Despite your expertise, skills and education, nothing can prepare you for becoming a business leader. There’s a lot of trial and error and on-the-job-training that you’ll experience as you grow your business.
I’ve been a business owner for almost 10 years now. Over the years I’ve made my fair share of mistakes including several that cost me actually running the business in the way I wanted. Lucky for me, I don’t have to make those same mistakes again.
To help you run your business a lot smoother, here are 25 leadership lessons from millionaire business owners so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes we have.
1Believe in your business
“Give your venture everything you’ve got. A passionate commitment to your business and personal objectives can make all the difference between success and failure,” writes Sir Richard Branson.
“If you aren’t proud of what you’re doing, why should anybody else be?”
“And don’t get suckered into blindly pursuing profits and growth. If you stay focused on being the best at what you do, it’s more likely that the rest will follow.”
2Prioritise and delegate
As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritise.” suggests Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva and later co-founder and CEO of ProFounder. “You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.”
3Hire people with superior skills
Jack Ma, co-founder and CEO of Alibaba, says that, “A leader should never compare his technical skills with his employee’s. Your employee should have superior technical skills than you. If he doesn’t, it means you have hired the wrong person.”
4Give employees expectations and training
In his book “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to the Power of Beliefs in Business,” Ari Weinzweig, CEO and cofounder of Zingerman’s gourmet food company, writes that, “Clear expectations and training tools are all about a better future.”
Ari adds, Small training success build confidence. People are more hopeful when they know what’s expected of them and feel they have the tools they need to do the work at hand.”
5Set the tone
“You can go through thousands of dollars in consultants to shape your culture, but it will still come back to the owner’s approach,” says Kristi Hedges, leadership consultant and coach at The Hedges Company.
“If you’re motivated and happy in your role, then others will follow your lead. And if you’re burned out and tired, that energy will permeate everything. Owners need to make sure they shape their role, and their company, to make them fulfilled and excited. If you put yourself last, you’re hurting the entire organisation.”
It may be surprising to learn that Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and one of the investors on “Shark Tank,” is a nice and likeable guy. He’s known for going above and beyond for his fans and has said that being “nice” is a necessity in business. When your team likes and respects you, they’ll be more likely to rally behind you.
7Plan for fun
Speaking of “Shark Tank,” Cuban’s colleague Barbara Corcoran fosters a culture of fun. “I think drinking together, having fun, having days off doing stupid things, dressing in ridiculous costumes, whatever you mandate as a company culture, what happens is everyone really likes each other and you create a family.”
Corcoran also says that this can bring out the creative side of your employees.
Bill Gates once said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
Even after Microsoft became an industry leader and was earning billions of dollars in revenue, Gates wanted the company and his team to continue to evolve and diversify their products so that they would remain innovative and relevant, as opposed to being static.
9Mentor and give back to the community
“At the end of the day, we are all part of a community,” said Aneel Bhusri, co-founder and CEO of Workday. “Giving back at the Workday Foundation is just recognising that and being part of a broader community. We are just a small piece of the community.”
“We have been very fortunate and our growth and success is largely due to our community. The most exciting part about the Workday Foundation is that our employees actually drive where we give and they really drive the giving. Our employees get personally involved. It is fabulous when your hire the right people, with the right value system, and they want to give back and they push us to give back.”
10Leaders are lighthouses, not weathervanes
“Weathering changes at Primerica that often lead to uncertainty and chaos helped me develop a leadership philosophy steeped in being someone my teams can turn to for guidance, even during the most turbulent times,” says John Addison, CEO of Addison Leadership Group and leadership editor of Success magazine.
“Whether it was another leadership change or trying to save the company during [the recession], my people could say I would make the best decision for their future, and stand firm on that decision, even if it wasn’t popular with everyone.”
Addison added, “Being a weathervane twisting in the wind wasn’t going to instill the confidence they very much needed, so I had to learn to be a lighthouse: someone they knew would still be standing strong once the storm passed. Thankfully, [my] mentor, Primerica founder Art Williams, demonstrated being a lighthouse for many years, and I was able to follow his example.”
“Through my writing, speaking engagements and position as leadership editor for Success magazine, I am able to share my leadership message with a wider audience and play a role in shaping future generations of leaders. My hope through sharing my message is that one day we will have more leaders who are lighthouses and far fewer who are weathervanes.”
11Create a family-friendly environment
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made waves in November 2015 by announcing that he would be taking a two month paternity leave. Facebook, it turns out, is one of the leaders when it comes to offering competitive paternity leave.
“Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “At Facebook we offer our US employees up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year.”
12Treat employees like royalty
“We treat our people like royalty. If you honour and serve the people who work for you, they will honour and serve you,” said Mary Kay Ash.
Warren Buffett has said, “You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under emphasise that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
14Be a man or woman of the people
Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, was beloved by his employees. Why? Because not only was his salary $350,000 a year, he was down in the trenches with his employees fighting for them to have higher wages. He had no frills office and everyone called him by his first name.
15Encourage employees to get more sleep
“Sleep plays a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, and creativity – all of which are hugely relevant for both our overall health and our ability to be productive and effective,” Arianna Huffington told Forbes.
“Today, so many of us fall into this trap of sacrificing sleep in the name of productivity. But, ironically, our loss of sleep, despite the extra hours we put in at work, adds up to more than 11 days of lost productivity per year per worker, or about $2,280. This results in a total annual cost of sleep deprivation to the U.S. economy of more than $63 billion, in the form of absenteeism and presenteeism (when employees are present at work physically but not really mentally focused).”
16Boost their self-esteem
“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel,” said Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. “If people believe in themselves it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
“I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation,” said Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. When employees are curious and denied access to information, they become resentful and start digging. “That’s when executive management says, well, clearly we can’t trust our employees with this information. So, we’re going to have to buckle down and release even less information.”
Instead, treat employees “like adults” and be completely transparent.
18Stop talking and start listening
“Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty. You know the leaders who have their employees’ best interests at heart because they truly listen to them,” writes Glenn Llopis, founder of the Glenn Llopis Group.
“As a leader, it’s difficult to really know what your employees are thinking about, what’s troubling them or how to help them get out of a performance slump – unless you take the time listen to them.”
Llopis adds, “Listening goes well beyond being quiet and giving someone your full attention. It requires you to be aware of body language, facial expressions, mood, and natural behavioural tendencies. Listening should be a full-time job when you consider the uncertainty embedded in the workplace and the on-going changes taking place.”
19Write ‘thank-you’ notes
Harvey Mackay, founder of the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, says that, “The cost of praising someone is nil – but every psychological study shows the payoff is huge. Employees want to be seen as competent, hardworking members of the team. You want satisfied, motivated and productive staff members. What better motivator than thanking employees for their contributions to the company’s success?”
Make sure, however, that you’re sincere, specific, share publicly, and keep the praise on-going.
20They don’t tolerate poor performance
“Anyone running an organisation understands how important talent is,” says Duncan Maru from Possible. “But many early stage social enterprises are impatient, cut corners on hiring, or don’t transition people out quickly enough when things are not working. You need to be aggressive and brutally honest about your talent pool.”
21They hold themselves accountable
Accountability, according to Michael Hyatt, “means that you accept responsibility for the outcomes expected of you – both good and bad. You don’t blame others. And you don’t blame the external environment. There are always things you could have done – or still can do – to change the outcome.”
“Until you take responsibility, you are a victim. And being a victim is the exact opposite of being a leader.”
Hyatt adds, “Victims are passive. They are acted upon. Leaders are active. They take initiative to influence the outcome.”
22They challenge the status quo
“Internally, the impact of the status quo is a stagnant culture that pushes away top performers,” writes Matt Wagner, vice president of strategy at Client Focus.
“Your best employees are driven by the need to do something great. When they run into obstacles that don’t make any sense to them, they start thinking about greener pastures. Of course, the opposite is true of your bureaucrats and your go-along-to-get-along employees. They hope to milk the status quo for as long as possible. They hate change.”
23Have face-to-face discussions
“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat,” Steve Jobs told author Walter Isaacson. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”
Don’t be afraid to celebrate your accomplishments. Just celebrate those of others more, recommends Nina Vaca of the Pinnacle Group.
With my company, this means that we celebrate even the little accomplishments of others.
25They encourage continuous learning
“Learning is the minimum requirement for success in your field,” writes Brian Tracy. “Information and knowledge on everything is increasing every day. This means that your knowledge must also increase to keep up.”
The best leaders encourage their employees to read, attend workshops, and conferences so that they “can get ahead in every aspect of” their lives.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Here’s Why Every Entrepreneur Needs A Business Mentor
There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still or alone.
Some entrepreneurs may look at their success and think it insulting to consider talking to a business mentor. And others may look at their struggles and think it’s the only solution to getting the business back on its feet. Neither of these views are correct in terms of what a business mentor can do for a business.
What a business mentor is
Before we get into reasons why, we need to clearly define what a business mentor is and that should already start clearing up the reasons why you’d need one. A business mentor is a well-established person in an industry who offers to impart their knowledge and experience to lesser experienced entrepreneurs and employees.
One could consider business mentors as a more personal relationship than one would have with a business consultant, but just as beneficial (if not more). Business mentors are basically business consultants, except you don’t (always) have to pay for their advice and mentorship. It’s a mentorship relationship and partnership. So, regardless of who you are and how successful your company is, every entrepreneur needs a business mentor and here’s why.
Related: How can I find a mentor?
There will never be “nothing more to learn”
At no point in any person’s life will they be able to say “I know absolutely everything and there’s nothing more for me to learn”. It may feel that way, but sit down with a business mentor for five minutes and your mind will be swirling with questions. We learn something new every day and with the help of a business mentor, the “something new” will always be related to business and have the potential to lead to business success. Isn’t that something that every entrepreneur dreams of?
There will always be something for entrepreneurs in every industry to learn. Technology is forever developing and providing new innovative ways for industries to work and that’s something entrepreneurs need to stay on top of.
Every bit of experience is beneficial
Now, you may be wondering how a business mentor can help when the years of experience they offer is from a time period where technology wasn’t as great a factor as it is today. And the answer is consistency. While the face of the world changes, there are certain constructs that remain exactly the same and business mentors will be able to teach you about these fundamentals that consumers rely on and need in order to adapt to the changing world.
Every bit of experience that mentors offer their mentees is valuable and beneficial. Entrepreneurs are usually so caught up in the bigger picture that they forget about the smaller, background details that are, in fact, the cornerstones of that end goal. Mentors have been there, made those mistakes and are here to make sure you don’t go down the same paths that caused them business trouble.
So, while their information may seem “outdated”, basic principles never change and should not be overlooked.
Everyone needs a support system
Having the weight of the business rest on your shoulders can be a mentally and emotionally draining responsibility. Entrepreneurs don’t only look to business mentors for advice but for support as well.
Everyone needs a support system and, in business, this means having a mentor. Someone who can back up the difficult business decisions you make and who can listen to the inevitable ranting sessions that follow a rough day in the office. They’re also someone to let you know that you’re doing a better job than you give yourself credit for and someone who can talk some sense into you when you go off the rails a little bit (this happens to all entrepreneurs, don’t worry).
It opens doors to networking opportunities
Generally, business mentors have been in the game for years. And over all those years they have met with some of the most influential people in the industry and business world. Every entrepreneur needs a business mentor even if it’s only for the networking opportunities that come with the relationship.
Business success, these days, is highly influenced by who you know and the importance of networking is not something that entrepreneurs can dismiss. Your business mentor will be able to introduce you to the biggest names in the industry and get you into networking events where you will have the opportunity to meet new people who can help you on the path of innovation.
You need someone to challenge you
Speaking of innovation, another reason why you need a business mentor is so that you have someone who is knowledgeable about the industry to challenge you. Through challenges, you’ll be forced to think about business in a new way and create innovative ways of dealing with standard business issues.
The problem many successful entrepreneurs have is that they tend to stick with what works and choose not to push any boundaries for fear of failure. That type of thinking will only get you so far in the business world and then your competitors will be overtaking you. Any business mentor will be able to explain to you why failure isn’t always a bad thing and that by challenging yourself and innovating, you’re growing. There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still.
MAD Leadership Skills: Our Perspectives
Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.
Some entrepreneurial skills can be taught while others need to be experienced. It is possible to gain skills while working for someone else, but there are perspectives that you can miss if you have not started your own initiative. Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.
The people who contributed to this content are from different fields of life, in various industries, with a variety of unique goals and ambitions.
Why Start an Entrepreneurial Initiative?
Some people start ventures because they have a good idea, some want to make a difference, and some are lucky enough to have witnessed a family member beginning a legacy. Three themes have been highlighted by our contributors this week:
Entrepreneurship is About Building Your Own or Expanding upon a Family
Tshinondiwa Thovhakale has started a transport company and has done this because of the memories she shares below: “Growing up I had a good relationship with my dad. I have some of the best memories of him. He owned his own taxi business and drove one of them. He would come to school and fetch me, and before dropping me home, we would go to the taxi rank, take people, and I’d sit in front next to him and count money for him. Then do the normal rounds of dropping people at their destinations, and then he’d take me home and go back to work. I think all that grew on me. When he stopped and made other deals with his taxis, I felt it was our legacy, and I couldn’t let it die like that.”
Entrepreneurship is About Following Your Passion:
Spencer Horne stated:
“I wanted to work directly on the needs and problems that are my passion. The independence of starting a business and choosing exactly what to work on has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work. “
Entrepreneurship is About Making a Difference:
Many entrepreneurs start a venture because of a need that they would like to fulfil in the market. Some love the idea of feeling good by doing good and making a living out of it.
Things to Think About
Five challenges identified this week are:
- Networking is essential: People don’t always seek new businesses to uplift, the help their associates, leverage this to your benefit and establish a network of influencers, support, and contacts in the industry.
- Getting and keeping talent is a task: Especially initially when resources are limited, and you have a lot to do and achieve to grow your business, and cannot do it all alone.
- You may encounter cultural/societal biases – learn to use it to your advantage and set a precedent in the industry of what you can achieve: For example, being a female in transport, people may undermine you if they see the industry as a “man’s world” – show them why they’re wrong.
- You need to make your opportunities when starting a business: There are fewer opportunities when on your own, and you need to build a relationship base to spread your reach. Tenders are often given to the same people and fundraising is one of the most time-consuming aspects of starting or scaling a business. It’s not something that is always enjoyed, and unfortunately, it must take priority over all else until it is achieved.
- Persistence and flexibility should be balanced: Ironically one needs both an unfaltering belief in what you are doing and the flexibility to pivot out in response to the market. This is one of the most significant and most difficult responsibilities of a business leader.
You need to make your own path
There is no blueprint. Your particular path to building your business will be different to that of others. At times you may learn from the experiences of other entrepreneurs, but be careful of comparisons. Be prepared for the detours and bumps along the road and be sure to take the time to enjoy the journey.
The importance of being patient
Patience is vital. Always have back up plans. It is best to venture into a business that you’re passionate about, because it’s the love for the business that will whisper the words “try again, just one more time” every time a challenge comes your way.
The importance of noticing the small wins
Entrepreneurship is a journey and in many cases, a challenging one. With this in mind, it is easy to get frustrated, lose patience and give up. At points, you may feel like no progress has been made. This is when people should remind themselves of the journey that they’ve already walked. It’s important to celebrate the small successes so that we stay positive and forge ahead.
Bringing it All Together
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but it is needed. It makes many people happy and helps create jobs and uplift communities. People start initiatives for different reasons, and we all experience challenges. It is through these challenges that we learn and grow.
The 3 Dumbest Business Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make Most Often
Don’t be superficial. Don’t chase too many opportunities. And do sweat the small stuff.
Most new entrepreneurs make terrible, dumb mistakes that crash their businesses before they can even get started. They make these grave mistakes not because they are unintelligent, have low IQs or possess little experience.
New entrepreneurs allow these blunders because they don’t see them as issues. Thus, they fail to invest their resources into fixing the problems until the problems bulldoze their companies.
In this article, I will give you the top three dumb mistakes new entrepreneurs make, and I will offer a lasting solution to each oversight.
We live in a world of superficiality – shallowness, no attention to detail, not focusing on satisfying our customers.
In a world of 140 characters, many of us build products fast and hope for quick cash. The focus is more on “build and sell fast” than on quality and originality. Many entrepreneurs, especially the newbies, fall into this superficiality trap.
These would be entrepreneurs refuse to sharpen their skills, ship broken products and provide terrible customer experience. That’s why many startups don’t see the light of day.
What’s the solution?
- Customer obsession. Your startup exists to serve your customers. Be obsessed with always pleasing them with your product.
- Obsessive attention to detail. Before you build or ship any product, check every tiny detail with care. Don’t settle. Don’t let your team rest until you have completed the project to above-standard quality.
- Constant learning. Knowledge is the antidote of superficiality. Keep learning, so you can satisfy your customers with unstoppable value and become the go-to person in your industry.
In the end, dumping the superficiality habit requires a change in mindset. You can get rid of it with constant practice and obsession with quality. That means focusing on getting good at one thing, before moving on to something else.
Let’s talk about that next.
2. Chasing two rabbits at a time
Amateur founders are quick to craft multiple ideas, bloating their online stores with a vast array of products and constantly re-writing their missions to accommodate their offerings. But is that the brilliant idea they think it is? No, it’s not.
A friend of mine who is a freelance web designer recently told me that he had added copy-writing on top of his web design services. “I want to increase my income, you know,” he excitedly told me.
I told him not to do that. I told him to focus instead on his design services so that he would become known as an expert in that category.
But he didn’t take my advice. The last time I checked, he had quit his freelancing career altogether.
Obviously, he was frustrated because he was chasing more than one rabbit at a time. As Confucius beautifully said, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” Don’t offer two services or products at a time.
What you need as a new entrepreneur is credibility, not money. And the only way to establish yourself as credible is to focus on refining and improving your skill set, your product and your offering. Only then can your customers regard you as the best provider of a particular product or service.
3. Ignoring “minor issues.”
For new entrepreneurs, a comma splice in their home page copy is not something to worry about. “It’s just a minor issue,” they say. A broken link in their Facebook page is no big deal. “It’s just a minor thing,” they say. One negative customer review? Well, that’s just a “hot-tempered customer,” they say. “It’s just a minor thing.”
But is it? The reality is, these are not minor issues. These are big issues. Remember, all problems start small before they gradually metamorphose into big, uncontrollable setbacks.
That’s how Friendster crashed. It was the hottest social networking company in 2003, which Google wanted to buy for $30 million. But it lost momentum by 2006 due to minor technical glitches, paving the way for Facebook to take over.
That little comma splice on your homepage can lead to a tsunami of credibility issues. An error in spelling will then portray your brand as another fake company in the marketplace. Protect your brand. Don’t leave any tiny issue unresolved. Fix it – fast.
When starting up as a new entrepreneur, the first thing to do is avoid making constant business blunders, no matter how insignificant they seem.
Don’t be superficial in responding to your customers’ inquiries. Take your time to provide them with in-depth answers to their questions.
Don’t chase too many opportunities, lest you fall into bloat and overload. Instead, focus on providing one product, and ensure that it stands out from the crowd.
Don’t ignore the small issues. They’ll grow into bigger problems. Nip them in the bud before they destroy your company.
Everyone makes mistakes, even veteran entrepreneurs, but learning how to fix these three big blunders will save your little startup from crashing early.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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