As a first time entrepreneur (and a single founder at that!) who has been building a product company for the last 3 years, I’m the first to admit that I’ve made tons of mistakes. If I were to do everything again, I’d spend more time getting myself ready for entrepreneurship during my corporate life. As I always say in such posts, there are no explicit rules to ensure entrepreneurial success, but here are a number of strategies I believe can help you before you take the plunge.
As I always say in such posts, there are no explicit rules to ensure entrepreneurial success, but here are a number of strategies I believe can help you before you take the plunge.
1. Play competitive sports
Imagine you’re playing a physical sport, or even a high-pressure video game. If you’re losing at halftime you’re still going to fight for the win, and you have a reasonable shot of recovering and taking home the match. Having played competitive sports all my life – Table Tennis, Cricket and recently, Tennis – motivating myself under difficult circumstances has not been that tough. Joining competitive sports doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start playing in a league or professionally; it could just mean participating in a friendly game in your building or at a local club.
Joining competitive sports doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start playing in a league or professionally; it could just mean participating in a friendly game in your building or at a local club.
Sports bring discipline, planning, strategy, teamwork, passion, tenacity, self-confidence and acceptance of defeat at times. Granted, taking your mind off your start-up can be difficult, but a 3-hour table-tennis session during weekdays can often serve as an important distraction that will be beneficial to you in the process.
Granted, taking your mind off your start-up can be difficult, but a 3-hour table-tennis session during weekdays can often serve as an important distraction that will be beneficial to you in the process.
2. Stop worrying about failures
Most people know that what makes start-ups and entrepreneurs successful is taking risks, but how many of us actually do this in our personal and corporate lives? Even in the start-up world, you often encounter advisors and investors who have never actually tried to run their own businesses. It’s human nature to get stuck on the same thought every time we try to do something risky: What if I fail? I’ll be humiliated, I won’t be respected
It’s human nature to get stuck on the same thought every time we try to do something risky: What if I fail? I’ll be humiliated, I won’t be respected anymore, I’ll be done for. That mindset is going to handicap you time and again. Let yourself fail! What matters is that you tried, and oftentimes, failing teaches you how to succeed.
Try the following exercises: As a single guy or girl, if you fancy someone, muster up the courage to ask them out. Embrace the risk of rejection for the potential reward of being with someone you adore. Or, if you’re in a corporate environment, challenge your work methodology, push your comfort zone and take risks that will hopefully improve how you and your company work.
The rule we follow internally at CityFALCON is that everyone here has to take risks. Failure is fine, but not trying is not an option. I’m not all talk; I remember being so bored of giving the same old Powerpoint pitches that I once began a pitch at Microsoft Accelerator’s demo day with a dance! And it was the most exhilarating decision ever 🙂 If you’re interested in finding out what happened (and you should be!) you can read more here:
If you’re interested in finding out what happened (and you should be!) you can read more here: Who starts a startup investment pitch with a dance!? you must be crazy!
3. Make decisions quickly
As an entrepreneur, you’ll have to make decisions constantly. You may not have all of the necessary data or information required, and might have to rely a bit on hunches or intuition, but no matter what, procrastination is not allowed; the team, the investors and other stakeholders are all relying on you. If things don’t turn out well, you’ll have to bear the brunt of the fallout, but not making decisions is not an option.
See if you can live by the same rule in your personal and/or professional life as a way to train yourself to have this mindset. Attack decisions head-on and quickly, to progress at a pace like never before.
4. Stop talking, start executing, and always keep closing
Keep completing tasks and persevering. Don’t just work hard; work smart. Check out this scene from the film Glengarry Glen Ross to get an illustration of what this mentality entails. Rather than give it away for you I’ll let you watch for yourself and draw your own conclusions. It’s a scene that’s recommended for salespeople, but the principle is no different when you’re working in a start-up–ALWAYS BE CLOSING!
5. Build your tribe
You’ll need a strong network of friends, investors, employees and the like, to take you through the first few years of your start-up. Strangers usually don’t back entrepreneurs; it’s your relationships that will take you through. Treat your relationships as equally valuable investments as the investments themselves. Build a team of people you trust, and keep them around! A stable foundation keeps a strong house standing, as a stable support system keeps a strong startup running.
6. Be obsessed with your passions
One of my mentors recommended that I read ‘Choose Yourself!’ by James Altucher, a book that emphasizes forging your individual path in the “new” world we live in, and it really changed my view on building products and companies. It’s not the technical skills that matter so much, but it’s the passion that takes you that extra distance. You may not be a rocket scientist, but if you care enough about the subject, you can create a company that will build rockets.
Choose your work, hobbies, mentors and reading material based on what you’re passionate about and aim to excel at what you do – push yourself that extra mile, go to the next level and make your dreams come true. The ability rests solely in your hands; use it!
7. Stop focusing on money; start focusing on what makes you happy and satisfied
One misconception about entrepreneurship is that people take it on because they want to become millionaires. But if you calculate the probability of your chances of success, on average, you’re better off in your boring full-time job. (9 out of 10 start-ups fail; you do the math!) For most of us if not all, it’s not about “working” but doing what we enjoy on a daily basis, living life on the terms we’ve created for ourselves rather than someone else’s, and seeing our start-ups grow from nothing into a sustainable business. Try to incorporate these changes as you select your next job–look for something that thrills and fulfills you rather than a well-paying job that bores you to tears.
Try to incorporate these changes as you select your next job–look for something that thrills and fulfills you rather than a well-paying job that bores you to tears.
8. Understand your strengths and work on your weaknesses
Being a sole founder, I’ve always been told that you “can’t do it by yourself” and I don’t disagree. Stemming from that, the most important thing is to understand your strengths, and then either develop new skills or hire someone who can fill your skill gaps. Be realistic about where you excel and where you need help; it’s important to have a balanced recognition of your capabilities. I
I realised very early on that to be able to do a good job as a FinTech entrepreneur, I needed to be able to understand technology, and therefore I learned how to code. Don’t underestimate your ability to learn new things, even at this stage.
9. Pay it forward
Something that the technological hub residing in Silicon Valley is recognized for is their overall willingness to help strangers connect, network and move forward with one another. What began as a series of lunchtime discussions of problems and solutions by engineers in 1962 with co-founders and competitors alike, has since bloomed into a culture of successful executives who are all too willing to pass on their expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs. The idea is that the same way you got help when you began, you pass along the help to the next guy beginning. Steve Jobs is a great example of a man who benefitted from this pay-it-forward culture, by calling the CEO of intel, asking his advice, and being coached through the beginnings of his first
The idea is that the same way you got help when you began, you pass along the help to the next guy beginning. Steve Jobs is a great example of a man who benefitted from this pay-it-forward culture, by calling the CEO of intel, asking his advice, and being coached through the beginnings of his first company, and look where he brought us today. As your start-up becomes more successful, note the things that have helped and hindered your process, so you can give that information over to the next little guy trying to start his own business.
10. Believe in yourself
It may sound cliche, but it’ll get the job done. Circling back to the topic of failures again, the only reason that people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Michael Jordan were able to get to the successful place they did is because they never stopped believing in themselves despite all of their failures.
Their vision was the whole war, and the failures were just lost battles that they needed to fight to eventually win. Focus on your wins as well as your losses, even if they’re small day-to-day successes, and you will see that the successes increase. Remember that you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to, because when you believe in you, others will too. You have the power to create and live your life on your terms; now go out there, fail, fail, and ultimately succeed!