These are just ten items, out of many more possibilities, from my 20+ years as an entrepreneur:
1. Find a mentor.
Work for someone you can learn from. Find someone you can ask questions or concerns ideas of it. It’s important to search out advice from people who have done it. There are a lot of wantrepreneurs, as well as good, well-meaning people who believe they have an idea of what entrepreneurship is.
Trust me, if they haven’t lived it, they don’t.
2. Believe you are Superman.
Believe you can overcome any adversity; conquer all competition; beat every odd in front of you, and survive everything thrown your way. You are indestructible. And not just have the ability to survive, but also flourish.
And if you fail and it all goes bad? Be strong enough to start over again, with the same approach that you came in with. Cause as I said…you got to be Superman!
3. Take advantage of opportunities.
Success is about looking it for opportunities and having the balls to try and take advantage of them.
You may be eating lots of leftovers, miss movies or events, work on the holidays, etc. Being an entrepreneur takes significant sacrifice. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a life away from work, but it takes effort.
Additionally, understand that the sacrifice you are making is not you losing out on something, but a significant investment you are making for you and your family’s futures.
(Sidenote: I don’t believe I have regretted going into business for one minute. I love the challenge and lifestyle. I’ve definitely regretted decisions I’ve made along the way for sure).
5. Only spend time on things that will bring immediate value.
Don’t get distracted making YouTube videos or paying for and going to seminars. It’s not that you won’t want these at some point, but for most new businesses, sales are still very face to face and done solely utilizing human interaction via phone, text or directly.
Additionally, everything you need to know is on the internet for free. To be clear, the internet will play a major part in any new business. Just don’t think that all you need is a website and some Facebook ads and the customers are going to beat your door down. Contrary to popular belief, that ain’t reality.
6. The majority of what you need to know you have to earn through experience.
Formal education is great and will help, but it is neither necessary and will not get you very far. You have to actually do the work to get your education. I have had many, very well educated people work for me over the years. I myself have zero formal education. What I do have is a lifetime of real-world experience and the disposition to learn while suffering.
7. Don't be emotional about your day to day work.
Change today what you changed yesterday has to be a mantra. Employees will fight this, but you will have to be strong. People will naturally push back against this, but bad ideas are bad ideas. And sometimes we don’t catch the bad ideas quick enough.
I have blown up projects that we spent weeks putting together simply because once they were implemented, they were crap. I then take full responsibility for it, change it again, hopefully, learn from the mistake, and move on. You cannot be scared to make mistakes, so don’t fear this. Embrace it, it will happen!
8. Be ready for, and do not fear, chaos.
Mastering chaos is critical. Learn how to herd cats! The best entrepreneurs are calm, cool and collected when things are at their ugliest. That’s the essence of an entrepreneur.
9. Chase the money!
You can do whatever you want with it once you have it. But if you don’t earn it from profits, you can’t use it for whatever you’re passionate about. There’s no saving the rainforest if there’s no money to fund it.
Also, there is nothing wrong with wanting more, (raise your hand if you have ever turned down a raise!) So don’t feel guilty about how you think that makes you look to others or what popular culture says about it. I had NO money into my 20s, and the whole reason I worked was that I wanted more.
Having said that, remember that money follows, it doesn’t lead. Many decisions are made trying to chase pennies when there are dollars a little bit further down the line. Money is made on the back of good decision making.
(BTW, By the end of the day most of these decisions are made from the gut. There is no guiding light in business!)
10. Do not get stuck trying to follow your passion!
This one will be controversial, but here’s why I say it: I think we should work passionately, that way we can go to work ON our passions.
You want to give yourself every advantage to be successful because god knows the odds are against you. Constantly be on the lookout, and searching for, all opportunities that you can take advantage of is critical.
You do not have to be passionate about what your business does, just about your business. My passion for my business being successful is about me surviving, for my family, my employees and the food my companies put in their mouths.
Ok more than 10 but I’m on a roll!!
11. To hell what other people think!
Family, friends, co-workers, competitors, etc. They will all tell you you’re crazy. You have to believe in yourself because more often than not, no one else will. The life of an entrepreneur is a lonely one, especially when things are not going well. This is were many lose it.
12. Always make time for your family.
Do not believe you can’t start a business AND spend time with your family? I worked 18 hours a day for a decade, and 12-15 for the next decade, and still saw my family almost every day.
This is why you cannot listen to people who haven’t done it, because all you will hear is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m here to tell you that you can. I believe raising a family is about quality time, not quantity.
My three kids are all grown now and either working for me, going in the military or going to school. And I have a great relationship with all three of them. Mostly because their mother is extraordinary, but I had something to do with it!
The final one I promise…
13. Take responsibility for everything!
From day one everything has to be your fault, regardless of whether or not you had anything to do with it. You own the issue, discipline or retrain the people doing the work, and move on. Since everything is your fault, there is no one for you to blame, hate or obsess over.
I’ve had employees steal thousands of dollars over the years. We find it, get rid of them, fix whatever loophole they found that I should have, and move on. My fault.
I once had a billing issue cost me $100k over 18 months before the accountants caught it. The money I was not able to recover. Would it do me any good to blame someone else? Would it bring the money back?
So we changed how we billed so it didn’t happen again. We dealt with the employee by providing additional training, and then I went into the corner and curled up in a fetal position and started sucking my thumb! (That last parts not true, I didn’t go into the corner!)
There you go, 10 things (really 12 things), that I think any prospective business owner or entrepreneur should know. Not my top ten (12), just ten (12) off the top of my head.