 30 countries, most of them several times. Until I got kid this was one of the best parts of this journey.
Few months ago my business partner asked me if I am be able to describe how we managed to build our company? What were critical factors of our success? I have some ideas, but I am not absolutely sure. This article is about my perception of these critical aspects, but before I share them with you, I would like to warn you … Building a company is really challenging project. It’s like a strategic game, each next level is more interesting and more complex, so in order to play the game well, you need either to be hooked on it or to be an experienced player. When it comes to starting your own business, my perception is that you have to be either experience enough, not experienced at all or half insane. Although every start up is unique, there are some common aspects for each of them. After 10 years of entrepreneurship, my opinion is that these are key (but not the only) elements for entrepreneurial success.
1) Start, now!
When it comes to entrepreneurship, people often overthink. Most entrepreneurs started by following their gut feeling. They made step into unknown before they had enough clarity of what they can expect there. They reacted in right moment, that is often even more important than having a right idea. In order to do this you need to develop capacity for risk taking. Opportunities don’t last forever, and the longer you wait to start with anything, the less likely is that you will ever start.
2) Systemic thinking or understanding a “big picture”
In order to make your business stable you will need to deal with quite a few details that you are not familiar with. You will need to take in consideration: your product or service, marketing, sales, taxes, CRM, associates, employees, salaries and many other. With all these things to handle, it is essential to have the “big picture” of your business development in front of you. It can really support growth of your business, or pull you back (if its not there).
3) Be careful whose advice you are buying, especially at the beginning
Never take business advice from someone who is not running a business or who didn’t do it in past. You can’t imagine how many uninvited advises I got about entrepreneurship from people who never did or even tried anything similar.
4) Learn to live outside of your comfort zone
Entrepreneurship is really about stepping out of your comfort zone. If you are not ready to leave it, just forget about entrepreneurship. It simple – it’s not for you. Entrepreneurship is constant adventure. either you go forward or you crumble. Expansion and growth of your business will require you to do things that are unpleasant, sometimes even terrify. This process requires persistence, dedication and making difficult decisions on daily basis.
5) There are many paths to the top
You are the only person that knows your path to success. It’s a great idea to find a mentor, more experienced entrepreneur who already achieved significant results. However, this doesn’t mean take exact path as your path will, inevitably, be different.
6) Be disciplined
Rarely the problem is in missing good ideas and often the problem is in execution of those we have. Start with execution and you will do a right thing. Hard work and discipline are in the foundation of entrepreneurship. At the beginning, you will have to be first one in your office in the morning and you will leave last in the evening. You have to take care about every tiny little problem and solve it, otherwise, within few days it might become a giant one.
7) Respect time and money
Time and money are your key resources. Money should not be a primary goal of an entrepreneur. If you start to do things mainly for money your internal motivation will not last long. Think about money as resource for business development and detaching yourself from it is the best thing you can do. Please note, I say detach yourself from it but respect it.
Time is even more important resource than money. This is the only resource that is limited. We have only 24 hours per day. This means that at sooner or later you will be need to make serious cuts in your life.
8) Be ready for confrontation
Most people think of confrontation as of something that they should avoid. As your business will grow there will be more situations that will require confrontation, both internally and externally. Unless you are ready for it, sooner or later you will endanger your business. Think about confrontation as an act of respect towards your business, respect towards energy you put in building it, respect towards yourself. Instead of avoiding it, clarify what is really important for you, find a right way to do it and have in mind Steve Jobs quote: “If you want to make everyone happy sell ice cream.”
9) Commit yourself to daily learning
The bigger your business gets, the more knowledge you will need. You’ll need to allocate time and space in your busy schedule for new acquisition of knowledge. As you expand your knowledge base, you will start to improve your skills set. The most useful form of learning, for me, is reading. Reading is what I do first thing in the morning and last thing before sleep.
10) It’s OK that, sometimes, you want to give up
After 10 years of being “on a field” it might happen that you are just get tired. You might ask yourself: “Why am I doing this to myself?” You might think that it would be better if you would be full time employed or a freelancer. That’s OK. Even if you give up on entrepreneurship it’s OK. You are the only one who can decide what is really the best for you.
“I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?
Ignorance is bliss.
I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. You understand? And I want to be rich. You know, someone important, like an actor.
You get my body back at the power plant, reinsert me into the Matrix.”