Many people describe the life of an entrepreneur as being a rollercoaster. Personally, I’ve found it to more like a bucking bronco. It’s rough. You get tossed around left and right, and most people end up face down in the dirt.
I know because I have had to pick myself up more and dust myself off more than once. It’s an education unlike any other. You learn so much about yourself and business. Unlike working for a corporation where each department oversees different tasks, starting out the entrepreneur has to do it all.
This November marks my 20th year in entrepreneurship and over that time I’ve had to learn management, team building, marketing, web design and copywriting to name just a few. Each skill taught me a different lesson, but four lessons stand out over my 20 years of entrepreneurship that every aspiring entrepreneur should learn.
1. It’s not for everyone
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. I love about being an entrepreneur because I’m in the driver’s seat. My efforts (or lack thereof) determine my results. And there lies the problem. While a lot of people dream of being their own boss, they’re not very good employees. Left to their own devices, they don’t get much done. Quite quickly your strengths and weaknesses will soon become apparent. A good friend of mine spent 10 years running his business and earned close to $300,000 one year. But earlier this year, he called it quits. What is interesting is that rather than selling off his business, he instead chose to shutter it and returned to the “security” of the corporate world. Experience has shown me that entrepreneurship leaves some people licking their wounds.
2. Trade money for time
While people call themselves entrepreneurs, the truth is that many of them are simply solopreneurs. They do everything, day in and day out. The more they work, the more they earn. The problem with this is there is a limit to how much time we have in the day. Early on, I learned to trade money for time. I realized that I needed to “work on” my company, rather than “work in” my company, as Michael Gerber is famous for saying. You’ve got to give up money in order to hire people that do parts of your business better than you can if you’re ever going to grow your business.
3. Give customers what they really want
Many entrepreneurs fall into a trap. They believe they have what people want. That their gadget, service, or product is the best. But as I learned from bestselling author Keith Cunningham, the market decides what is best. Every year there are amazing products that fail for any number of reasons. Sometimes management is to blame. Other times it’s a company’s inability to produce products consistently. Whatever the reason, entrepreneurs would be wise to listen to their customers. The goal of every entrepreneur is to give customers what they want, not what you think they need.
The Internet has changed so much of what we do from communication to education to dating and entertainment. But possibly its biggest influence is it’s changed how we shop. Thanks to social media and access to knowledge, today brand loyalty is hard to come by (save maybe for Apple). People want the best they can afford. It’s not enough to be good, the entrepreneur must offer something unique, something they can’t get anywhere else. In the biz, it’s called a USP (unique selling proposition). The old mantra of underpromise and overdeliver holds true, but to be successful the entrepreneur must find a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It’s not always easy, but it’s the surest way for an entrepreneur to succeed.
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