Entrepreneurship is hard, and as statistics show, not everyone makes it. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum – at times we succeed, and at other times, we fail.
Yet, we’ve all heard of entrepreneurs who experience success time and time again, in different industries, with different teams and different market conditions. So what is it that these people have that most of us don’t – aside from the seven- and eight-figure bank accounts?
That’s what I’ve tried to figure out. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but based on my experience, the problem is you. When you ask yourself – “why have I been failing as an entrepreneur?” – what answers come up?
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For some of us, the following subjects may feel oddly familiar, and it may shed some insight into why you haven’t yet reached your full potential.
If you’re willing to work on yourself, it may even unlock the key to finally accomplishing what you’ve always dreamed of.
1. You’re afraid
“So deeply seated is the emotion of fear that one may go through life burdened with it, never recognising it’s presence.” – Napoleon Hill
Fear is a tricky fellow, and it is not to be taken lightly. Chances are, you have fears you aren’t even aware of that are holding you back in some significant way.
Whether it’s cold calling, showing your product to the world or pitching high profile investors, fear is capable of stopping most of us in our tracks. Unconscious fear often shows up as indifference, indecision, doubt, worry, over caution, procrastination, lack of ambition, jealousy and a myriad of other ways.
If you’re showing any of these symptoms, ask yourself, what am I avoiding?
Some people are scared of the truth because they don’t want to admit their own shortcomings, and they fear embarrassment.
Others may be afraid of success, because they don’t feel that they deserve it. Some are afraid of failure, and never try anything so that they can avoid failing. But perhaps the strongest grip of all is the fear to be different.
We’re both biologically programmed and socially conditioned to fit in with the crowd and conform. It can be hard to break away and do something truly unique.
The first step to overcoming your fear is to accept that you have it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
2. You don’t know how to let go
Small-scale entrepreneurs and small business owners are notorious for wanting to do everything themselves.
In my consulting business, Profit Fox, this is one of the number-one things I see preventing small business owners from finding real success. Their unwillingness to get help prevents them from ever taking their business to the next level.
While you might think this is the only way to get things done right, your need for control may be standing in the way of real success, not to mention a little breathing room.
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If you can learn to let go, delegate, build a team of talented people and give up mental ownership – and perhaps financial ownership – of some aspects of your business, it could benefit you in a big way in the long run. It is better to have a percent of something large, than the entirety of nothing.
What can you let go of today in your business in order to concentrate on the high-value tasks?
3. You lack persistence
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave–up.” – Thomas Edison
When I talk about failing as an entrepreneur, I am referring to giving up entirely. Setbacks, temporary failures, uncertainty and even failed businesses are all part of being an entrepreneur.
It’s the individual who can keep getting back up over and over again who is going to be triumphant.
Even the best of the best fail from time to time, but failure may become less frequent, less severe and a greater teacher as you hone your entrepreneurial chops.
Sometimes it takes enduring effort or repeated rejections to get to where you want to be. My own app has been in the app store for more than three years and is just starting to gain real traction.
Tim Ferris was rejected by 25 publishers before finding someone to publish his book, The Four Hour Work Week. The iconic book went on to launch Tim’s career as an author and investor and has spent over seven years on the New York Times best-seller list.
Are you willing to take 25 rejections to get one yes? How about 100?
4. You’ve stopped investing in yourself
“I think that much of the advice given to young men about saving money is wrong. I never saved a cent until I was 40 years old. I invested in myself – in study, in mastering my tools, in preparation. Many a man who is putting a few dollars a week into the bank would do much better to put it into himself.” – Henry Ford
Just like investing in a business, investing in yourself can pay heavy dividends down the road.
If you ended your education with the end of your formal schooling, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The work roles of the future aren’t taught in school. They haven’t even been invented yet.
If you want to succeed in today’s fast-paced world, it’s best to continue to invest in yourself as if you were a business, whether it’s with courses, coaches, trainings or even getting a personal trainer to stay healthy. Invest in yourself, and you may find yourself experiencing greater success not only in business but in all aspects of your life.
5. You’re getting things done, but not the right things
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” – Peter Drucker
Is it better to do the right things, than to get things done. Many of us feel like we are too busy to take a second out of our day to have a nice meal, or think about our future.
But are all of us really busy – or are we just filling up our schedule with more and more things, failing to say no to the unimportant and letting our lives be dictated by other people’s agendas? I’m looking at you, chronic email checkers….
The thing you’re procrastinating is often the most important thing you could be doing.
Tackle your most valuable task first thing in the morning before you do anything else, and you can make more progress in a couple weeks than you did all of last year.
6. You’re not a finisher
“Look, young man. You’re like most people. You think the grass is greener on the other side. What’s going to happen if you go into another business is you’re going to spend another six months, another year, another two years, learning the technical skills of another industry, so you can go out and repeat the same bad business habits that have caused you to be a failure in this business. What you need to do, young man, is learn fundamental business skills. Because once you do, you can apply those to any industry. But until you learn how to make a business work, it doesn’t matter what industry you go into – you’re still going to fail at it.” – from The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellis
If you have a pattern of starting strong on a new project or business for a couple of months and then giving up, or switching to the next project, you may have a problem with finishing.
It is only through persistence that you’ll confront your own personal limits and get enough momentum to get anything worthwhile off the ground. Overnight successes are almost always years or decades in the making.
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Know when to cut the cord on a losing endeavour, but don’t give up just because you aren’t a millionaire three months into your new project, or your new app hasn’t attracted VC funding yet.
There is one more thing I want to remind you of. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur all the time – it’s ok to take a couple of hours off and wear a different hat. Be a sister, or husband, or father or friend. Get some exercise, do what makes you happy and stay balanced and healthy. Your business will thank you.
If you learn from your mistakes, and get a little bit better every single day of your life, success will take care of itself.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Build Solid Back-Room Basics For Business Success
What do South African entrepreneurs really know about what goes on behind the scenes building of businesses?
South Africa has a vibrant start-up culture with great ideas starting out with a bang, but closing down with a whimper because entrepreneurs picture the glory at the destination, but not the nitty gritty of the journey to get there.
Be smart about scale
When I started out, I literally did everything myself. I negotiated and signed leases, I arranged the furnishing for our apartments and managed the interior décor process. When guests started using our apartments, I signed them in at reception, and then carried their bags.
At that stage, there was no money in my business to pay for attorneys, interior designers and decorators and there certainly wasn’t enough money for porters.
However, when we got to 70 apartments, it didn’t make sense for me to be a porter any longer, so I hired someone to do that job, explaining clearly what I expected of him. Before I did that, though, I spent time designing incentives for him so that he would be more affordable for me, and so that he could earn as much money as possible.
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Know your talents – and your limitations
There are certain things I’m really good at, but I know without a doubt that sales isn’t one of them – and without sales, you don’t have a business. I couldn’t afford a top-flight salesperson, but I knew that I could attract the right talent with the right business model. I set some high targets for Pamela Niemand, but offered her one third of the business if she met them. We both won: she earned a share in a successful, trend-setting business, and my trend-setting business became successful!
Use your skills – but know when to hand over
My background in corporate finance meant that I had all the accounting skills I needed when we first started out, but I knew that the time would come when I would need someone focused on that side of the business full time. Doing it all myself first meant that I could brief my first full-time accountant clearly and with a deep understanding of what would be required – and that I could help that person find and fix any challenges based on my experience.
In summary, my simple advice to anyone starting out would be to bootstrap your business yourself without investors or staff for as long as you can, but don’t over-extend yourself. Know when to delegate tasks away so that you can focus on what you’re really good at – but don’t do it before you have a solid understanding of what’s required. Know what you’ll never be able to do, and bring in that resource from the beginning – but do it based on performance-based incentives, so that your fledgling business doesn’t lose out if your early hires don’t perform.
The Myth About The Relationship Between Entrepreneurs And Taking Risks
This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.
“I can’t be an entrepreneur or start a business. I don’t have the appetite for risk.” This line is spoken regularly to brave few that leave the perceived safety of a job, take the plunge and venture into the unknown world of being an entrepreneur. However, there is a gross misunderstanding in the appetite for risk that entrepreneurs are believed to have innately inside of them.
The little-known truth is that the majority of entrepreneurs don’t like taking risks and according to Luca Rigotti and Mathew Ryan in their paper that explores a model for quantifying risk and its translation into enterprising action, the results were very interesting.
Risk is explained by these theorists as taking action where the outcomes are unpredictable as well the factors leading to that outcome are unknown. One of the theorists in this area, Saraswati, who coined the term “tolerance for ambiguity” has a more accurate description of what the outside world deems taking a risk.
In simple terms, entrepreneurs don’t go head-first into the shark infested water because they like the idea of danger and potentially being eaten alive; or the thrill of being able to say that they survived whilst others perished in a pool of maimed flesh. They carefully calculate that the sharks have been fed recently, some of the sharks are ragged tooth sharks that whilst looking like they are set to devour a human being, are actually incapable of opening their jaws wide enough to bite. For those sharks that still have space or who smell blood and can’t resist the urge to kill, the entrepreneur has a cage set up that he can retreat into quickly and a knife with which to protect himself.
Tolerance for ambiguity is the careful evaluation of what is known at the moment where a decision must be made and an open-mindedness for what is not known. This, coupled with the agility to change course when new information is presented, has earned the label of high risk appetite. The appetite is not for the risk, but it is the ability to move down a path, when all the information is not known.
I likened it to a person moving around in the dark holding a candle. The candle casts a light that illuminates a limited parameter around the person holding the candle. What is beyond the light that the candle casts, is unknown and potentially a risk. But as the person moves forward, the light reveals what was unknown and in the shadows. As the light reveals new information and new challenges added to what they have already learnt, the person can make better informed decisions. The tolerance is in not knowing what lies in the shadows yet to be illuminated by the candle and then the confidence in his or her own ability to act on what new information is discovered.
None of this behaviour is risky or irresponsible. There is careful consideration for what is known and a tolerance for what is unknown. And once there is more information available, a calculated next step is taken and more information is assimilated into what is now known. This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs To Adopt Today
Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…
For some people, becoming an entrepreneur is as easy as stepping off a bus. They have a big idea, they bring it to life, they hire employees and the next thing they are in a building smothered in branding and living the business dream. For others, the idea and the passion are there but they are unsure as to how they can make these into a sustainable reality. Entrepreneurial spirit isn’t like instant coffee – you don’t add ideas and suddenly get all the skills you need to thrive.
Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…
1. Believable vision
Make sure that your vision is believable and achievable. It has to live in the realms of possibility, not as a blue-sky idea that looks good on paper but wouldn’t work in reality. You need to be able to live this vision so make it realistic and achievable. This will not only keep you on track, but your employees as well.
2. Be inclusive
You need to ensure that every person who works with you feels as if they are part of your vision and understand it. They need to relate to where the business is going and how it plans to get there. Many leaders don’t understand why employees are not engaged with their business and it’s because many of them don’t actually understand what the business does.
3. Communication is critical
If you don’t have fantastic communication skills, then now is the time to hone them. When it comes to building employee morale, commitment and engagement, nothing works as effectively as constant communication. The same applies to client relationships. You need to repeat the vision and ethos of the company at every opportunity and you need to be part of the team that does this communication.
4. Be visible and transparent
You are communicating, now you need to make that communication genuine by being both open and clear. People respond incredibly well to transparency. They feel as if they are part of something that recognises their value and contribution and it fosters a more inclusive company culture. Often toxic cultures come about thanks to a lack of communication and visibility. People know when things are being kept secret and react negatively to it, regardless of whether they’re an employee, a customer or a manager.
5. Be practical
You aren’t going to build an empire in a fortnight so focus on a realistic and practical business strategy that has clear benchmarks and even clearer goals. Communicate these with the company and keep everybody on the same page. Practical and achievable means long-term success.
6. Build opportunities
As people become immersed in your company and part of its growth they will also need opportunities to grow. You need to tie their careers to the business and create opportunities for them.
7. Be human
It takes people to build a culture, a company and a future. It’s essential that you are human in your interactions and your treatment of others. The impact that a down to earth and authentic attitude can have on a company is extraordinary.
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