New Year's Resolutions? Here Are 7 Entrepreneurial Lessons for Your List. No one's perfect. Planning is essential. Jealousy isn't pretty. What lessons have you learned?
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This time of year, New Year's, I, like most people, think back upon my career, which in my case has entailed the buying and selling of more than 250 businesses.
It's been a bumpy path, all right, and one along which I've encountered an endless array of pitfalls and roadblocks. Entrepreneurial life is a tough road to navigate and often a lonely one because others can't relate to the kind of work we do.
Yet despite the hardships and isolation, we entrepreneurs can help one another. And what I've found in this regard is a commonality in the habits and traits we should all avoid, since entrepreneurial success -- or failure -- greatly depends on mastering the following seven lessons:
1. No one's perfect.
We entrepreneurs have a reputation for being demanding and, at times, perfectionists. This isn't a bad quality to have, but if taken to the extreme, it may have the opposite effect. Being too much of a perfectionist can cause delays and costs in your business -- not to mention friction and frustrations with your co-workers.
I can admire someone with strong convictions, even when those convictions are different from my own. Just don't be obstinate. The best leaders have strong convictions but will take the time to listen to others and be willing to compromise, especially if compromise moves the ball forward. I've been told I'm pig-headed and irrational, sometimes. And I take that as a compliment. However, I don't let stubbornness get in the way of success. Remember, we're all in the same boat, rowing steadily toward the same goal.
2. Excuses are like A-holes.
We all stick our foot in it every so often. As good a businessperson as we think we are, we're bound to screw up at some point. The difference here is successful entrepreneurs who "own" these screw-ups and learn from them. They don't blame Tom, Dick and Harry for their mistakes.
Nor should they make excuses. Everyone who knows me knows that I hate excuses. As a matter of fact, I consider excuses to be like a-holes -- everyone has one, but that doesn't mean you should let those excuses get in the way of your success.
As entrepreneurs, we have to get to the root of the problem, and the only way to do that is to take a complete and honest look at our role in whatever situation we're confronting. Bottom line: Own your mistake, learn from it and move on. Don't sulk or pout. That's unbecoming.
3. A failure to plan invites disaster.
Entrepreneurs often have a thousand things going on in their heads. Their brains are rapidly firing as they list tasks and make mental notes. However, even in the midst of this chaos, everyone must make an effort to plan ahead.
Failure to plan may prompt a mitigated disaster. Time management is one of the hardest tasks to manage -- for all of us. But for us entrepreneurs, I can't stress how important it is to plan ahead as much (and often) as you can.
Without a plan, all sorts of distractions may interrupt your progress, so that instead of getting things accomplished, you'll just accumulate a long "to-do" list without accomplishing much of it. My advice? Every morning, print out your to-do list. I print out my calendar every morning and keep it right by my computer.
The calendar is something tangible (and visual) that reminds me -- or you -- of meetings, conference calls and any other task requiring your attention. It means that you probably won't get overwhelmed by all the things piling up, and that in the end, you'lll get more accomplished.
4. There's no "I" in team.
Most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they perceive a need in the market they see as being unfulfilled. Some entrepreneurs don't particularly enjoy working with other people, but if that describes you, don't let that sentiment isolate you. You're not an island; and eventually, as your business grows, you will require a team to help you take your business in the direction you first envisioned.
While giving up control may become an issue at some point, you shouldn't let it derail the progress you're enjoying. Instead, buck the trend and become part of the team -- a word in which there's no "I."
5. Pea green is an ugly color.
Jealousy is an ugly thing, and as an entrepreneur, your focus should be on your own business and your bottom line. If you're too busy observing others and paying attention to everyone else, you're going to fail fast.
If you must observe others, however, use that trait to motivate yourself and learn how others have achieved their success. Then apply those lessons to your own business. If you have time to envy others for their achievements, you're not busy enough.
Actually, you're wasting time and to me, that equates to wasting money. I don't want someone on my team who's going to waste time and money.
6. Adapt, change or die.
This has been an adage of mine as long as I can remember. As entrepreneurs, we're not bound by the same set of rules that corporate America has. That's part of the reason we became entrepreneurs in the first place.
However, change is a part of life, whether we like it or not. Part of entrepreneurial success is the requirement that we adapt, especially when it comes to technology. Businesses founded decades ago had to adapt to these trends in order to stay afloat. Case in point: Do you know of any businesses that don't have their own website?
7. Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
I've stated before that you will screw up. We all have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. We will fail many more times before we find success, which itself is never guaranteed -- in any venture.
What is certain, however, is that you will miss 100 percent of the shots that you don't take. If you give up before you start, you will fail. There will be people in your head constantly telling you how you can't accomplish something, because to them, what you're doing seems unrealistic.
But here's a little secret: What they say has more to do with them than with you. Just because they haven't made it doesn't mean you won't. So, learn to discern between what's good advice (even if it's not what you want to hear) and what's meant to discourage.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. Not everyone's equipped to handle the perennial roller coaster ride. Being an entrepreneur requires hard work, dedication and plenty of attention in the personal-development area. Bettering yourself is how you grow, and you must be in tune with the traits that can help you succeed, yet at the same time ditch/revise the ones that won't -- the ones that will increase the number of obstacles you will find on your entrepreneurial path.
Success? It's a relative term. You don't need to be Steve Jobs to become a success. Just be yourself. And cheers to all entrepreneurs celebrating the new year and new opportunity!