The road to entrepreneurial success is not easy; it is not a walk in the park and it is fraught with challenges. At some point in our lives, we’ve dreamed of becoming our own boss, but not many have taken the steps to make proprietorship a reality. When you make the decision to become an entrepreneur, a sense of freedom comes over you. You are no longer beholden to time cards, dress codes, meetings that drag on and on, and you no longer have to wrestle with the inconveniences of the commute and office politics.
But freedom and relief will be overcome by uncertainty and doubt as early as day 1 on your road to entrepreneurial success. You’ve probably read all the statistical data and industry reports from various online publications, and from a number of small business authorities. Success is fleeting for entrepreneurs, with only 50% remaining operational after five years. But if you view this statistical data from a “glass half-full” perspective, then 50% of entrepreneurs do continue to find success after five years.
It is possible to succeed as an entrepreneur. Regardless of your business and type of industry, the key is to maintain an attitude that allows you to stay on course through the journey.
- Embrace your fears. Have you ever wondered why you hesitated to make that all-important phone call to a potential client? Or why you didn’t approach your boss with your business idea? You were held back by your fears of rejection and failure. And in a world that has become tightly competitive, the difference between finding failure or success may ultimately come down to opportunities.
Unless you accept the reality of failure in every enterprise, you will never be able to recognize, much less capitalize on, the opportunities that abound. Acknowledge that fear is normal and use it to give you more focus, clarity and confidence when you need to make the crucial decisions.
- Align your purpose and vision with your values. Most businesses close down because they were never able to establish direction in the first place. Direction is established by vision, which is driven by purpose. But where does purpose come from? Purpose needs to be supported by a strong foundation of values.
It is normal for people to formulate opinions of others just by looking at how they present themselves. Business is largely the same way. Clients or customers will read your profiles and formulate their own perceptions on character. Since business is defined as a living, breathing entity, your business needs to represent who you are, and these should be founded on the values that guide every decision you make. Purpose and vision that are aligned with values will chart your course and keep you there, despite all the uncertainties and challenges ahead.
- Focus on flexible strategy. The Old Economy is regarded as the time when the Cold War existed. Barriers were set up and lines were drawn between regions, which established the business status quo. When the Cold War ended, barriers came down and lines were crossed. The New Economy, ushered in by a new technological revolution and the breakdown of the status quo, sent the world into an upheaval. Economies have grown increasingly global and the business environment has become volatile, unpredictable, chaotic and ambiguous.
In such turbulent times, when conditions are in a constant state of change, the idea of a perfect strategy will not be possible. Factors will arise and throw your strategy a curveball. Instead of perfection, strategy must be flexible in order for business to focus on implementation. If your strategy is flexible, you will be able to foresee, adapt and implement courses of action that will enable your business to survive and thrive despite turbulence.
- Don’t let emotions cloud your decisions. Passion is a great quality for entrepreneurs, but sometimes these fuel emotions that prevent them from undertaking measures more critical for business success. One of the basic principles in managing a business is that strategy follows numbers. Whatever strategy or course of action your business plans to undertake has to be founded on reliable numbers, because these track your actual performance.
The primary reason businesses close is poor management and often times the correct decisions were not made because implementation became stifled by emotional factors. When decisions need to be made, you have to consider the greater good or what is best for the long-term success of the business. It may not be the popular decision, but if the numbers justify it, you should be willing to pull the trigger.
- Learn from mistakes; yours and others. Mistakes do happen for a reason and it is to make you better. The greatest and most iconic figures in business, such as Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma, have always shared the value of learning from your mistakes. Similar to failure, these form part of the learning process.
But it’s not just from your experiences that you can get a valuable education. You should also learn from the mistakes of others, because it gives you a greater perspective on how people overcome them and build successful businesses. Entrepreneurs like Branson, Bezos and Ma never hesitate to share their mistakes with other entrepreneurs, to encourage them to rise above their mistakes.
- Never stop learning. The ability to learn and update competencies has never been more important than in this generation. Technology continues to change the way we live, think and act. It has influenced our abilities to make decisions and plan strategies.
If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you should always strive to improve your competencies. Even if you’ve found success, never get complacent and rest on your laurels. Take it upon yourself to research or learn from other people.
If you want to be a better entrepreneur, you should understand that the road to success has no end. The journey will last as long and as far as you want to take it.
Image credit: CC by Dhinal Chheda