Working as a senior vice president for a Fortune 100 company and running IT Services for 48,000 end-users on a global scale was a tough job. It was long hours, lots of pressure and difficult customers. But, even so it was nothing compared to joining the ranks of the entrepreneurs and starting my own business.
Here are 10 things I wish I had known before I started as it would have helped me be better prepared for the important first few years of my entrepreneurial life.
1. Don't create new products, solve problems.
Forty-two percent of product launches fail because there is no need for the product. That's right 42 percent fail because nobody wants the product.
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So instead of trying to develop new and wonderful products to look for problems to solve. Where there's a problem, there is a need.
2. Forget about being an overnight success.
Even the companies regarded as the quickest overnight successes, Amazon and Yahoo, took at least three years to get there, and the majority of companies take up to 10 years to really make it. So if you're the goal is to be the next billionaire start-up owner then you need to be prepared for a long haul.
3. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Your success is going to come from your strengths so make sure the majority of your time is focused in that area. We all have weaknesses, but either outsources those areas or hire someone to take care of it for you. Focusing on your weaknesses takes you away from what you're best at and is not a good use of your time.
4. Get the right team around you.
We can't do it all on our own; we need help, but we need to make sure we get the right help. Twenty-nine percent of start-ups that fail do so because they had the wrong team in place. So take the necessary time to evaluate the team that you need and then hire the best people you can.
5. If you're going to fail, fail quickly.
Failure is all part of the process, not only should you expect it, but you should plan for it. The best approach for failure is to fail quickly, adapt and try again. One of the worst things we can do is to fail slowly, desperately hoping that things will turn around. You need to learn quickly what's working and what's not that needs to be stopped.
6. Understand your value proposition.
If you don't understand your value proposition you make it practically impossible for people to buy from you, because they don't know what it is, you're selling.
The simpler and clearer you can keep, this easier it will for people to decide that they need your services.
7. Know your customer.
I am amazed at how many entrepreneurs struggle with defining who their ideal customer is, myself included. If you don't know the answer to this simple question, it makes marketing practically impossible. The tighter you can define this the more targeted and successful your marketing can be, and it will lead to more sales.
8. Not every customer is right for you.
We've all heard the saying the "customer is always right", and while that's good to know, it's more important to know is that "not every customer is the right customer." We should not be afraid to fire customers where the hassle of dealing with them diminishes the profitability or where the effort involved outweighs the benefits. Just like there are bad products and companies, there are also bad customers and we need to learn that it's okay to let them go and to focus on finding the right customers.
9. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Mistakes are great learning opportunities, but we don't necessarily need to make them all in order to learn from them. Eighty percent of start-ups fail, so study what caused them to fail and make sure you take the necessary steps to avoid falling into the same traps, it could save a lot of time, money and stress.
10. No sales, no business.
Sales are like oxygen, and without them, we die it's that simple. It's so very easy to get caught up in product design, marketing, planning, recruitment, branding, etc., etc., but we need to remember we are in business to make money and to make money we need sales. Business don't develop themselves just because we have some great ideas, products or services.
While many of these things seem so obvious now, that wasn't the case when I started.
Working for 25 years in a corporate environment wasn't the best preparation for being an entrepreneur and understanding these things would have saved a lot of time and effort and would have helped me progress much quicker.
What do you wish that you had known when you first started out?