A big part of being a successful founder means knowing when to back down and knowing when to step up.
As an entrepreneur, your ultimate goal is to take a business from zero to hero. For most of us, this doesn’t happen overnight. Typically, there will be trial and error as you wade through what will make your business successful.
However, there are certain characteristics that can help you navigate your way to the top.
- Position yourself as a leader. Entrepreneurs lead the way. But positioning yourself as a leader is not just about having the right answers – odds are you won’t have the right ones in every situation. It’s more about knowing where to find the answers. You’ll have to make a lot of tough decisions in your new line of duty, so you need to have confidence in the decisions you make on a day-to-day basis.
- Be open-minded. Know when to say “when.” Your idea of what’s right may actually be wrong. Be open to other suggestions and ideas. Remember, your business is actually not about you. It’s about delivering a good product to your customers and doing whatever it takes to ensure that your customers turn into repeat customers. In other words, be ready to embrace fresh ideas, even if they go counter to your own beliefs.
- Deliver value — not just quick profit. Ensure your company delivers real value to clients. Successful entrepreneurs are in it for the long haul. They are not after a get-rich-quick scheme. Ensure your business provides services and sell products that actually deliver a substantially better result for your customers.
- Build long-term relationships. Relationships matter. People do business with companies they know, like and trust. Furthermore, while it’s tempting to stay on the hunt for new customers, your existing customers are your best source of repeat business and your most profitable customers. To win their loyalty, you must nurture a relationship with them.
- Seek new ideas — especially beyond your industry. Don’t focus solely on your industry as a source of novel ideas. Think outside the box, venture in uncharted territory and expand your intellectual scope. For example, the drive-through concept commonly found in fast food was an idea borrowed from bankers.
- Inspire your team. Give people a reason to be excited to work for your company. Make it your goal to help them succeed in their job. They will stick by your side if you stick by them. Inspire. Invest. Repeat.
- Go all in. Inclusiveness should be integral to your commercial aspiration. Make the notion of “together we’re better” the operational fulcrum around which you build your business. You’re more likely to thrive if people view you as an entrepreneur who understands 1+1 is much more powerful than just 1.
- Know what your clients really want. The purpose of business is to bring your clients a greater benefit, a greater advantage and a greater result. But if you don’t know what their ultimate endpoint should be, then how can you help them? Don’t assume you know the answer. Study their actions and talk with them to find out how you can become their hero.
- Look for results, not reasons. One of my mentors, Marshall Thurber, would say: “There are reasons and there are results, the only thing that matters is the results.” Reasons are full of emotional biases and are often wrong. Rather than guiding your business on the backend of assumptions, build it on data.
- Innovate, innovate and (ALWAYS) innovate! Make sure your company wins the innovation game. Introduce fresh products, ideas, services, new ways of doing — not for the sake of just coming up with something “new,” but to anticipate what else you can do to help your customers achieve a greater result.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Scott Maxwell