Setting off on your own and starting a business endeavor isn’t for the faint of heart. The emotional and financial swings incurred along the way can be drastic, and you’ll often find that many freedoms, liberties, and even relationships have to be pushed aside during the growth phase.
While there isn’t a secret road map that you can download, pin on your wall, and follow on a daily basis, today I’m going to share six habits that all successful entrepreneurs have in common.
They say your network is akin to your “net worth.” I’ve also heard the phrase “networking is one letter off from ‘not working.’” Glance at your daily surroundings, and think long and hard who around you knows just exactly what your business does. Look at your neighbors and people you often come into contact with. Do they 100% know and understand what you do and how you could help them or someone close to them?
You are always one introduction away from changing your entire life. Talk to people. Attend events. Get your name and elevator pitch out there. Someone knows someone who needs your help or product. It’s a numbers game. Power brokers have teams of people who help cultivate a network of people who make their companies run efficiently, with leads flowing and new business flowing from these efforts. No matter what stage you are at with your business (or idea) there is no cost, other than your time, to talk to people.
2. Find a Mentor
Read any autobiography about a successful businessperson, and they will always reference lessons from people who helped guide their journey. Learning from other people’s experiences, mistakes, and successes is the best way to get first hand data on what it takes to overcome situations of uncertainty, difficulty, and mayhem.
A mentor can be a family member, a friend, or even a competitor who has the same goal as you but perhaps has been doing it for a much longer time period. Seek out a mentor, meet with him or her regularly, and each time you meet with them, ask questions about their most challenging moments in business as well as involve them in key decisions in your business.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks
The thought of taking risks in life absolutely terrifies some individuals. For others, it’s something that they view as opportunity. There isn’t a single Entrepreneur on the planet that didn’t make a major decision that could have bankrupted them at some point.
I reflect on quitting a job at the age of 23 where I was making 4-5 times everyone else my age and knowing that there was a better life for me out there where I could live by my own rules, be my own boss, and live life to the beat of my own drum. I soon found out the challenges of working from home, dealing with every issue, minor and major, as a solo Entrepreneur servicing clients. The ungodly hours spent on administrative tasks was eating at my time to create revenues and bring money into the company.
Credit cards were leveraged all the way until the limits were tested. I became a ninja at doing 0% APR balance transfers, activating offers as they showed up at my door and moving balances around with precision. There was no end goal in sigh to the debt, and it had an effect on how I could spend my free time. There was a period when luxuries like going out were traded for video games and a six-pack in the condo.
The risks are real, but very few people take them, which is why the rewards waiting for those risk takers is very high. The best advice I have received as it concerns risk is to take the largest risks while you are younger as it gives you a lot of time to recover from them should you suffer from misfortune.
4. Outwork Everyone
There is no substitute for hard work in life. While there is no shortage of people who will complain about their 9-5 job, there is a severe shortage of people who will set their alarm at 5 AM, and absolutely attack the day. Every Entrepreneur I know who has incredible financial fortune understands this and lives by this model. I know sales people who routinely work all day, only to entertain a client over happy hour, and then work on new business over a dinner – sometimes two.
This is the extreme you have to set for yourself if you want to join the fast-moving pace of being an Entrepreneur. There are no shortcuts for your time, and you must be able to have the energy to keep things moving.
5. Hire People Who Know More Than You
The biggest mistake you can make when you have employees or outsourced helpers who help you create revenues is get someone who doesn’t know the topic as well as you. When hiring people for tasks, you need to know where they excel, and the perfect candidate knows the task much better than you and can actually teach YOU how to do it more efficiently.
There is nothing more enjoyable than paying someone and having them come in and taking charge and showing everyone how things are done.
6. Take Care of Your Customers
The online shoe store, Zappos.com, is perhaps the best example of a company that was founded on the principle of providing unparalleled customer service. Realizing that at the time of their launch, many people were still leery of ordering items online. It was a new concept that many people simply weren’t comfortable with. CEO Tony Hseh was adamant about making Zappos a company that went above and beyond for their customers. In the process, he won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award for the Northern California region in 2007, and Zappos has been one of the most successful Internet brands in history.
When you are in your early stages, keeping customers on board is absolutely key. You only have one chance to make a first impression on a customer experience, so if you make an error, over-compensate them to make it right. Stories of companies taking care of their customers may not always go viral, but on the contrary, horror stories of bad experiences often do make it to the media. You can’t afford to have any bad PR early on, as it sets the tone for a long time to come.