11 Lessons on Entrepreneurship

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I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than 5 years. I’ve been asked a lot on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and how I define success. Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot about entrepreneurship and the first thing I learnt to dispel is the persistent myth that entrepreneurial success is all about breakthrough ideas and innovative thinking. If there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that entrepreneurial success comes through great execution.

The points I’ve listed below are some of the noteworthy lessons I’ve learnt along the way:

1- Always remember our six most essential human needs

We all need to feel a sense of significance and love, certainty and uncertainty as well as experience growth and feel like we are contributing. Numerous people specialize in two. You have to look for people who share those common needs.

2- Great people are familiar with great people

Whenever I was unsure where to look for the next best person to hire, I ask the best person I could find in the field I’m looking to hire and ask them who they would recommend and I always ask for them to outline the criteria I should look for. If you’re looking for new talent and don’t know where to look, just ask.

3- Look beyond a good candidate

Look for someone who can do the job and their role should be united with their long term goals. Once you find someone whose goals fit those of the company, get out of the way and let them do their work.

4- You’re a business owner, not a business operator

If you find that you are stressed out about your business, then that makes you a business operator, not an owner. Once you hit the brakes, your business automatically stops working. You have to be strategic and build a business that can function without you.

5- Winners take action, losers react

Getting the right thing done isn’t going to be enough- you have to do it at the right time. Challenges are habitual and the key is getting to those who have played the game before successfully and learn from them where the complications are so you can evade them.

6- It’s not about the profit- it’s all about the cash

You do need an accountant or a CPA who can tell you about your profits, but profits is just an accounting theory. A CFO who can construe all that data in practical metrics that matter is who you really need.

7- Believe, work hard and persist

Without these three components, no business will last long enough. You need to believe that there are opportunities out there, work hard towards getting there and persist because you know it’s going to be worth it.

8- Indentify your perfect client

If you don’t know or recognize who exactly your customers are, that means you aren’t targeting deep enough.

9- Know when to decline opportunities

If you’re smart, the chances are that you’ll have so many prospects come your way. You have to be disciplined enough not to spread yourself too thin too fast, because if you do that, then nothing will be stable no matter how good an entrepreneur you are.

10- Enthusiastic fans are better than satisfied customers

With a satisfied customer you only get that: satisfied, that’s it. They might come back and they might not. An enthusiastic and raving fan, on the other hand, is someone who has been greatly impressed by the service they have received and they can’t stop telling other people about it.

11- Altruism is important

There is a myth about us entrepreneurs that we always act in our own self-interest. The truth is that we work more so to help others than to help ourselves. You know how important it is to set a business goal, so remember, it’s important to set an ambitious altruistic goal to motivate you further.

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WORKING MORE HOURS WILL NOT LEAD YOU TO THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

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All too often, you can easily discern a soon-to-fail entrepreneur by the weary and exhausted look in their eyes. Despite covariance in the rate of startup collapses with overworked CEOs, the dilemma persists. Some are fanatical when it comes to boasting about working 60 to 80 hours a week. Their logic of building ’sweat equity’ blinds them to the sacrifices they make, for instance, their marriage, their health, their families and their social responsibilities.  What they perceive as a successful lifestyle is, in fact, a massive failure.

Let’s talk about personal fatigue

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We humans are not designed to work for 80 hours per week, at least not in the long term. Numerous studies have shown that humans function efficiently for approximately ten hours a day and that’s only if you sleep well, eat healthy and exercise regularly. Attempting to operate for more than ten hours will have diminishing returns because it keeps you from being at your peak even for those ten functional hours.

We humans need a solid eight of hours of undisturbed sleep to rejuvenate. That leaves 16 waking hours in a day. The majority of that time is spent in physical maintenance like eating, bathing, walking and other everyday activities. Then you have t take out time from those 16 hours for family interaction and other duties and events as well as our commute time. At the end, you only have ten hours in a day to do any real work.

The only way you can do more is by either working for seven days a week or you forgo doing those things that are called life. Working for seven days a week only gets you a maximum of 20 extra hours of productivity and that’s not much. Skipping all your normal duties and activities will make you end up with no family, ignored by the community and possibly with deteriorating health.

Why entrepreneurs work too hard and push themselves too much

It’s a known fact that impatience is a universal trait of entrepreneurs. They have a vision and want to achieve it overnight. Entrepreneurs also tend to be perfectionists and pay too close an attention to the minutest of details. Between wanting the work done now and done right, they usually chose to do all of the work themselves.

But life doesn’t work that way, you don’t scale that far. Entrepreneurs start on the road to overworking themselves because they make these common mistakes:

  • They don’t prioritize- entrepreneurs have to understand that not everything is equally important. Prioritize the work and give precedence to what needs attention at first.
  • They don’t delegate- fear of others not performing their tasks the way it should be done usually causes entrepreneurs to micromanage and add other burdens to their already growing workload.
  • They don’t deal with tough things first- dread of big problems and distasteful work keeps entrepreneurs from launching important initiatives.
  • They obsess over insignificant details- entrepreneurs focus too much over the unimportant details and ignore the bigger issues that need attention.

Don’t put yourselves through undue pressure. You don’t need to be your own slave driver. 

The only people who can help overworked entrepreneurs are themselves. Only they can undo the damage. Knowing that a person’s best performance diminishes after ten hours, what entrepreneurs can aim is for working 50 hours or less each week. After all it’s preferable to work well than work hard. If entrepreneurs work efficiently for ten hours, then it beats working poorly for 20 hours.  Remember to:

  • Work smarter- it may sound cliché, but entrepreneurs have to be smart about every move they make. One excellent, well thought out decision makes everything great and one single bad decision requires a lot of hard work to undo it.
  • Redesign responsibilities- if entrepreneurs feel like they can’t keep up, then they need to redesign responsibilities accordingly because it’s possible that some work that others are supposed to be doing is landing on their desks.
  • Learn to let go- if entrepreneurs hire capable and efficient people, communicate with them their vision and the business missions, then entrepreneurs have no need to micromanage.  Entrepreneurs can let these employees do great things for them.