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.
The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit
The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Many university students are funnelled into a conservative career such as a lawyer, engineer, actuary or accountant. This is often the popular choice and has the advantages of receiving stable income and benefit packages – it is a “safety net” career and offers the prestige of the title and security of the degree.
That being said, there are a lot of insights that you may miss if you use the narrow definition of what entrepreneurship means in the traditional sense – “starting your own business.” Entrepreneurship is more than that and, in my view, should be looked at using a three-principles based approach. The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Principle 1 – Adding Value Within Organisations
In my field, being an actuary with a data science background, you always need to find a better way of doing things. We need to use our resources, skills, and systems in a manner that would support our organisations to ensure that we add value to society.
In essence, we need to use statistical or modelling techniques responsibly to ensure that three key focal points are met, which is easily adapted to becoming a viable entrepreneur, with a trusted reputation:
- We do not mistreat or take advantage of consumers;
- The results of initiatives or strategies are measured appropriately; and
- There are no biases based on torturing data to get the results you want.
In addition to doing a good job, we needed to ensure that the work we do can be repeated, with ease and automated where relevant. This will ensure that our influence is long lasting and scalable, which is also critical to starting your own business or initiative. Most long-term solutions should also be flexible enough to add value to society, in whatever touch-points they are impacting.
Principle 2 – Benefitting Society
This is not about how much you give but rather what impact you have. We need to be honest with ourselves and determine appropriate measures to monitor success and what our ROI is aimed at becoming. This is often a challenge and is oversimplified or overlooked by many. For example, we may celebrate success metrics by reviewing how many scholars we fund or how much money was given to upcoming entrepreneurs.
This measure will have little benefit if all the scholars drop out or all entrepreneurial initiatives fail, we will essentially be celebrating an empty figure. The impact we have needs to be long-lasting and setting up society for success, with or without your continual influence.
Responsible and appropriate ways of measuring benefit will help add value to many initiatives. It’s a significant risk starting an initiative without any key performance indicators or measures of success, as you will have nothing to benchmark against and no measure to celebrate or punt as transparent and real success measures.
Principle 3 – Starting an Entrepreneurial Initiative
Some skills are necessary to start your initiative and working for a large organisation may help you build these skills or refine them. Key performance indicators are often used within larger organisations, and these companies may have proper structures in place to learn communication skills, the importance of planning, setting up budgets, pitching ideas or tracking results over time.
As such, some young adults prefer entering the world of work as a first step and then using what they learn to start something new in the years to come. Whichever approach you take, ensure you are learning as much as you can and are open to mentorship, guidance and constructive criticism, we can’t possibly know everything, and there is always more we can learn and improve on.
Bringing It All Together
Starting an entrepreneurial initiative will require a lot of bravery and resilience, an open mind, a good idea, relevant skills and support (financial and social).
What I admire, is that a foundation such as the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation has robust structures in place to support and encourage their scholars, should they wish to start an initiative in the future. And despite the prestige or the safety in obtaining a degree, the foundation inspires the scholars to follow their dreams, no matter how audacious they might be.
With the vision of the Make A Difference in mind, we believe that our scholars and fellows will be able to contribute and add value to organisations. Some may start their own initiatives and those who don’t will still use the principles of entrepreneurship in their daily lives. We all aim to continuously identify solutions that will add value to those around us.
Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea
Being a solopreneur sounds great, but it’s actually a poor choice for your business.
When we read about Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and all the other business giants – we immediately see a single champion. Much like old literature traditions where the hero triumphantly wins alone, our legends in business are often portrayed as the singular hero.
Steve Jobs reigning over Apple, Bill Gates towering over the giant that is Microsoft and Richard Branson stylised in his cape throughout the veins of Virgin – this kind of mythology and idealisation of the single hero in business has spurred a new wave of entrepreneurs who call themselves “solopreneurs.” We idealise the entrepreneur who does it alone and doesn’t need a team or support.
If you’ve been doing it alone or aspire to become a solopreneur, let me share with you five reasons to not be a solopreneur – and why the myth of any singular hero, whether in literature or business, is a misnomer and will only hold you back from having the most significant successes.
1. You’ll become a jack of all trades and a master of none
When you are a solopreneur, it’s practically impossible for you to master every skill needed to substantially grow.
Running a business takes a lot of capabilities: Mapping out content, creating it, sharing it, building a tribe, sending out emails, doing sales, attending events and growing the network, coaching, consulting and building out products is a small list of what a profitable business requires.
If you’re weak in some of these areas, it will hamper your business growth and fun.
Related: The Foundations Of Growth
Trying to do it all will soon see you doing low-level activities that pull you away you from making sales, doing projects for your high-end clients and doing the things that help keep the business growing.
2. You can’t scale or grow
Business strategist Jay Abraham says there are only three ways to grow a business. You either get more clients, increase the cost of each transaction or you service your clients with more products. Two of these methods will mean more work.
If you increase clients or increase the number of products you sell, you will most likely need to increase your output.
Since there are only so many hours in a day, you’ll either become your own bottleneck and slow business down – or decide to outsource some of the tasks to your team and ensure business runs smoothly.
3. You won’t have time to do everything you want to do
When you’re overworked and doing it alone, you have no one to relieve the pressure. You have no team to support you, and you have no partners who can take some work off your plate. That means when there are emergencies, you won’t be available.
If a client needs you, your kids need you and a new client wants to pay you a lot for a new project – you’ll have to decide which is most important.
While having a team may not save you from making hard decisions, ideally you aren’t so thinly spread out that you find yourself saying no to more clients, family emergencies and serving current clients to the best of your abilities.With a team, you’ll be able to free yourself more, and you can say yes to more opportunities.
4. You’re more vulnerable to mistakes
Imagine if didn’t have spell check your documents and emails. Or what if this magazine didn’t have editors and any article got through? I’m sure you’d agree, the quality would be lost, and it’d likely result in many lost customers.
In my life, I’m lucky to run a business with my wife and my team. Having a team helps me to not only “cut once and measure twice,” it also relieves some of the pressure to be perfect. It helps me to do my work, knowing my team will help me, and that inspires me. Doing it alone would be too stressful.
Having a team will allow you to call upon a support network, hand off jobs and have an extra set of eyeballs when you’re delivering a service.
If you’ve aspired to be like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington or any highly successful entrepreneur – take some time and study them and you’ll find they love building and being a part of a team. Soon you’ll find out all these legends have a team, an incredible support system, and they don’t do it alone.
5. You can’t ever sell your business
In most entrepreneurs’ minds, the idea of selling isn’t there until decades after starting the business. But, it’s something that if given the opportunity most of us would do.
Even if you wouldn’t sell your business, isn’t nice to know that if you wanted you could take your business and get paid one lump sum equaling years of work?
Or if you don’t want to sell your business, maybe you want to step out of business but collect payments and keep it in the family – well, if you’re a solopreneur it’s tough to ever to work yourself out of a job.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Start This Business With Zero Advertising Budget And No Need For Premises
What do we need to do to make our chances of entrepreneurial success as high as possible? Is it possible to build and position a business that has the highest statistical chances of survival? How would we even go about building such a business? Financial Freedom Project seems to have the answer.
What are the causes of most business failures?
When it comes to business failure in South Africa, the numbers aren’t optimistic. Some of the more common reasons for business failure include:
- Start-up funding
- Ongoing support
- Lack of new business to sustain growth
- Admin time / costs associated with running a business
- High cost of equipment / premises
- Advertising budget
- Cost of personnel labor
- Legalities of employment contracts
- Costs of credit
- Market experience
- Competition within the industry
- Current market conditions.
With the odds stacked against you, what type of business could you start that offers you:
1. Minimal start-up funding
Consider minimal start-up funding requirements to mitigate as much risk as possible and make start-up as easy and quick as possible.
We need to go as low as less than one month of one month’s average salary as so to be able to start this business on the spot. Let’s make our criteria less than R10 000.
2. Mentor/ Trainer support
For support and experience we need to have easily accessible communication methods with a mentor / trainer i.e. WhatsApp and skype.
3. Access to a market full of customers with unlimited spending ability
Want a colossal market, how about an estimated 5.3 Trillion Dollars a day?
4. No need for an advertising budget
Maybe a business where customers come to you without advertising because they want what you have. Let’s be ridiculous and put a zero advertising budget.
5. Minimum paper work / admin requirements before and after sales
Let’s aim for no admin and have everything processed and stored online for absolute minimal ongoing costs.
6. No premises required
You can work from anywhere at minimal cost and only need one computer.
7. No employees required
This business must be able to run as a “one man show” as to exclude all labor costs and employment legalities. As in previous point, let’s aim for one person to run this business and internet to stay connected to the world.
8. Little competition
This industry offers the least possible competition between participants.
9. A industry with no “seasonal times” so you can make money all the time
To get a never ending supply of opportunity we absolutely have to be a part of the global supply and demand system.
10. A proven concept
This will be outlined below.
What’s the business?
Financial Freedom Project provides you with a long-term financial freedom by utilising financial markets. The Financial Freedom Project is a results-based wealth creation training and mentorship programme that has start-up capital requirements of only R4 000 to begin accessing markets. The course requires only 3 days of your time and offers unlimited course re-sits.
For more information about how you can work with Financial Freedom Project visit financialfreedomproject.net or call them on 010 020 5699 for further info.
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