Being an entrepreneur is a monumental test of character.
Creating something from nothing, and leading it from the front, presents the kinds of challenges and rewards that are impossible to replicate in any other business environment. The unbridled freedom and opportunity for creativity to reign, are precariously balanced against the nights of zero sleep and cold-sweat stress.
During entrepreneurial journeys, from inception of a founding idea, through development, growth and life-saving pivots, to victories (or harsh realizations), there are countless lessons learned. For entrepreneurs, these hard-earned pearls of wisdom come to form the fundamental principles they live by when creating their businesses and the best pieces of advice they can share.
Academic excellence isn’t a ticket to entrepreneurial success. Debates on whether experience outperforms book-smarts when driving a new company might well rage on forever. The truth is, it’s all an education and it is therefore entirely up to the individual whether they are able to experience the twists and turns of business, learn quickly, adapt and use the skills they have to lead their company effectively.
In a startup environment, the one who educates themselves the best, wins. If you aren’t learning, you’re falling behind and those with the keenest understanding of, not only their market, but their customers, their competition and, essentially, their own strengths and weaknesses, make themselves the best kind of dangerous.
Growth happens whether you’re ready for it or not. Entrepreneurs dream about it: that moment when their gem-of-an-idea is recognized and gets to ride the tidal wave of opportunity. Rarely are entrepreneurs ready for it.
Growth can outpace an ability to scale in the blink of an eye, and all of a sudden, the tidal wave becomes a problem rather than a gift.
Laying out a process—by which a startup could scale and grow effectively—ahead of time, is smart business. While the idea is not to get buried in preparation and lose sight of the here and now, if a business isn’t at least planning the processes needed to scale, it might well leave it unable to execute when it’s needs to most.
In a world where everything shifts by the second, the ability to take a deep breath and show patience is a skill. A great entrepreneur is like a duck, calm on the surface, and feet kicking furiously underneath.
Being ready to act decisively when needed is important, but the savviest entrepreneurs also know when to wait. Opportunities come and go, and not every one of them is going to make or break a business. Wait, breathe, be patient and then act with assurance.
The success of a startup generally has less to do with the product, and more to do with the people driving it forward. If there’s one thing that makes the gears of a company grind to a halt however, it’s misalignment of a team which, more often than not, occurs as a result of poor communication. In tight knit, small startups, relationships tend to cross lines between professional and personal and often, the fear of harming these, mean inexperienced leaders don’t communicate effectively.
As an entrepreneur, it is imperative to speak candidly with your team. Open, clear and honest communication is a necessity. Without it, companies can quickly become fragmented and directionless.
Taking action while others are hesitating can be the difference between success and failure for a business. The armchair entrepreneur is an easy position to fill and there are countless numbers of those who could’ve, should’ve and would’ve.
Being proactive and bold is very different than being arrogant and impatient. The willingness to step outside a comfort zone and take a chance at the right time is undoubtedly a defining characteristic of the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve known.
DON'T BE GREEDY
Finding "success" is a highly powerful driving force for every entrepreneur. The meaning of this, however, is wide open, and comes with a myriad of definitions. Whether an entrepreneur’s idea of success is increased wealth, respect of those in their field or to simply solve a problem they’ve discovered, the true experience of success often comes from sharing opportunity, growth and experiences with the community around them.
In my experience, a successful entrepreneur endeavours to make the pie bigger for everyone, while taking their piece and this new socially conscious dynamic of creation vs competition is a trait which seems embedded in the genetics of the latest generation of startup founders.
Growing the market, creating prosperity for those who came up with you, and sharing knowledge, expertise and insight with your community, is the essence of an entrepreneur and a crucial definition of success.