All across the world, we stand witness to a generation bit by the entrepreneurial bug from Eastern Europe, Nigeria, Scandinavia to India , all far beyond the famed Silicon Valley. This generation of entrepreneurs will change the economics of the world. Hopefully, you play a part in the change for the better. No amount of reading will entirely prepare you for the journey ahead since everyone charts a unique path, this is what makes the entrepreneurial journey so exciting. Even so, this list should give you an insight into what the ride will entail.
1. Your business idea should sell itself
Meaning, it should easily find a place in the current market. Figure out if there’s a big market out there for your service or product. Investors typically invest in a company only if they see a potential in it to grow into something big or if they notice a significant market opportunity.
2.Passion is contagious
Working for a big company means the company’s brand and reputation will do the heavy lifting for you. You get free tickets to events, representatives wine and dine you. The world seems to revolve around you. The moment you launch your startup, the party's over. You’re on your own. From this point on, you have to earn people’s attention. You do this by outworking and out-networking your competition. By caring a little bit more than others. Passion is your most precious asset, especially in the beginning. Your energy will make people believe in you and your project when there’s still not much to believe in.
3.Networking will prove to be a lifesaver
It can land you a great employee, a new investor, a new customer, or a great mentor. Attend startup and industry events. LinkedIn is a powerful tool to help you network. Ensure both you and your company have profiles on LinkedIn and make sure to add relevant new connections regularly. When someone does a Google search on you, your LinkedIn profile will usually show up at the top of the search results, so make sure your first impression is a good one.
4.Focus on customer service
When you're starting out, word of mouth is vital to the success of your business. Your early customers should be singing your praises to their friends and colleagues and giving out referrals. Go the extra mile to show your appreciation, send personal emails and keep surprising them.
5.You can’t shy away from public speaking anymore
The ability to communicate effectively is critical to inspiring employees, landing customers, and pitching to investors to raise capital. Most people aren’t very comfortable with public speaking. Get comfortable.
6.Choose the right business location, but don’t worry about an office just yet
Select a location which best fits the needs of your business, one which offers an opportunity for growth, accessibility to customers, proximity to suppliers and the right level of competition. If you’re not making any revenue, don't worry about a warehouse or office just yet.
7.It takes a team
You cannot do it alone. Investors would rather invest in teams than in individuals because it takes great teams to create great products, which eventually create great companies. Also, always be recruiting. You’ll experience a low retention rate in the early days. Don’t wait for needs to arise to start hiring. You could end up with below par candidates, which could do more harm to your business than being short-staffed.
Proactivity leads to magic. Keep the energy flowing, keep ideating, keep pitching, keep reaching out to potential customers and great things will happen eventually. When the small victories do happen, savor those moments. The universe is tapping you on the back. And stop analyzing everything. It’s cancer. Keep trying new ideas and learn fast.
9.You don’t have time for perfection
Speed beats perfection any day. Good enough is good enough to ship. If you don’t build, you don’t learn. The beauty is you’ll quickly realize how flawed your assumptions were, to begin with. Your business is a work in progress. Now if you launch your product or service fast, you can build a community of customers who provide valuable feedback which can help you improve the offerings.
Plans change. Starting out without a plan is foolish, but it’s worse to stick to a plan when it’s misguided. Stick to your decision when your gut tells you to, but as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to be agile and open-minded. Strike the right balance.
Joining hands with other startups in your space and building a complementary piece of tech, is a sound strategy and will almost instantly add a lot of value to your offering. It is an effective and cheap move to help you hit the market faster, learn in the process and to accelerate your product roadmap.
12.Show up in person when it matters
Virtual tools like Slack and Skype enable us to work with anyone anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, when things are on the line, there’s nothing like a good old, face-to-face meeting. That’s when you truly bond and make things happen. Also, never turn down invitations to connect with new people. Serendipity is real, and it can work wonders for your business.
13.Tie your story together
Branding is the key to this. Look at your startup as a brand from the very beginning. Design every interaction your startup has with external stakeholders consciously. Pay close attention to your name, URL, website design, content creation, tone, job postings, email signature, and other details. It will cement your brand and make a huge difference when pitching to prospective clients or recruiting new team members. Don’t forget your branding as a founder. Your online presence should be top notch. End of the day, a Google search plays a huge role in the first impression you make in the digital world.
You can burn money fast. As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you just can’t afford to make this mistake. Avoid overpriced conferences, office overhead, and other startup stuff which can quickly add up. Keep things as lean as possible for as long as possible. It’ll keep you afloat long enough to find the product-market fit and build a great company which would have died otherwise. Some startups are so well funded they don’t build up the necessary muscle to generate revenue. They get used to the idea that losing money in burn rate is alright as they have a funded company. Their attention is on raising the next round of funding rather than building a profitable business. A high level of practicality is essential for success.
In today’s world, it is harder than ever to be heard amongst all the noise, the key to getting people’s fragmented and hard-earned attention is to create value. Take the time out to think creatively about how you can showcase the value of your solution in a useful or even entertaining way. It could mean architecting a newsworthy stunt like running a marathon to showcase your sweat-free business shirt product or even creating a highly-curated newsletter. You’ll stop chasing leads once you focus on creating value.
Confidence and self-esteem are critical to show resilience. But you won’t be ready to take the necessary steps to succeed if you let your ego get in the way. This may mean doing trivial work like sending cold emails or asking for advice from more experienced entrepreneurs or even listening to your customers challenge your assumptions. Most often than not you won’t be dealing from a position of strength, so accept it early on. Embrace your vulnerability. It will make you stronger. Don’t be afraid to test a product, even if it isn't as perfect as you envisioned it to be and you are slightly ashamed of it. You’ll end up learning from your mistakes, and grow exponentially, both professionally and personally. This is what makes the journey worth it.
17.It’s a lonely journey
It’ll seep into your personal life. All you’ll talk about initially is the business. Your friends and family will eventually tire of it. Nobody will truly understand. You’re a small business owner battling to survive and scale. Your great world domination plans get lost somewhere in between paying the bills. In the first year especially, all your time and energy will go into building your business. This will eat into time with your family. It’s a substantial sacrifice, and you have to realize the level of commitment required.
18.Take care of yourself
In the beginning, you’ll be so consumed by work; you’ll eat poorly, rarely get any exercise and feel guilty if you take a day off. Taking a break is not only good for your mind and body, but it's also vital for your business. It’s essential to take a step back once in awhile. It’ll help you gain more clarity on the way forward and help stimulate your creativity.
19.You'll be the last person to be paid.
As the CEO, you’re the final person to collect a check. That’s how it works until there’s enough revenue.
Most entrepreneurs who have been around for awhile have experienced success and failure. Both situations teach you valuable lessons in what makes you successful and what can lead to failure. When you start a business, you don’t have to have it all figured out, but make sure you're starting out for the right reasons. We are living in a time where most harbor entrepreneurial ambitions, and the market has seen a record number of startups. Not all ideas work out; many people will be hurt financially and emotionally because of this era.
Nevertheless, I wish you good luck in your new journey. The world needs entrepreneurs. It’s the best path to create real value for yourself and others. No matter how it goes, I doubt you’ll regret the move.