When considering starting your own company, there are a lot of financial, legal and business questions you need to ask yourself. “How am I going to raise money? Who are my competitors? Are there patents on similar products?” I’m not going to focus on those types of questions here. I’m going to focus on the intangibles.
Here are nine questions that you need to ask yourself about your own capabilities and personality as an aspiring leader.
1. How much responsibility can I take on?
You will be responsible for not only yourself and your business but everyone that has a vested interest in it. This includes employees and their families, investors, business partners, clients and the community in which you run your business.
It’s one thing to put your own fortune and reputation on the line; it’s another when you get other people and their livelihoods involved.
I am responsible every day to the BRIC Language Systems team in NYC, China, Brazil and Mexico – as well as every one of our language learners, interns and business partners.
Being your own boss sounds nice, but you’ll realise quickly just how much weight your shoulders can hold. Make sure you know you can handle it, for your own sake and theirs.
2. What am I willing to sacrifice in order to make this work?
There are tremendous sacrifices involved in starting up a business. Those sacrifices will include sleep, hobbies, exercise, relationships, vacations and your own personal freedom. A lot of these sacrifices are the result of realising who you’re responsible to (see above).
Be ready to sacrifice a lot in order to succeed and ask yourself if those sacrifices are worth the potential reward? More importantly, and more realistically, ask yourself if it would still be worth it if all of that sacrifice results in failure?
I lived in China for eight years. I sacrificed going to best friends weddings, the births of their children, my health, college football Saturdays and so much more.
So far, it is well worth it, not only because BRIC is doing well, but even more so because of the experiences and friendships that developed out of my time there. If BRIC blew up tomorrow – which I don’t expect nor want – I can honestly say that it was worth it.
3. Can I remain calm amid constant chaos?
Batton down the hatches! You’ll be dealing with a storm of confused emotions and organisational chaos. How you relieve stress is incredibly important.
Make sure that you have the mental fortitude to deal with an incredibly stressful environment and that you know how to decompress. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, yoga or whatever else – make sure that you know how to relieve stress.
During my time in Shanghai I took kungfu classes at Longwu Kungfu, tried Taichi, and ran the Bund in the mornings.
This helped me get through an otherworldly amount of stress and chaos that only expats living in Shanghai will understand. No matter where you are, stress relief is one sacrifice you can’t afford to make.
4. Can I make a decision under pressure?
When you start a company, you will be dealing with issues that you could have never imagined. You’re involved in every decision and every detail. This means everything from legal to hiring, accounting, marketing, sales, IT and design.
You need to be able to calmly, rationally and quickly assess a situation and act. You’ll need to be decisive.
As Brian Tracy says “decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all”. Be able to make the decision, move on, and deal with the results. We all make bad decisions at some point, I know I’ve made a lot of them in getting BRIC up and running.
5. Am I able to back down when I realise I’m wrong?
Leadership is as much about being able to accept when you’re wrong and listening to your team, as it is about being right. No one likes a boss who can’t admit when their wrong.
If you’re leading the team in the wrong direction and people are pointing it out to you, as a leader you need to accept that fact and change course.
Being able to listen to your team and heed their advice is a hallmark of a good leader. I’ve been lucky in every leadership situation that I’ve been in to have either had a good team handed down to me or built a good team from the ground up. Those teams are why I’m where I’m at today.
6. What are my own weaknesses?
Being self-aware isn’t a prerequisite for being a good leader, but it should be. You need to know how what you think, say and do are perceived by others. This is far different from being self-conscious.
Related: Do You Speak Start-up?
Being self-aware allows you to understand others and effectively motivate, discipline and lead them. It’s recognising not only where you’re strong but also where you’re weak – and using that to build a team that compliments those weaknesses with strength.
7. Can I manage a diverse group of people?
You are going to be responsible for putting a team together that will inevitably have different political, social and economic backgrounds.
They will have different attitudes, personalities and viewpoints. These differences are to be celebrated, but they will also need to be managed and lead towards a common goal.
Can you, as a leader, bring your team together when they don’t see eye-to-eye and are at each other’s throats? It will happen, you need to be able to help them forward as a team. Sometimes these differences are impossible to overcome and change needs to happen.
8. Can I let someone go, including someone close to me?
A lot of startups involve friends. Those friends may come from the neighbourhood, university or a previous job. Sometimes those friendships get in the way of good business judgement.
If anyone, including a friend, is dragging down the business despite repeated attempts to motivate them and having given them a fair chance, they need to go. This is part of your responsibility to everyone on the team who is executing, as well as all of the others mentioned in no. 1 above.
I’ve had to let people go in all kinds of circumstances. Some of them were close to me. I’ve had people break down in tears, and I’ve broken down in tears myself, but we were able to have the conversation and get through it. It’s not easy, so ask yourself whether or not you can handle that type of situation?
9. What are my reasons for starting this company?
Is it to make money, change the world, disrupt an industry, work for yourself, passion, pride? There are a lot of reasons people start companies. Make sure you know why you’re starting your company and that the reason is sound.
Be realistic if you’re setting out to change the world. Change doesn’t come easy. Make sure that change is wanted or necessary when trying to disrupt an industry.
Be self-motivated if you want to work for yourself, and make sure that passion and pride are both in check.
Once you’ve answered these nine questions, get ready for a whirlwind. You’ll feel extremes of every emotion from exhilaration to sorrow, success to failure, anxiety to serenity, doubt to certainty and anger to pleasure. You’ll feel many of those conflicting emotions at the same time and sometimes for the same reason. It’s a wild ride, and if you’re ready for it take the gloves off and come out swinging for the fences, it’s totally worth it.
Lastly, don’t overthink it. If you ask yourself too many questions, you’ll never get them answered and wind up never starting anything at all.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
12 Entrepreneurial Traits That Will Tempt You To Quit Your Job Immediately
Unhappy in your job? It’s possible you’re an entrepreneur.
You’re sitting at your desk one day, and a light bulb goes off for a business idea. After a couple of days spent contemplating the idea, you decide it’s not worth pursuing.
While the idea might not have been as great as you initially thought, the reality might be that you’re uncertain if you are cut out to be your own boss. After all, starting and running a business isn’t for the faint of heart.
You may actually have what it takes to be an entrepreneur but you have been focused on providing for your family or just need a little spark to ignite that fire. If you’ve been on the fence about entrepreneurship, see if you have the following traits.
1. Your “business mind” began spinning at a young age
Think back to when you were young. Were you the type of kid who was making money with a side gig? That’s one of the most common denominators linking successful entrepreneurs.
For example, Daymond John created customised pencils for girls in his first-grade class. Mark Cuban sold trash bags in his neighbourhood as a 12-year-old. Richard Branson bred and sold parakeets. Juliette Brindak designed a website at age 16 that went on to be worth $30 million.
Simply put, the gears of an entrepreneur’s “business mind” start spinning at an early age. If you’ve always been looking for ways to make money, you’ve probably been an entrepreneur your whole life – you just didn’t realise it.
2. You’re a self-starter
Entrepreneurs are known for carving their own paths. They don’t follow others, wait for permission or let distractions get in their way.
Reflect on your life. Did you start an organisation in college? Have you volunteered for a local charity? When there’s a project to complete at work, have you been the person to take the reins and rally the troops?
These are signs that you have a get-it-done personality, which is essential to making your vision a reality. This is a very good sign you’re an entrepreneur.
3. You think like MacGyver
Back in the ’80s, there was an amazing TV show called “MacGyver“ – there’s a reimagined version currently on-air. The series was about Angus “Mac” MacGyver, who was a troubleshooter with unconventional problem-solving skills. One time, he made a hot-air balloon out of a soccer ball, kerosene, newspapers and cotton.
Entrepreneurs are also troubleshooters who develop innovative and out-of-the-box ideas to solve problems. They are resourceful and think quickly on their feet.
4. Losing gets you fired up
No one likes to lose. But there’s a big difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else – they’re motivated by setbacks.
They don’t make excuses, complain or give up. Instead, they use setbacks as motivation. Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. He loves losing. It sounds a bit out there. But, as he explains, “I’m obsessed with losing.” The reason? “I love losing, because I know what you’re thinking about my loss, and I can’t wait to stick it in your face when I come back.”
5. You’re driven by passion
Passion: It drives us to take risks and pursue our dreams. For entrepreneurs, this also means focusing only on the goals they’re passionate about. It encourages them to see those goals through – regardless of distractions or hurdles.
If you’re the type of person who works out when you’re in pain or completes a project at your current gig before the deadline, you’re driven by passion.
6. You are easily bored
Do you find yourself easily bored? Some people might think that’s a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being bored with activities that don’t use your abilities or aren’t challenging.
That’s why throughout school, you couldn’t stand most of the classes you attended. They either weren’t difficult enough or you just couldn’t sustain any interest – you knew you wouldn’t be using the information presented to you.
7. You’re able to delay gratification
Few successful entrepreneurs experienced overnight success. The reality is that it may take years, if not decades, for entrepreneurs to develop and launch a business. Even after they start their business, it takes a decent amount of time to start turning a profit. It takes many around three years, but this can vary.
Because of this, entrepreneurs must be patient and willing to delay gratification. At the same time, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
8. At work, you’re a super connector; at home, you’re a loner
When you’re at work, are you a rock star? This means you excel at your job, and people flock to you. When you get home, are you more of a loner?
That’s not exactly shocking. Entrepreneurs place a huge emphasis on their work. Even bigger on having productive habits at work. It’s their priority – even at the expense of close personal relationships.
Richard Branson has said that “Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships.”
9. You can spot trends
When entrepreneurs are out and about, they’re taking stock of what’s going on around them. It’s not some strange safety precaution. It’s because they’re looking for trends and analysing what customers are demanding.
Take Beanie Babies, for example. The craze started when a community in the Chicago suburbs started trading the stuffed animals. After it went national, Peggy Gallagher noticed it hadn’t reached Germany. Gallagher contacted a distributor in Germany and placed an order for $2 000. She brought the box of hard-to-find stuffed animals back to the States and made an impressive $300 000.
10. You go big or go home
“We’re often told not to ‘bet the house’ on anything,” writes Lauren Elmore, president of Firmatek. “It’s generally good advice. But the best business advice I’ve received is actually the opposite: Bet the house on it.”
“Betting the house is the best piece of advice I’ve received because it’s not a singular thing to do,” explains Elmore. “It’s a way of life and a mentality that promotes taking risks and giving everything you have to make it work.”
Of course, just because you go all-in doesn’t mean you do so carelessly. Entrepreneurs minimise risks by surrounding themselves with the right people, being resilient and addressing their fears to let them go.
11. You’ve had a history of losing jobs
Have you bounced from job to job because you got fired? Don’t be embarrassed. You’re just too creative, driven and self-motivated to work for someone else.
I’d even say you may be a bit selfish – why should someone else reap the benefits of your hard work and talent?
12. You’re never satisfied
In school, did you best your classmates in academics or sports, but still feel disappointed? Do you have more sales than your colleagues, but it’s still not enough?
You’re constantly striving for more because you realise victories are short-lived. That’s why you see a lot of entrepreneurs start a thriving business and move on to another – they want to tackle new challenges and setbacks.
You may not have made the entrepreneurial leap yet, but if these 12 traits sound familiar, it’s more likely a matter of “when,” not “if.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Want To Get That Side Hustle You’ve Been Dreaming Of Off The Ground This Year?
Stop dreaming. Carve out 30 minutes a night after the kids are in bed, and start putting together something tangible.
Want to make extra income? Who doesn’t? That’s why so many people in recent years have been taking their talents and skills and turning them into a side hustle. In fact, according to a recent survey from Bankrate, nearly four in 10 Americans polled (37 percent) said they have a side hustle.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of people get stuck in the “dreaming” stage. They sit around brainstorming ideas and dreaming of the day they have a successful side hustle that brings them joy and money but never actually get started. Well, scratch that: This is the year to turn it all around.
And to do that, and get one step (or multiple steps) closer to turning your side gig idea into an actual money-maker, check out these five tips for how to get your side hustle off the ground this year.
1. Change your mindset
A lot of people never get their side hustle off the ground because they have the wrong mindset. I know it seems simple, but believing in yourself and thinking of yourself as a business owner and not just a hobbyist will make all of the difference when it comes to starting a successful side hustle.
Even if you’re nowhere near to being a successful business owner yet, act like one. In fact, the “fake it until you make it” strategy actually works. According to a study in Psychology Today, people gain influence by acting dominant and confident. This strategy has the ability to convince people you’re serious about your side hustle and can win you customers, too.
2. Create an agenda
You can’t expect your side hustle to take flight on its own; you’ve got to put in the hours to get it off the ground. I know it’s hard to feel motivated to do that when you’ve already got a full-time job and a ton of other responsibilities, but you’ve got to set time aside.
Luckily though, you don’t have to fear burning out to get it done: Chris Guillebeau, founder of the Side Hustle School and author of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, says that you can develop a successful side hustle by carving out just 20 to 30 minutes of your day. If you’re a parent, you might choose 30 minutes each evening after the kids are in bed; or you could even use your lunch break at work.
Whatever time you choose, put it in your calendar, set an alarm for it, stick to it and don’t let anyone drag you away from it.
3. Join a community
Sometimes we all need a little bit of inspiration to give us the push we need and some good solid advice to help us improve. That’s why you should join an online community for side hustlers. Joining with like-minded people can help you build a support system of buddies who have been where you are now and can provide a wealth of information to get your side hustle going.
There are tons of such groups onlines. Simply search for them on Facebook and LinkedIn and you’ll discover numerous groups for every niche. Ask questions, bounce ideas off other members, learn from others’ mistakes and get inspired by stories of success. All of this community interaction will push you in the right direction.
4. Build a tangible brand
Branding is the personality that identifies a company to its customers. Even if your business is only part-time, you still need to build a brand in order to attract customers and present yourself as a professional business. This means creating a logo, coming up with a tagline and developing a theme for your website, including a colour scheme and personality. All of this will work together to show your target audience who you are as a business.
If you’re thinking that all of that sounds expensive, don’t worry. For side hustlers who are strapped for cash, there are a number of ways to create a stunning brand while still saving your pennies. If you set up your website with WordPress, for example, you’ll find many free and affordable website themes to help you build a brand with just the click of a button. You can also use a free tool like Canva to create a gorgeous logo, business cards, flyers and more for your side hustle venture.
5. Start marketing your side hustle
The final step to getting your side hustle off the ground is to start putting yourself out there. So, whatever you do, don’t keep your side hustle a secret! Start telling all your friends, family and neighbours about your side hustle. One of them could become your first client or customer or could recommend you to someone he or she knows.
Next, get online and start marketing your side hustle on social media. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are particularly great for marketing product-based side hustles. Other free ways to market your side hustle online include joining forums like Quora, blogging and building an email list and cold-emailing potential clients to offer your services.
Over to you
Don’t sit around again this year wondering if your side hustle has what it takes to make money. Get out there and make it happen. With the new tips you’ve learned, this year will finally be the year you hit the ground running.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Should Adopt Today
There are certain skills that any entrepreneur can adopt to help build a business and shape their future.
The road taken by the entrepreneur used to be the one least travelled. The one where only the bold dared to tread and few understood the risk or benefitted from the reward. Today, the road may be one travelled by many but it still comes with challenges and obstacles that can trip up the unwary. The best way to thrive, is to learn from other entrepreneurs, using their learnings and mistakes to sidestep the challenges and embrace the opportunities.
Here are seven skills that any entrepreneur can apply to their journey today:
1. A vision
Know exactly what you want. Have a clear idea of your end goal. Write it down, verbalise it, embrace it. This is how you know exactly where your steps will take you. Your vision is what defines the strategic goals of your company and what helps you create a business plan that will get you where you want to go.
2. Ask questions
Question yourself, your plans, your strategy, your business plans and your decisions. This is a critical skill that will ensure that you are constantly driving yourself to be better tomorrow than you are today. By challenging yourself at every turn you will refine your vision and ensure you are always on the right path.
3. Passion and energy
Nobody else is going to be passionate about your business. Nobody else has the energy to take it where it has to go. It is entirely up to you. This may sound extreme, but without these two key qualities you will battle to take your business through the complexities that lie ahead and onwards into long-term success.
4. A work ethic
Like passion and energy, a work ethic is critical. This is your business and your vision so you need to put in the hours. And there are a lot of hours.
If you’re not prepared for the weekends, late nights and unexpected holiday disruptions, then you may not be ready for the demands of being an entrepreneur.
5. Create opportunity
While you may be the vision, the passion and the workhorse of your business, it is important to remember that your company can only go so far with only one person behind the wheel. Learn how to build a team and focus your energy on building something bigger than yourself. Your drive should not be just about building a successful business, but creating opportunities for others.
Throughout your journey you will need to share your vision, ideals and business plans with your employees and your executives. They have to buy into what you are planning, to be fully engaged with the work that they do. This means you have to learn how to communicate clearly and create a transparent culture so people feel part of something and committed to what it represents.
Ultimately, you want your business to grow and this means mastering the art of selling. Regardless of your business proposition, it is likely you need customers to buy into your product or service. So, learn how to sell. A large part of this magic formula is made up of the passion, energy and work ethic you’ve already mastered, the rest is all about relationships, communication and hooking the clients.