This post is part of a series by our latest intern Alice B. In them she will be reviewing what she has learned from previous Ent-Ex archives as she learns it.
This is my first blog post, everyone, so please be nice! I’ve been learning a lot since starting at Ent-Ex so I thought I’d put it down into words. This is some of the advice I’ve gathered so far on the skills needed by entrepreneurs.
In the last few years, I’ve seen lots of articles about “how to become a successful entrepreneur”. It seems to me that the experiences some famous entrepreneurs have been through are mainly exceptions. Looking at the Ent-Ex interviews, it seems that there is no magic bullet, a single formula to be a successful entrepreneur. Don’t agree, or want to know more? Read on.
First, rather than trying to know which skills they need to develop to launch their business, it seems that the successful entrepreneurs interviewed on Ent-Ex have thought first about the ones that they already have. How can you reach the top if you miss the first steps of the ladder?
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Plato, The Republic
So let’s have a look at ten things you should consider before starting your entrepreneurial venture. I’ve heard all of these mentioned in material from the last few Ent-Ex events, and I’ve divided them into 3 categories…
1. Know yourself: Becoming an entrepreneur implies knowing yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses and the skills you gained from your former experiences.
2. Be self disciplined: Self discipline will be your closest ally. Think about our dear friend Pareto and the 80/20 rule. You need to be time efficient and keep in mind when it is the right time for doing something else. Firstly, don’t be a perfectionist unless you have to be (for so many things near enough really is good enough, OK maybe not if you’re coding). Similarly avoid wasting time by jumping at every opportunity you come across. This will not help you establish a steady business: you have to evaluate opportunities and choose the right ones. So pace yourself and focus.
3. Be prepared for what you may lose: For many, becoming an entrepreneur turns out to be more difficult that they expected. You need to know if you can afford this new situation both in your personal and professional life. It will directly affect your whole life and every aspect of it; your way of life will be different, your work more intense and your free time will be reduced as well.
YOU AND YOUR TEAM
4. Delegate your task in a moderate way by acknowledging your weaknesses: If you lack knowledge or expertise in a field don’t be embarrassed, do not hesitate to share it with others. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you face difficulties so you can delegate your task intelligently. You need to build your team to cover your weaknesses. If you need to focus on an important task that only you can complete you need to learn how to delegate other tasks to give you space. Effective delegation involves good explanations and choosing the right person to delegate to.
5. Show the way as a leader: As the founder the identity of your company is up to you, and you decide how you want your product/service to be viewed by your customers. You have to share your vision with the entire team: it will be easier for them to follow the same flow as you. Gather and lead at the same time
6. Be human: When you start your own business your team will be small, maybe only a few people. Take your time to understand their personalities and abilities. If they share a good environment they will be more productive and more willing to create better work.
7. Don’t forget that you embody the identity of your company: The entrepreneur is a brand of their business. Outside, people will see your personal characteristic as a reflection of your start-up. Be aware of that and act accordingly.
YOU AND THE OUTSIDE WORLD
8. Maintain an effective network: Get introductions from your existing contacts. When you meet someone, try and create a truly meaningful link by demonstrating the mutual value you have to each other. Social networking is also an incredibly powerful tool, there are hundreds of articles online that will teach you to use it efficiently.
9. Ask for RELEVANT feedback: Try to know what people are expecting from you. It could be investors, clients, business partners. But not all feedback is helpful, you need to focus on factual, specific feedback. A positive opinion might be nice to hear but will not give you any actions to work on to improve your company
10. Avoid clichés: There is a massive amount of advice and opinion out there on the internet, but so much of it has become clichéd. Take as an example “Fail fast, fail often”. This is a phrase that echoes around Silicon Valley and while it is well meaning, it’s misleading. Failure isn’t inherently useful; it is only useful if learn from your mistakes. Better still, if you can learn from someone more experienced than you and avoid failing unnecessarily you’ll waste less time and fewer resources. But that doesn’t fit as neatly on a bumper sticker, does it?
If you have any thoughts on Alice’s post, feel free to share them in the comments below.