Whether you’re watched over by angel investors or bootstrapping (using minimal resources), you want to succeed. You want to see your dreams take shape. A good place to find wisdom is in the words of others, specifically, people you are impressed with and who have achieved great things despite considerable odds. I started looking for advice from established entrepreneurs and combined it with my personal experience to come up with a list of tips. It reads as follows:
Be thoroughly dedicated.
Consider that you’re in this for the long haul. You’re “all in” or not in at all. Only complete dedication on your part will give you the strength to weather adversity. Ever been to Florida? They have tropical storms and hurricanes there. And while I don’t recommend walking through a hurricane, when that wind picks up, you must steel yourself and lean into it or be blown back. To walk through a storm, you’ve got to thoroughly intend to get where you’re going. The same is true when you set out to accomplish something worthwhile. If you’re terrified of failure, you’ll never succeed at anything. Even when you are tossed back, when you fail, you simply get back up.
Have a story.
All great superheroes have an origin story. All great enterprises have one too. What’s your story? Maybe yours isn’t particularly interesting. You probably didn’t start in a garage and become a tech giant. But chances are you’ve got something that makes you uniquely you. Be able to tell your story. It helps others identify your company and relate to you as a human being. You cannot lie, however. A phony story will have too many holes. And remember you are always writing your own story as you live it. Act boldly and you’ll have a more interesting story to tell.
Learn from your competition.
Some of your greatest mentors are your rivals, whether they know it or not. If your competitor has written a book, read it. Study the philosophies of others in the same or a similar line of work. But don’t stop at that. Read up on the tactics and accomplishments of those in completely different fields. In fact, it could prove a genius move when you apply a technique or principle from a disparate profession. It could turn out to be the brilliant stroke that sets you apart.
The truth pays better than a lie.
Be honest and upfront in your dealings. It’ll work out much better for you in the end. However, do not confuse honesty with being unable to withhold. Confidentiality is your right when it comes to certain types of data, such as the marketing plans you do not wish your competition to know about. That said, follow the law and be straightforward. When in doubt, ask yourself how you’d like to be treated. There are plenty of unscrupulous people out there. You need not be one of them. I recall a green car salesman who had one of his first sales ripped out from under him in the highly competitive environment that is car sales. He learned then not to let himself get pushed around. He remained honest and forthright. He was, however, no longer naïve. Stay true to yourself and your own point of view. Listen to others, but ultimately, you have yourself to answer to.
Be good at it.
Whatever you do, be good at it. Are you the best? Perhaps not, but be competent. If you can be the best, then by all means be the best. If you occupy a niche, you could very well make yourself the best in your specialty. You can take advantage of the fact that you’re smaller by providing a more personalized or better service than a larger competitor. You could position yourself as the underdog on the rise. Always deliver what you promise, and work to surpass it, and deliver it with exceptional service. That is how you build goodwill, return business and positive word of mouth.
Pilot new ideas.
There is a balance to strike between what worked and what has yet to be tried. And it is a delicate balance indeed. If something worked very well, why change it? But you ask the question, “Would something else work better?” The answer is keep doing what you know works and at the same time pilot your new ideas, new products and new services. Maintain your mainline activity while setting up a test project on a small scale over on the side. Then you monitor results. Add to that survey data and other metrics and you can gauge the potential success of something new. There’s always risk, but through this system you stay on track with the “tried and true” while simultaneously venturing into new territory.
Cultivate an aura of friendliness and excellent service. The customer is the most important person because without him or her, you have exactly nothing. Talk to your customers. Ask them about their experience and what they feel could be improved. For a sobering view, take a look at what airline service was in the 1960’s vs. what it is today. The disparity is rather shocking. I am in the interesting field (drug rehabilitation) where many of my clients are at best “disgruntled” at having to be there in the first place. The customer is certainly not “always right” in my line of work. Nonetheless, everything I do is for the well-being and future survival of the client.
Build a strong team.
You won’t get very far all by yourself. When you start building a team, you’ll soon recognize that you have to take care of your staff as well as the customer. Any group is built of individuals. While you need people on deck doing their jobs, do not neglect them as human beings. Take an interest in their personal well-being and happiness. Your team members become your close friends, your brothers and sisters. They’re your comrades-in-arms whose competence and loyalty are proven time and time again through trial by fire. You can get a lot done with a small but well-trained and efficient team. Collaboration is one of your greatest engines of prosperity.
I’ve said many times and it remains true that you must keep track of your numbers, metrics, etc. There is no substitute for knowing exactly where you’re at. This breaks down to your productivity, marketing, bills, finances, etc. throughout every facet of your company. That said, knowing the numbers is simply an invitation to act, but the numbers indicate where and how. A new system resulted in skyrocketed sales? Keep doing it and strengthen it. Income plummeted when you implemented a new plan? Something must be wrong with the plan or someone’s execution of it. The possibilities and opportunities are limitless when you know your numbers and are in sync with the pulse of your enterprise.
Selling = Communicating
I had to convince a bank officer that I needed the money to open a brand new detox and rehab center. After working in the field for years, it was time to expand and help people on a scale I had only dreamed of before. So I had to utilize all my communication skills to impart the fact that I could save lives if he granted the loan. In my line of work, I must convince addicts all the time that they are better off clean and sober than comatose in a hospital or dead in a crack house. You’re always selling. But what are you really doing? You’re communicating. You’re impinging and pervading. You should have faith in what you’re offering. You must also place faith in others and yourself. Communicate with faith and confidence.