Becoming an entrepreneur can be an invigorating, life-affirming decision, but it’s not without pitfalls. Making a success of your lifelong passion requires six core characteristics that get to the heart of what it is to be in business. Work on these attributes and you’ll have everything you need for a long, fruitful and fun career.
From history’s great innovators to the humble con-man, there’s nothing you can’t sell with a little confidence. You know your idea is great, and plenty of people probably agree with you. But the people you need to convince are the ones who will help you reach them; the investors, retailers, manufacturers and business partners who will put your product out there and align it with its audience.
You need the verve and belief that imparts that confidence in a glance; the latent power and poise that says ‘if I like this and think it’s a good idea, other people will too.’ You need the confidence to leave the stability of a regular job to leap into the unknown, to go it alone and start a business from scratch.
You need the resolve to approach people and pitch them something you have likely made on a budget, and explain why it is worth buying over a dozen other similar products. Confidence breeds success, and if you don’t expect to be successful, you never will be.
Becoming an entrepreneur is hugely fulfilling, but it requires a large amount of legwork. Particularly at the outset, you will be juggling all sorts of day-to-day issues while aspiring to future success. It’s not unusual to have a lengthy period where you’re just scraping by, selling the bare minimum to keep you going while searching for new customers and clients.
To be tenacious is to keep plugging away in the face of everything. It’s not letting a lead lie, even if it means being persistent and annoying. It’s about not being afraid to appear belligerent and combative, even if someone gives you a lead just to get you out of their hair. Never stop selling the idea.
Keep attending meetings and making calls, advertising and just getting out of the office. Plenty of multi millionaires began their careers selling door to door or with a stall at a local fair or shopping centre. Statistically, it might be the best way to get started.
Becoming an entrepreneur can be an isolating experience. The desire to buckle down and focus on growing your business can mean you lose sight of the human element. Without really realizing it, the running of a business by yourself can become all meetings, sales, targets and other metrics of success. You can start to lose sight of why you started out: to create products that you love, and to share that passion with other people.
As much as you can, stay in contact with your customers. Make it easy for them to provide feedback, good and bad, and be receptive to it. Continue to look beyond what you’re doing to what’s popular and what people are using and buying. Consider what is a fair price for the product you’re creating, and don’t lose sight of your core demographic to chase more lucrative customers.
The people who support you early on should be the people you continue to cater to, even if you expand beyond them. They will be the ones who stick around if the going ever gets tough. They are more valuable than you could ever know, and you owe them a debt of gratitude.
When you’re starting out, the drive to succeed and turn a passion into a marketable product will get you through almost anything. But once you’ve achieved some success and have to consolidate and improve, you’ll face new challenges. Competitors who you got the jump on will take notice, and start to adapt themselves to compete.
As many people as love your product, some will not, and customer service may get too time intensive for you to handle yourself. As things grow, your once studious micromanagement of each element of your business will no longer be possible, and you will have to delegate and hire carefully and intelligently. The odd mistake will follow. The ability to push through these periods, learn from each stumble and keep striding on will inform everything you do in the future.
One of the greatest mistakes any businessperson can make is to be dismissive of their opposition. Your outsider status and new ideas may allow you to get a leg up on the competition, but once they take notice, they may not leave you to it. They may imitate your success, and once their better-positioned product has the same features, you may have to change your approach.
A smart entrepreneur will keep tabs on their rivals products, and stay cordial with them in public. Congratulate rivals on successful launches while using their new products, studying what has changed and theorising why
Ask people about their products and gain as complete an understanding as possible, in order to better compete (or indeed not make the same mistakes). Understanding what makes them popular and keeping track of how they change will help you adapt in turn, while staying true to what makes you unique.
More than hard work, diligence means doing the right work. It’s not just about recognizing your problems and working towards solutions. It’s the art of prioritisation: discerning what needs improving the most, and not stopping until it’s fixed.
The canny entrepreneur is mindful of not just working mindlessly. They don’t run down blind alleys based on old plans, continue with ideas that aren’t working or plough on with a product when the wind is clearly changing. They are pragmatic and have business intelligence.
Work towards goals, but always remember that those goals don’t have to be permanent, but transient and adaptable. Otherwise you’re taking a year to reach the point your business needed to be at a year ago. Revise your ideas and work towards a vision of your future self.