What Do You Know?

Chances are, not everything. Luckily, the unknown is full of opportunity.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I recently spent some time with my 18-year-old nephew. It turns out-- or perhaps I had just forgotten-- teenagers know everything. He talks with certainty, convinced he has figured out the world and all its complexities. During this trip, he was confident of an impending victory in his upcoming track meet.

As entrepreneurs, we know there is only one certainty in life and in business: change. No matter how much we prepare, something unexpected always occurs. New competitors enter the marketplace, established companies introduce new products and services, and customers continue to make unusual demands.

Success begins by simply acknowledging we don't always have all the answers. Other people have experiences and strategies that will help us overcome anything. Rather than immediately acting based on past experiences, let the world show you how to accomplish your goals with greater ease.

1. When changes occur in your business, stay on point. Your goals and dreams fuel your motivation to succeed. When change occurs, remain focused on the final outcome you want. Gain clarity by acknowledging the situation and defining how it may affect your ultimate goal. Your job is to find workable solutions. It's not a race. Take the time you need to research and craft a real-world resolution. You can and will discover fresh methods for growing your business beyond your wildest expectations.

2. Maintain focus by being proactive about gathering information. What we think we know is not always the truth. The perspectives of others can help us develop timely and creative solutions to business challenges. Broaden your viewpoint by talking with people who have firsthand familiarity with your marketplace. Start with your customers: Ask them about offers they've received from your competitors and how their needs may have changed over time. A handbag designer I work with often stops people in public and asks about their bags. What do they like about the design? How would they modify the bag to meet their needs? Then she incorporates this information into her designs--keeping her ahead of her competition.

3. Prepare to be unprepared. You cannot plan for every contingency. Stay positive by recognizing that for every problem, a myriad of solutions exists. Think beyond the immediate challenge, and put aside any emotions that may impede your progress. Find direction by being open to all sources of inspiration, especially those outside your own experience. Share the knowledge you have gained with your colleagues, and ask them for new creative paths you can take. Choose an inspired direction, and follow through.

4. Courageously run with new ideas. Don't let self-doubt keep you from forging ahead. You don't need a complete plan in place to rise to the challenge and embrace its possibilities. Achieve greater success by continually updating your action plan and integrating the new information and ideas you uncover. Develop new insights and unlock unique action steps by involving everyone--from your salespeople to your distributors--in the process.

Stay motivated by accepting that not knowing everything is actually an enormous advantage. Remember: Tackling change provides an opportunity for you to increase your business knowledge, client base and personal satisfaction.

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business.
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