Most entrepreneurs spent years working long hours to reach the success they have today. Wonder how you can do that too? Study their best practices, mistakes and key character traits to emulate them and dramatically shorten your own path to success.
Usually, it takes years of trial and error to figure out these secrets. I’ve crushed that excuse of not knowing what to do and am giving them to you right here. But the only real secret is that it’s action, not knowledge, that fosters true accomplishment.
1. Hire to succeed despite your limitations.
Everyone has limitations. Maybe you have trouble focusing on one thing at a time, say yes to too many things, have a health condition or don’t know much about technology. Maybe you’re great at ideas but bad at implementation. It doesn’t matter. You can still succeed by bringing the right people onto your team.
Billionaire founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, says the best thing you can do is hire to make up for your weaknesses as soon as you can afford to. Jump past barriers and countless years of indecision by hiring a business partner that gives you the kick you need to stay motivated or a sales representative to get your product out in stores. Whatever your weakness is, identify it and hire it out as soon as possible.
2. Raise more money than you think you need.
Venture capitalist Sam Hogg suggests every founder raise twice the money they think they need, and plan on it taking twice as long as they expect. Founders worry about dilution, but as HelloSign founder Joseph Walla discovered, having enough money meant reaching cash flow positive, and it didn’t mean going out and raising another round during development.
The essential lesson here is that time spent raising money is time you aren’t spending growing your company. There’s a tremendous temptation to ask for less so that you aren’t disappointed if your bigger ask falls short, but curb the impulse for the good of your company. Get it done all at once, and in a way that gives you the working capital you actually need — not just what you think will do.
3. Research the market extensively.
The number-one reason that startups fail is a poor fit in their markets. Identify the value you can provide for your customers and how to reach them fast and effectively.
Do you have a compelling value proposition or short-term event that triggers a customer to make a purchase? Is your market timing finely tuned? Is the group of people whose problem you solve big enough to sustain your success? Forget about success in 30-days, or at all, if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach or if the market is even ready for you.
4. Use the right tools to acquire customers.
Successful entrepreneurs know which tools work despite the hundreds available and conflicting reviews circulating online. Don’t succumb to overwhelm by the sheer thought of available options. Instead, focus on what successful business owners have to say.
I personally recommend several tools such as Wyzowl to create web-ready videos and MailChimp if you’re just getting your feet wet with email marketing. Whether you follow my advice or someone else’s, do your own testing to figure out if tools you’re using are providing a solid return on your investment.
5. Prepare for change.
It’s no surprise that stuff happens and will challenge your business. Business can be unpredictable and throw a serious wrench into your plans.
Maybe a competitor just launched a beta version of the product you’re currently developing. Maybe your supplier has serious problems fulfilling orders and maintaining quality. Maybe your partner wants out to pursue another idea and wants a buy-out. Whatever the case may be, get ready to pivot and implement change quickly regardless of the challenges you’re facing.
Take inventory of issues that could leave your business exposed, then follow suit accordingly, such as putting a shotgun clause in your partnership agreement or investigating new technology.
6. Focus on the 20 percent.
Whether we’re talking about life or business, 80 percent of all results are achieved from 20 percent of your efforts. As a result, successful business owners focus on the 20 percent that matters the most, and many outsource the remainder.
Steli Efti, founder of Close.io, shared the lessons he learned while outsourcing non-essential tasks. Among them? Don’t outsource sales too soon, be hands-on during the onboarding of your contractors, and be sure to follow up with all prospects.
7. Provide customers with amazing service.
Many companies fail to reach their potential because they’re so focused on the sale that they forget to provide a phenomenal customer-service experience. Customer service isn’t just about handling complaints. It also involves loyalty programs, incentives for referrals and other customer-focused activities.
It’s been said that “Sales without service is like putting money into a pocket with a hole in it,” and I wholeheartedly agree. If you aren’t investing in this key area of growth, it’s time to allocate more resources to this critical need. You may find it helpful to spend a day working with your customer-service team to see where issues arise, or you can poll employees working in this department on the biggest challenges they encounter.
However you approach the issue, take action on your findings. Don’t just say you need to provide better service — do it. Follow through, and be sure you’re measuring the impact of your actions. If you don’t see a measurable improvement in the key performance indicators you’ve associated with your service metrics, keep iterating your process until you come across the winning combination.
No matter who you are or what you’re trying to do as an entrepreneur, you can find success by emulating the techniques entrepreneurs before you have used and personalizing them for your own business. Are you ready to take action?