The hardest part about being an entrepreneur isn’t coming up with the next genius idea (although it does help), as many people might assume. Don’t get me wrong, creativity is important, but once your product hits the market you need a strategy to keep that good idea spreading and sustaining its net worth.
The make-it-great-and-they-will-come approach doesn’t always work (in fact, it rarely does) for the simple fact that people don’t know what they don’t know.
To keep the momentum of genius flowing, you need to get out there and socialize. Proliferate yourself so that people know that you and your product exist.
There are four key points to remember when entering the “shark tank”-like waters of the real world to ensure that people take you -- and your product or service -- seriously. Here are four “E’s” that will help lead you towards exceptional entrepreneurship:
1. Exposure. More marketing leads to more opportunities -- period. Identify the spots where customers shop and become the “helpful customer” in the aisle (just don’t be weird about it). Offer advice -- and perhaps a business card.
If you own a painting business, get to know the local retail clerks at every paint store in a 50-mile radius -- by name -- and frequent those stores on a consistent basis.
Or join a group. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a one-stop shop for startup folks, offering everything from personal mentorship to networking and local meeting chapters. Remember, every bit of exposure helps.
2. Experience. With more exposure comes the experience of dealing with diverse groups of people and managing expectations -- the soft skills that leaders sometimes take for granted after getting used to an executive-level position. Never forget that relationships make the world go round.
Other sources of experience are universities. Many offer classes on entrepreneurship to educate students on what mistakes not to make before they actually make them.
3. Expertise. In today’s hyper-connected world, specializing in one particular knowledge base is not enough. In fact, it’s limiting, because the rate of technological change is so fast today that what once defined you as a specialist yesterday may classify you with the rest of the cattle today.
Instead, what are needed today are generalists -- people who can wear a few different hats and not only adapt to change but anticipate industry revolutions. Generalist knowledge entails practical competencies such as learning agility, resilience, vision and problem-solving, to name a few. The more you learn, the more you open yourself to opportunity. It’s that simple.
4. Evaluate. In the military, we conducted after-action reviews (AARs) following every mission and training evolution to reflect and learn about the event. Specifically, we assess what was intended to happen, what actually happened and why to make a change. Reviewing the situational details that drove decision-making is absolutely critical to learning as it allows time to apply judgment to the past to better anticipate outcomes in the future.
To be an exceptional employee, entrepreneur or high performer in anything requires being a perpetual student of the game. You just never know when opportunity will strike. Look for the four E’s in every situation and you’ll always extract something positive.