Advice for Entrepreneurial Success

Over the years many people have asked me, “Can you give me the 3 (or other small number) key factors to be successful as an Entrepreneur?” Well, for me, there are many, many more reasons. My mind can’t boil it down to just a few. So, I put together 50 answers to this question in no order of priority.

I would like to hear from you if you have other ones. I know there are many more important ones. Thanks.

 

Here’s my list.

 

  1. Have passion for your business.
  2. Set an example from day one that you are a trustworthy company. Spell out what you expect from your employees.
  3. Know your business: product, industry, competition. Knowledge rules.
  4. Look to hire people different than yourself (can be smarter) who speak up and are curious. Incentivize them.
  5. Look for mentors and work hard at building the relationship.
  6. Always watch the cash.
  7. Always pay your bills on time.
  8. Work on your listening skills.
  9. Work on your sales skills and everyone else’s in your company.
  10. Don’t be afraid to give up equity under the right circumstances.
  11. Plan for tomorrow. (Not necessarily elaborate business plans) In planning your strategies, ask why should your prospective customer buy from you?
  12. Create an environment where innovation can flourish.
  13.  Be flexible, except with core values, and don’t be afraid to change course.
  14. Make timely decisions.
  15. Encourage and accept criticism graciously.
  16. The major asset of the company is you. Take care of yourself. Maintain your energy level.
  17. Maintain balance in your life. It doesn’t have to be your family or your company. Play or work, etc.
  18. Insist on quality in your product or service.
  19. Make sure customers’ expectations are met. Under commit and over perform.
  20. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate but with the authority that goes with it.
  21. Success breeds copycats. Don’t take it personally. However, do compete vigorously.
  22. Treat good suppliers like gold.
  23. New product ideas need not be blockbusters.
  24. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.
  25. Move quickly to fire people you are convinced are bad for your company.
  26. Don’t forget the details.
  27. As company grows, people’s roles change, including yours. Can you/they adapt and what will you do with the people who can’t?
  28.  Profits are good and essential to sustain your business.
  29. Periodically, get out of your comfort zone. It is important to grow personally and your business.
  30. Don’t confuse risk to your business with risk to your ego.
  31. Keep learning: knowledge is power.
  32. Rebound quickly from setbacks.
  33. Give raises to your best employees before they ask.
  34. Treat the little people as if they were big people.
  35. Keep track of your competition, but don’t fear them.
  36. Give back.
  37. Outwork your competition but equally outsmart them.
  38. Change is good: embrace it.
  39. Admit your mistakes and pay for them if appropriate.
  40. Thank you and please go a long way. They are still in the dictionary.
  41. Know what you don’t know and don’t be afraid to admit it.
  42. Never compromise your core values.
  43. The most effective form of advertising is word of mouth.
  44. An initial sale is good but nowhere as valuable as a re-order, which is a vote for your company and its product.
  45. Regularly talk to the users of your product.
  46. Regularly talk to those who sell your product, whether they are on your payroll or not.
  47. Aggressively protect your intellectual properties, but remember it is better to sell someone than sue them. Also calculate the cost of suing emotionally, your time as well as monetarily, with a calm mind.
  48. Keep track of your numbers. You need not be good at math to do so.
  49. Bootstrapping creates healthy habits to your benefit in good as well as in difficult times.
  50. Mission statements are only good if they are strictly adhered to.

There Is No Entrepreneur Gene

The use of the words Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurism keep growing as more and more people strive to be entrepreneurs with their job creating ability. This was not always the case. Not so long ago, Entrepreneurs were described in such unflattering terms as shiftless, unfocused, shady, money-hungry, sharks, quick-buck artists, unreliable, shoot from-the-hip operators, and so on. There are many words and titles that have different meanings to different people. This can unwittingly hinder good communications and create misunderstandings.

So, let’s define Entrepreneurship so we can all be on the same page. To start with, here is the dictionary definition, which I believe most people will acknowledge falls short of the mark. The dictionary says:

  1. A person who organizes, manages, and assumes responsibility for a business or other enterprise.
  2. An employer of productive labor, contractor, one who undertakes some task.

This definition would lead one to assume that anyone “Starting a Business is an Entrepreneur.” I don’t believe that. It’s as far fetched as saying that anyone who owns a car dealership is qualified to be a NASCAR driver.

So what is it?

I like to draw on Harvard Business School’s Professor Howard Stevenson’s thinking on this subject. He says it is a way of thinking, rather than a personality type. He says that Entrepreneurship is a set of behaviors. He distinguished Entrepreneurs (who are opportunity driven) from managers (who are resource driven).

So here is my definition of Entrepreneurship, which is basically Professor Stevenson’s with a few additions of mine.

“Entrepreneurship is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control with confidence that you can succeed—with the flexibility to change course as necessary and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

So, to me, there clearly is no Entrepreneur gene. I hope this will encourage those people who feel they weren’t born to be Entrepreneurs.

Great Idea to WOW your Suppliers

When I blogged my earlier post on Suppliers, I received a great comment from Pierre Martell, the CEO of Martell Home Builders in Moncton, Canada, that I want to share with everyone. Their mission is to build customized homes in 99 days on budget. Their website is their primary selling tool.

To accomplish this, they use a network of subcontractors. As a start up in a very competitive industry, Pierre quickly realized how critical the performance of his suppliers was to his success — thus his 100% agreement with my supplier post.

So to attract maximum supplier cooperation over his competitors, he came up with what I think is a simple but brilliant concept. I know from experience that the single best action you can take to be a great customer to a supplier is to PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME.

Pierre brought this maxim to a new level by creating the idea of paying all of his supplier invoices via Electric Fund Transfer (EFT). According to Pierre, this has worked to perfection and helped propel his company to formidable success in a short period of time.

Many times in my life, I have heard of a new idea and said to myself, “This is so simple, why didn’t I think of it?” This is one of them. I would have jumped on this idea in my earlier businesses. Where were you Pierre?

I can just imagine the suppliers’ reactions. They had their payments much sooner as there is no mail delivery time which historically gets slower, no clearing the check time, no running to the bank to deposit time, etc. It also clearly sends a message that this customer is committed to pay their bills on time. The end result is loyalty to the customer and 5 star service to satisfy him. Pierre tells me that as of this date, none of his competitors have adopted electronic payments. Amazing, as surely they have heard about it from the suppliers.

You might want to think of another way to employ this idea. Reward your best suppliers by creating a special club for them that you could call Suppliers Platinum Club. (My guess is you can come up with a better name.) You could spell out the criteria for the supplier performance you expect. These special suppliers will feel honored, while getting their cash faster.

This is an example of the Entrepreneurial thinking that Small Businesses need to adopt to better compete with their wealthier rivals.

Thanks for sharing, Pierre.

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