“Taking the plunge” and becoming an entrepreneur is as exciting as it is scary. There is way more to it than you would ever imagine, especially when you’re first starting out. Even after several years of being an entrepreneur, I still feel like I have a tremendous amount to learn.
This being said, over the years, I have found several takeaways that could dramatically accelerate a new entrepreneur’s learning curve and success. Below are six suggestions that took me years to figure out the hard way. I hope this will act as a shortcut for new, budding entrepreneurs.
Hire a Good Bookkeeper and CPA Early
When my business partner and I were first starting out, all our focus was getting the business off the ground. The next thing we knew, a couple years went by and we were getting buried by taxes. I thought owning a business had tax advantages!
There are advantages, but unless you’re a CPA yourself, odds of you knowing what adjustments to make are slim to none. Being an entrepreneur means you need to learn a little bit about a wide breadth of items. You also have to learn where to focus your energy and where to bring in experts.
I know how tight a bootstrapped budget can be, but you’re costing yourself a great deal more by not hiring a professional bookkeeper and CPA. The fees these professionals charge is beyond worth it. In the long run, they will save you thousands. The ROI for their services can be through the roof. Not to mention all the time, energy and money saved from leveraging their knowledge and experience versus trying to tackle all of it alone.
Find a Great Mentor
You don’t know what you don’t know. Find someone who has already started and grown a successful business or businesses. A good mentor can share valuable wisdom learned from years in the trenches. They will be there to provide insight into some of the most important and impactful business strategies. They’re also there to hear your struggle and challenges and provide guidance towards solutions.
Network With Other Entrepreneurs
One thing I’ve learned is it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, the challenges business owners face are nearly identical. Find a group of other business owners in various stages who you can connect with on a regular basis. Think of it as an entrepreneur roundtable or mastermind group. You’ll learn as much from your colleagues as you will from anywhere else. You’ll also find personal growth by helping others and sharing knowledge from your lessons learned as well.
Discussion topics include leadership, systems, vendors, marketing strategies and more. Make it a point to seek and share knowledge among your group on a regular basis.
Focus on Systems and Processes Early
The first two years flew by for me. I was doing everything. I knew what needed to be done and how to do it. The problem came when I needed to hire other people to step in and take over some of my responsibilities. Without documented systems and processes, training a new teammate and setting them up for success can be difficult. As you’re doing specific business tasks, begin documenting the steps and processes. This is how business systems are created. A successful business is heavily reliant on systems. Create them early and perfect them over time.
How do you know if you’re succeeding? Define a small handful of metrics to track and measure. These will be your businesses’ main KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs will vary by business vertical, but some ideas include leads, margins, sales pipeline and conversion rates.
To determine what KPIs are right for your business, think about what items move the needle the most in your business. Which of these can be tracked, measured, analyzed and optimized to increase business efficiency and growth?
Read Books Like Your Life Depends on It
I saved this for last because it’s probably one of the most important in my opinion. Go inside any millionnaire’s or billionaire’s home and I guarantee you’ll find bookshelves full of books. How do you think they acquired the knowledge to become so successful?
Reading business books on an ongoing basis will speed up your learning curve and provide powerful ideas needed to take your business and personal development to the next level. Find popular books on leadership, business, managing stress, marketing, finance and industry-specific trends and topics. Start reading early and never stop. By doing this you’ll get the equivalent of a master’s or doctorate degree. You’ll be surprised how addicting it can be to feed your thirst for knowledge and how much you’ll grow.
How do you know what to read? Find out what books other successful entrepreneurs are reading. Join Mentorbox, listen to books on tape while commuting, visit the library regularly, buy a Kindle; whatever works best for you. Set goals regarding the number of business books you read each month, quarter and year. Make seeking knowledge and constantly learning a lifelong habit.
Entrepreneurship is a journey like no other. You’ll be challenged, beat down and rewarded beyond your wildest dreams. It’s hard work, but it’s extremely fulfilling. Take the advice in this article as a shortcut and accelerate your success as an entrepreneur. Looking back, I wish I would have tackled these items earlier. I hope these tips provide value and ease your journey.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.