People will always tell you about how the life of an entrepreneur is tough—and so it is. But that drive that initially pushed you to flee the safety of a 9-5 working for someone else is something that you need to nurture constantly. Your drive is like a fire—when you leave it alone for too long it goes out! So make sure you fan the flames, and feed them as much fuel as you can find.
If you can keep that desire you had at the start from going out, you’ll be well positioned to deal with the many challenges life as an entrepreneur throws your way. The more things you can do that add to your fire, the bigger it’ll be, and the bigger your fire, the easier it is to burn away any negativity and distractions!
So find out what energizes you (maybe it’s the thing the inspired you to start your business in the first place), and find opportunities to use those things to remind you of your why, so you can stay motivated to pursue your dream. Maybe it’s visiting the pub where you first drew up your business plan on a napkin, or maybe it’s visiting the sort of people your business is aiming to help. Whatever your reason for being in business, finding avenues in which you can re-discover the reason you started doing what you do will increase your desire to keep doing it.
Keep Your Door Open
In the 21st century, we all seem to be aware of the importance of communication—and not just the instantaneous, impersonal kind (though that helps us in many ways)—but the kind that facilitates growth, learning, and understanding. As an entrepreneur, you have got to keep your door open. The business world is complex, and ever-changing, and whether it’s communicating with those above you (like mentors) or below you (like your employees), open communication lines are a sure recipe for success.
Now, having an open door policy isn’t just about letting your employees air their grievances in person—far from it. An open door policy is about keeping yourself outside of the box. You’re an entrepreneur; you started a new business, and to do that you had to do some out-of-the-box thinking! The best thing you can do to keep your business from growing is to crawl back into the box as soon as you get comfortable. Don’t.
Instead, keep your door open to new ideas, no matter where they come from. Keep your door open to your employees; let them know they can talk to you about whatever they need, and that you’re on their team. Finally, keep your door open to those who have gone before you. The key to success in business is maintaining an attitude of learning, and though sometimes it can suck to hear criticism, allowing yourself to be pruned by fellow business owners or mentors every once in a while will let you grow faster and make less mistakes in the long run. Which brings me to reminder #3.
Never Stop Learning
Learning isn’t always fun. For some, it’s reminiscent of stifling lecture halls, or long lists of assignments that didn’t seem to prepare you for the real world. But learning is a necessity for entrepreneurs, and there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
There is, of course, on-the-job learning, and trial and error (most entrepreneurs earn their diploma from the school of hard-knocks pretty quick!), but there’s also podcasts, mentorships, conferences, and YouTube. In today’s world, you can pretty much learn whatever you want, however you want. The point is to seek out knowledge and stay mindful of how you can fill your gaps.
If you maintain a growth mindset and devour as much information as you can, you’ll be more prepared to deal with challenges as they arise, and you’ll most definitely be less surprised by them.
Your Strategy Matters
There’s a good chance your initial business plan went through a few iterations before you committed to a strategy; it also probably started out loose, becoming fleshed out over time. However, once you get waist deep in the day-to-day activities of your business, and things begin to happen, it can be easy to lose track of your business plan and forget about the strategy you had going in.
Entrepreneurs need to remember that your strategy matters past your opening date. In fact, it’s important to constantly revisit and update your strategy as things change and your business grows. While the mission of your business may go beyond simply turning a profit, profits do matter; after all, they allow you to do what you want to do, and some day, employ others to assist you.
That’s why when it comes to strategy, it’s also important to keep an eye on the books. If you’re ending up in the red every month, your strategy needs some revision. On the other hand, if your business is consistently earning revenue, you’ve got a plan that’s working, but that you may want to re-examine in order to determine precisely what operations are contributing to your positive results, and then double down on those.
Take Care of Your Customers
This last reminder may be the most important. Without customers, no one can have a business, and your customers should be some of the most important people in your life. Some basic principles are: never forget the people who believed in you from the start, don’t take for granted the ones that are always around, and go the extra mile for the best customers you haven’t met yet.
The people who were there for your business on opening day and the ones who keep coming back every day are the reason your lights are on right now. Let them know how much you appreciate them always, and expect nothing in return. The more lengths you go to to build a relationship, the more those people are going to want to stay loyal to you and your business.
Lastly, no matter how big or busy your business gets—look after your new customers like you looked after your first. The art of doing business is fundamentally people based. It’s the exchange of goods and services, sure, but it’s relationships too. Remember that each and every customer of yours is contributing to your ability to do what you love for a living, and when you go above and beyond for every single one, you’ll notice they’ll want to do the same for you too.
It can be easy to get excited about your business the minute you open the doors and forget about some of the fundamentals, so we suggest keeping these reminders close at hand and using them like a business compass that you check once in a while. If you do that, we think you’ll be well equipped to stay on track, capitalize on your successes, and ultimately grow as an entrepreneur.