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The burning question is: How?
Entrepreneurship is having a ‘sexy’ moment. Buoyed by the success of college dropouts and tinkering teenagers, encouraged by the wealth of support available to startups, an increasing number of people want to take the leap into entrepreneurship, head first.
In fact, the lifestyle change of ‘being your own boss’ is so enticing, that an OECD 2015 survey found that 69 percent of men and 58 percent of women in the US would ‘rather take a risk and build my own business than work for someone else’.
So, what are the steps you need to take to get your startup, well, started up?
Let’s explore the right steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur in this post. On the side, we’ll dip into quotes from famous entrepreneurs and what we can learn from them.
Here we go:
If you imagine me as someone who prints out encouraging quotes on success and puts them on her desk, you guessed right.
Truth be told, I imagine every entrepreneur, irrespective of where they are in their journey, fueling their enthusiasm with such motivational quotes. After all, life’s too short to learn everything yourself.
But more importantly than using top motivational quotes from famous entrepreneurs to fuel our drive (because let’s face it — that will only take us so far,) we should look at them as an amazing opportunity to dissect key lessons in entrepreneurship that we can actually apply to our own journey.
So, what can we learn today about becoming a successful entrepreneur? Let’s see:
If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn't have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life. – Brian Chesky
This reminds me, the top reason why businesses fail is because there’s no market need for their idea. In fact, 42%, that’s almost half, of startups fail because of this.
So, the take home message is simple – to be a successful entrepreneur, look for a pain point that you can solve. In other words, we need to solve a problem that needs solving, not only a problem that’s interesting to solve. (Although F4S has found both are key to entrepreneurial success.)
We can learn from the inspirational story of the windshield wiper’s invention. In 1902, Mary Anderson visited New York City. The journey wasn’t a smooth one – her driver had to stop the streetcar every now and again, so he could get out and wipe off the snow that collected on the windshield.
That left Anderson wondering: what could the driver do to wipe off the snow without having to pause and journey out now and then? That’s where she thought of a windshield wiper and worked toward getting the idea patented.
If you’re following along, you’d note that Mary saw a problem and the idea that popped in her mind – that of the windshield wiper – offered a solution. Which explains why we’re talking about her idea several years later.
So, how can you put this into action for yourself?
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney
The takeaway? You’ve got to work your way up by cherishing your unique traits. In fact, your strengths, the passion to grow, and the motivation to make greenbacks make a powerful trio that fires entrepreneurs in their struggles.
Do this to iron out your concerns:
“In carrying out e-commerce, the most important thing is to keep doing what you are doing right now with passion, to keep it up.” – Jack Ma
This one’s a no-brainer. But, one that’s vastly under-appreciated. If you think the drive to make more money or name for yourself will keep you going through the rocky terrains of entrepreneurship, think again.
Nothing fuels you like passion does. In fact, if I had to pick one thing that has kept me going as a writer for about four years now, I’d pick passion without second thoughts.
Not sure what you’re passionate about?
Follow this 5-question based framework to pinpoint your passion:
This last question, in particular, is crucial. I’ve been writing since I was a child, so my venture into freelance writing was an obvious choice. What is something you’ve been doing for a long time and can continue doing even when the odds are stacked against you?
Taking the free F4S assessment can also help you pinpoint exactly what motivates you (and what drains you) so you can pick a business that aligns perfectly with your passions.
“Unless you have a definite, precise, clearly set goals, you are not going to realize the maximum potential that lies within you.” ― Zig Ziglar
This is another quote for successful entrepreneurs that rings true. In fact, setting sail without knowing your destination is a fool’s journey to nowhere. Perhaps you do end up getting somewhere, but only after having wasted a lot of your time.
In contrast, clear goals give you a target. Once you’ve this target, you can easily focus on it instead of on a hodgepodge of I’m-not-sure-what-I-want-to-achieve amalgam.
And according to science, setting goals can make you 10 times more successful than moving forward without them — so this is definitely not an empty suggestion, it's the real deal.
Here's how to set your goals effectively:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney
Not playing favorites here, but this one’s definitely one of my most treasured quotes on becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Often the overwhelm can bite at you and chain you down to a stop. This is a common struggle, so if you’ve been there, you’re certainly not alone.
To jumpstart things, it helps to read these words by Zig Ziglar on repeat: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
The best part? In F4S’ 20-year study on the world’s top entrepreneurs, it was discovered that successful entrepreneurs are 40% more motivated to turn their ideas into action than the rest of the population.
Here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling:
“I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we're all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose... When you connect with that love and that compassion, that's when everything unfolds.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
Another one of the first steps to becoming an entrepreneur is thinking big. Getting caught up in the details is similar to getting stuck in quicksand – you keep drowning, losing sight of your direction.
This doesn’t mean you need to start big. Instead, start small, but think big as is Virgin’s Founder, Richard Branson’s, motto. He recalls, “when we began Virgin, I didn’t see it as an end in itself, a noun; I saw it as the beginning of a whole range of services, an adjective. Successful entrepreneurs take an idea and let it fly.” The takeout? Think big.
If you’re struggling with thinking big, we’ve got a guide for you right here with a basic rundown below:
“Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can. This is the service of a friend. With him, we are easily great.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let’s be honest: achieving things on your own can triple the troubles you go through. A supportive network or a trustworthy friend can, however, make all the difference by offering emotional, appraisal, and informational support.
Personally, I lean heavily on my family for all the emotional support that I need as I deal with different clients and their requirements. And, I’ve a small but impactful network of freelance peers for the informational support I need. They’re also the place I go to when I’ve to vent my business struggles.
Don’t have anyone holding your back as you take steps to become successful? Here are alternatives:
“We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success.” – Arianna Huffington
Arianna isn’t alone in experiencing failure. Walt Disney has a similar tale – he was fired from one of his first animation jobs. And, here’s the shocking bit – the editor told him that he, “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Lucky for us, Disney didn’t give up.
So, how do you make friends with failure? Here are some useful tips:
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” –Jim Rohn
If there’s one thing that I’ve seen unfold right in front of my eyes, it’s what Rohn gives voice to: “self-education will make you a fortune.”
In fact, 81% of learners throughout the world think education will become more “do-it-yourself” in the future as people choose short courses, online learning, and self-teaching over formal education.
I’m also an advocate of DIY learning and answering questions that my curious brain concocts. So, yes, I’m holding a bright yellow placard reading: ‘Learn Something New Today’ to urge you to keep learning to become a successful entrepreneur.
If you’re naturally curious, you’ll make an excellent life-long learner. Because learning to satisfy your curiosity makes learning enjoyable and helps you retain more of what you read.
If don’t tend towards having acurious spirit, try this instead:
The team at Fingerprint for success is dedicated to your success. So, we’ve put successful entrepreneurs under the microscope for 20 years and studied what it takes to become successful.
Here’s what our research tells us:
Basically, this gives us the traits of successful entrepreneurs: they see the big picture, get the wheels turning, and plan on the fly so they don’t get bogged down by excessive structuring. What’s more, their motivation for money and the desire to reap results keeps them ploughing.
You need to follow suit if you want to be a successful entrepreneur.
Let’s condense all that we’ve discussed up into 8 effective steps that will teach what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur:
Working somewhere you’re not super-passionate about can be drudgery. But, leaping into entrepreneurship without first checking if the grass can be greener on the other side for you can be worse – not to mention costly.
What’s the market like for your business – both now and into the future? What are the growth opportunities? Who are your customers? What will all of this cost?
Our 20-year study found that successful entrepreneurs are 43 percent more interested in money than the working population. Not just enchanted by the prospect of receiving a return for great ideas, but also taking the time to reflect on margins and ROI.
Do your research on the opportunity for growth, create sales forecasts and if you’re less interested in the commercial side, team up with a co-founder whose mother-tongue is financials?
Mick Liubinskas, a San Francisco-based technology entrepreneur defines the ‘p’ word you need to have as an aspiring entrepreneur as ‘patient passion’. “It’s hard. It really is. That’s why I need to see passion. Patient passion. Long term passion. Meaningful passion. The kind that will walk through walls, walk for miles and walk the talk,” he says.
Answer this: Is your determination to become an entrepreneur greater than your determination to ‘just get out of there’? Put another way, wanting to be an entrepreneur is simply not enough. Our founder and CEO Michelle Duval says, “You have to have an idea that you really care about - so much that you can stay with it over time and through all the challenges.”
Successful entrepreneurs have little time for structure, have a flexible business plan (if they have one at all) and don’t tend to get too bogged down in detail. If this sounds like your idea of torture, you might not be suited to the entrepreneurial life. Take heart though - our research shows that these are critical strengths that can be developed, with a little help.
In the entrepreneurial world, there’s no script or rehearsals and a multi-hat wearing director will call the shots. In case the reference is unclear: successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the right time to start, they just start. In the words of everyone’s favorite mega-brand: Just do it.
Like we learned from Branson above, don’t cook up a small idea and treat it as your end goal. Instead, leave space for your idea to grow. It’s wonderful to have ideas in your mind related to the parent idea you’re planning to execute. Just don’t let all the plans stunt your growth and take things one step at a time.
That includes yourself. How much can you push yourself to improve, learn and stick it out? What support structures - both in your startup team and at home will you have in place to rally behind you?
Some stats out there on entrepreneurship can be horrible like this one – 20% of startups fail in their first year. But don’t lose heart – because despite these horrible figures, the rate of entrepreneurial failure in the US has fallen by over 30% since 1977. No wonder, the world is packed with 582 million successful entrepreneurs as of 2019.
To make your name among these entrepreneurs, have a will to learn. And, don’t let a scratch or two stop you from pedalling your way to the top. If anything, don’t pause — note down the lessons you’ve learned and move fast. In the startup world, patience doesn’t help, bouncing back quickly does.
Here’s hoping you now have the answer to how to get started as an entrepreneur. To be successful, get this straight: just get started. Don’t look back. Don’t look sideways. And, certainly don’t let failure keep you stuck.