Starting a new business is no small undertaking
There are many factors to be considered when you start a business, and it is important to do your research and prepare yourself as much as possible, with some 80 percent of new businesses failing within the first couple of years.
Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to be the founder or co-founder of three companies in three different industries. Along this journey, my teams and I have done a lot of things right – and a lot of things wrong.
Building a business is a daunting task – from originally creating the idea, then planning and validating that idea to fund raising, staffing and achieving profitability. There are many pitfalls in the journey that could easily completely destroy your business.
Luckily, I have always been an avid reader. From my very first read, Og Mandino’s classic, The Greatest Salesman In the World, I developed a hunger for learning. I satisfied that hunger by devouring over 1,500 books on business, leadership, start-ups, business finance, culture creation and many more business-related topics.
I am convinced that it was the information I absorbed in these books and the validation from mentors that has helped me to avoid a bunch of potholes on the road to success in business.
Today, I get to speak to entrepreneurs and students heading down the business path on a regular basis. Inevitably, I encourage them all to read books related to their business and management. It’s a free education.
Related: 5 Tips to Read 100 Books a Year
There are thousands of books out there to help educate new entrepreneurs about what they’re getting into, so I wanted to review five books that I think will help any entrepreneur succeed with their start up:
The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, by Noam Wasserman
I have personally given over 200 copies of this book away to new business graduates and friends that I have come across.
The book is based on Wasserman’s research at Princeton. He did a masterful job of studying founders from many industries and detailing their experiences, good, bad and ugly.
The book is captivating because it uses real identifiable examples, like Twitter and other recognisable companies. It is a must read for anyone who wants to start their own company.
This book focuses on helping entrepreneurs take proactive steps to keep them from making mistakes that, though common, can have a hugely negative impact on their business.
It familiarises new entrepreneurs with business structure and helps them to better understand all that goes into making a things run smoothly. This is a great book for teaching you how to appropriately manage your business and all that comes with it.
Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Reis
I’ve learned many lessons from Reis’ book. One of the biggest struggles you will face in building your own business is managing cash flow. You know the old saying, “Cash is king.”
I don’t think that anyone can go far enough to explain the importance of cash flow management to a new business owner. Lean Startup is a book designed to serve as your guide through the many changes that a startup brings.
It will teach you how to effectively manage your budget, allowing you the freedom to innovate and make your way in the business world. If you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to have precise, effective budget-management.
This one is a classic for a reason. Peter Principle is an amazing book for helping founders to understand when they reach the “point of incompetence” and how to recruit great people to help you.
Why do things go wrong? I think it’s safe to say that every business owner has asked this question at some point. In this book, the question is answered by addressing the issue of incompetence in the work force today.
You will learn the importance of staffing and how it can make or break your business.
Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company, by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson
Over the years, I have realised\ the importance of building a fun, warm culture into your business. The world’s reigning master of business culture creation is Walt Disney.
In Disney Way, the authors do a better job then any other book on Disney to articulate how he thought and what actions led to the creation of the most culturally rich company In the world.
This book details how Walt Disney’s mantra of “dream, believe, dare, do” has helped to transform businesses all across the globe. In it, you’ll learn how you can create the most productive, effective and positive environment for your employees and your customers.
By adopting the Disney way, you can play a part in transforming our culture, and can impact your industry for the better.
Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry, by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler
Behind the Cloud just jumped onto my five-best-books-to-read list. Chris Brady, an Inc Magazine Top 50 leadership expert, suggested I read the book, and I am so thankful.
It is the story of salesforce.com and how Benioff and team built a world-caliber company before the term “In the Cloud” existed. Since it’s beginning, salesforce.com has been a leader in innovation.
This book details the company’s unhindered journey to success, exemplifying how you can use the unique qualities of your business to generate massive revenue.
This book is a great resource for making your business stand out in any circumstance.
Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, or a first-time business owner, you should never stop looking for ways to make your business better. Examine your strengths and weaknesses and find the areas you wish to grow in.
Perhaps you want to learn how to budget better, or maybe you want to strengthen your business structure. Whichever aspect of your business you wish to improve in, there is a book out there to help you do it.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles
Confronting your own doubts and fears is the essence of being an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is not a destination; it’s a journey. On this journey, successful entrepreneurs don’t have an expectation of “arriving” to some finish line. If you do have that expectation, you won’t continue to push yourself to step outside of your comfort and grow. You won’t seek out the things that truly help your business experience explosive results because all those things require you stretching yourself.
On any journey, you have times of joy and more than a few setbacks. During the times of joy, you feel like you can accomplish anything. It gives you the strength and motivation to continue to put in the work that helps your business.
During the hard times, negative feelings and emotions can easily take over. Before you know it, you’re feeling sorry for yourself and you turn to your familiar coping mechanism.
That coping mechanism could be food, alcohol, binge-watching TV or any other thing that takes your focus away from what you want to accomplish in your business. Since you don’t have a boss or company dictating your day and what you accomplish, that time “coping” could turn into weeks of your doing no work at all.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur means understanding hard times are when you need to push. When there are obstacles, here’s what you need to do.
Acknowledge, then process your thoughts
The only way to get through obstacles is to start with acknowledging that they’re there. The gateway to your feelings and emotions is your thoughts. What you think about and focus on is what you’ll attract more of into your life.
When you’re dealing with obstacles, your thoughts focus on what you can’t control and why that situation is happening to you. That can be a dark place.
When you feel your thoughts spiraling, give yourself two minutes to fully feel what is going on in your head. Don’t try to suppress those thoughts – let them out. When you try to suppress them, they grow stronger and threaten to get control.
Once you have given yourself two minutes, take control of your thoughts. Focus on what brings you joy and what you’re grateful for in your life. It’s hard to be down when you’re expressing gratitude.
Focus on what you can control
Life is messy. Change is hard. Growing a business is not easy and it feels like everything can go wrong at once. There are always going to be things you can’t and shouldn’t try to control.
There are, however, things you can do something about. If your marketing plan is off, you can readjust. If your sales are lacking, you can go back what you know works. If a team member is causing more trouble than is worth helping them, you can let them go.
The point being, there are tangible things you can fix in your business no matter what is happening. Identify what the things are that you can do something about.
Create a plan that will help you get on the path to recovery. Make it practical and actionable. Fill up your to-do list and calendar with the tasks that lead to results.
Ask for help, then take action
Some obstacles feel like more than you can handle. Seeking counsel and support can be the difference between you getting through it or failing.
Don’t try to be Wonder Woman or Superman. Seek help. One of the best things you can do is make decisions that help you recover. Talking and planning with someone who understands and is trained in dealing with a crisis is valuable.
Then, make decisions that are action-based. If a decision pushes you toward the action that helps your business, make it. One of the best ways to recover from difficult situations is to take massive action. Taking action on the things you can control will give you progress. As you consistently take action, you’ll be closer to your goal before you even realise.
Obstacles don’t have to be business breakers in your life. You can learn from them and use them to make you a stronger and wiser entrepreneur. The most successful entrepreneurs understand that it’s not the crisis – it’s your response that determines how successful you’ll be. Stay strong, process your thoughts, create a plan and then take action.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment
Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’.
In this fast-paced tech orientated world things are changing at a frightening yet exciting rate. It is so easy and so quick to create a tech start-up from anywhere in the world and office space as a requirement to start up has become obsolete, your garage will do. Yet because it is so easy and so cost effective for so many to create a start-up it is so hard to stand out amongst this entanglement of serial tech entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups.
The millennial generations’ general paradigm of thinking, which is more open –minded and entrepreneurial is slowly but surely breaking through the barriers of traditional business operations, mechanisms and methods, imbalances are created, however, when tech is the sole focus and people are forgotten in the process. As is so evident throughout history eventually by some means balance is sought in order to create equilibrium.
This writing serves as advice to all tech start-ups to seek balance from the onset in creating a “high tech/high touch” environment. A “High tech/high touch” environment can be defined as a balanced approach where both tech solutions, and of equal importance, team empowerment and inspiring leadership form a potent combination of enduring success.
Technology by itself cannot solve everything but technology applied in unison with a strong people centred approach can be a powerful catalyst towards solving at least some of this worlds’ major challenges.
Although many factors such as for example fiscal discipline and other management controls play a vital role in your start-ups’ success do not forget to create an inspiring environment for your team within which they feel safe and united in purpose. Key to business growth is the individual growth of all team members and no stone should be left unturned in moving from a toxic and/or culture of complacency to a learning and growth culture.
Co-create an inspiring vision for your team and get their full buy-in. If you cannot do that you might have to put in more effort when it comes to your own leadership skills and/or “free up the future” of complacent and lethargic employees whom simply do not want to work hard to collectively actualise your business’ co-created vision.
Although very hard, it is worth the effort to only hire people that are passionate about and have integrity in what they do. If a sustainable and successful “high tech” environment is the aim ensure that it is underpinned by very smart hiring and training practises further enhanced by a good dose of inspirational servant leadership.
Generally speaking, everyone wants to feel part of something bigger, exciting, and inspiring. It is your responsibility as founder and leader to create a motivating and energetic business climate wherein every team member is empowered to execute at a rapid pace and with a “zero defect” mind-set. A team environment wherein everyone sincerely wants to be great at what they do and are energised by ‘small wins’ on the path to actualising the grand vision of the company is far more inspiring and sustainable as opposed to an environment where ‘subordinates’ are only managed and basically forced to do their jobs.
Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance
Sincerely care for your people yet maintain balance,as caring does not mean you treat them like children. Caring means taking great interest in both their career and personal development, and to be tough enough to eventually let those go that does not constructively contribute to a positive growth culture.
Here are some practical tips for creating a ‘high tech/high touch environment’:
- Have a balanced approach in hiring. Hire for technical and people skills and ensure that there is a clear development and training plan for all team members that is reasonable and attainable.
- Find your purpose as an entrepreneur and with great enthusiasm model that purpose at every juncture as to inspire others to find their purpose.
- As ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ guard the positive and growth culture that you model as a leader with all your energy and remove anything and anyone from the aforesaid culture that is counter-productive to your business performance.
- Sincerely care about and show that you care about each individual team members’ personal and career development.
- Regularly put having fun and inspiration high on meeting agendas as we generally take ourselves too seriously.
Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business
Rather than taking the plunge, consider dipping your toe in first
As the world becomes more digitized and access to the internet is something we all enjoy, more and more of us want to quit our day jobs to start our own businesses. The word “entrepreneur” is thrown around a lot these days, with many people seeing it as a means to enjoy a whole new level of professional, financial and personal freedom.
It is not difficult to see why, either. Having the ability do what you love, when you want and on your own terms is certainly attractive, especially when you could potentially build it into a sizeable income. Don’t be too quick, however, to abandon your day job to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Many of today’s best-known entrepreneurs consider doing so to be reckless and unnecessary.
“Entrepreneurs” are rarely the modern-day maverick who suddenly decide one day to quit their jobs and pursue their dreams. After all, quitting a job to pursue business is risky, especially without having a safety net in place. In fact, the majority of people who decide to start an online business will fail within the first year.
Further, there is far more involved in transitioning from being an employee of others to becoming your own boss than you may realise. Changing your mind-set from that of an employee to an entrepreneur is a major key to successfully bridging that divide.
If you operate with the mind-set of an employee — a person who is used to working for others and being paid by them – you will almost certainly fail. When you work for others, you do what they tell you to do. As an entrepreneur, you decide what the next best step is, and you execute that step in your day-to-day actions. The latter requires both a significant mind-set shift and major discipline.
At the same time, in our rapidly changing economy, you would almost be doing yourself a disservice not to start a business. But, how can you do so while working full-time?
Take the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship
If you’re willing to sacrifice much of your free time now to reap the rewards later, you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Often called the “hybrid path” to entrepreneurship, many successful entrepreneurs started their business while still being employed full-time.
Research has shown that those who kept their day jobs while starting their businesses were 33 percent more likely to be successful than their risk-taking counterparts.
Leveraging your full-time job in the early days of your business, allows you to build on firmer financial ground, increasing the likelihood that your enterprise will last and thrive through the initial stages.
In addition, being entrepreneurial within your existing job allows you to build the necessary skills and traits you will need as you transition from your employee to entrepreneurial role.
Being impatient and chasing short-term gratification by quitting your job and going all-in, is risky and often ill-advised. Building slowly and steadily for the long-term is often the wisest course of action.
Today, it’s more important than ever to start a business
Still, with all that being said, the time couldn’t be more right to start your own business and become self-sufficient. Unlike in years past, having a job no longer guarantees financial security.
Rapid developments in technology and the ever-increasing digitization of our world puts creative and business-building tools in the hands of everyone. Whether you have skills to market or a great idea for a product, you too could be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.
Even if you set your sights a little lower, consider what skills you have that others would gladly pay you for. Figure out what you can charge per client, and how many clients you would need to completely replace your income. Unless you’re already earning seven figures, you’ll soon realise that the numbers are not that daunting.
I was able to build my first business through affiliate marketing With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to create your own product. Rather, you earn a commission by promoting other people’s products.
Though the thought of running your own business, spending your days working on something you’re passionate about, and choosing how and where you spend your time is enticing, realise there are days if not years of sleepless nights, cash flow shortfalls and mind-set hurdles between you and your destination.
By building your business while working full- or part-time, you will have the cash flow in the short term to get your enterprise off the ground. Once your business begins bringing in an income which rivals that of your day job, then and only then should you consider whether to pursue it full-time.
Building a business is not for the faint of heart. But, if you’re willing to work crazy hours, delay gratification and learn from your failures, you can build both a business and life like few others. After all, “Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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