The entrepreneurial lifestyle may look glamorous and exciting from the outside. Working for yourself, having a creative outlet, having more control over your income and time all seem like great perks. However, the road to success as an entrepreneur is a long and bumpy one. You'll encounter many obstacles along the way and discipline is necessary when motivation is lacking.
While I wouldn't trade it for the world, there are some things I wish I knew when I first started. I believe that the incredible benefits of entrepreneurship make the harder parts worthwhile. Today, I'm sharing with you 10 important lessons I've learned from 10 years of entrepreneurship! These 10 lessons came from many mistakes, challenges, pain, and failure. They've taught me resilience, opened me up to change, and reinforced my commitment to trusting my intuition.
#1: You Won't Work Less, You'll Work More.
From the outside looking in, entrepreneurship can look like a dream come true. You're in control of your income, time, and in some cases, can enjoy location independence. While that may seem more tempting than a 9-5, don't be fooled; entrepreneurship takes hard work. Typical workdays can range between 12-16 hours, you may be on call 24/7, and you carry your entire business on your shoulders. You'll likely work harder than you ever thought possible. If you're passionate about what you do, all the work is worth it.
#2: Everything You Think You Know, You don't.
It's important to accept before even starting your business that it will be difficult, you will not know how to do everything, and failure is inevitable. Most of your failures will be trivial so you'll be able to manage them. Your failures will help you develop and grow. Don't be afraid of your failures, instead embrace them and use them as building blocks. Being open to failure sets you up for the resilience required to be a successful business owner. The more you fail, the better you get at recognizing when you're on the cusp of failing and the better you'll be at managing failure in your business.
Accept that you need to be a lifelong learner. Be confident in your current skills but also be aware of what you still need to learn. Keep on learning about your field, stay up to date on your competition and world trends. Learn all that you can. For example, as a mortgage broker, my specialty is helping families get into homes and getting them the best deal possible. However, along the way, I've had to grow and learn the ins and outs of marketing, accounting, human resources, and the list goes on.
#3: Be Flexible.
Adaptability and flexibility will give you a competitive edge as an entrepreneur. It'll help you exploit opportunities and manage obstacles when they arrive. Change is inevitable and the quicker you can adapt to market changes, trends, fluctuations, and personal hurdles, the better your business will be able to bounce back. Remember that what guaranteed success 10 years ago, isn't the same today. As the world keeps changing, move with it.
#4: Realize You Can't Run a One Man Band Forever.
While at the beginning of your business it may just be you, eventually it's going to be time to outsource and delegate. The goal is to have your business grow, and at some point, you're going to need to bring in help. Be willing to let go of some control and invest in your business for greater long-term returns.
By adding skilled individuals to your team, you'll be able to stay closer to your zone of genius and hire others to work within their zone of genius. It'll give you back the opportunity to shift focus from peripheral activities toward serving your customers and your staff. Hiring will also help you prioritize revenue-generating activities.
#5: Invest In the Right Team.
Now that you know the importance of building a team, it's even more important to hire the right team. Your first five hires will help determine your company culture and will be a reflection of your business. Hire slowly and don't be afraid to move on if someone isn't a good fit. Take your time finding new hires to make sure they represent your business thoroughly and align with your values. When it comes to firing, don't hesitate. One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel and hurt company culture.
Your team is going to be your second family, you want to be able to trust them and they should extremely skilled, even more skilled than you are. Here are my top tips for hiring:
- RESEARCH!! Look at your industry and see who is hiring, what the economic landscape is in your area, and review other job postings. This will give you an idea of things like salary, the current job market, and competition.
- Have a clear vision of who you want on your team.
- Let your brand's personality shine and showcase the culture you want in the job description.
- Structure your interview process. Be honest about the role’s challenges and requirements in the interview. Have a list of questions ready before interviewing.
- Have your legal documents in order and organize your onboarding and training process.
#6: Use Your Credit to Your Advantage.
Access to capital is critical to the success of your business as an entrepreneur. This is one of the biggest tips I wish I had known when I started my business and attempted to use cash for everything. Business credit cards offer you a flexible way to access credit and can be especially valuable during tough economic times. When building your business, leverage your credit to build your business credit history. Good credit will be essential when taking out loans in the future and can help save you thousands of dollars. Get very good at managing your credit within your business.
Here are 5 ways to leverage business credit cards for growth:
- Take advantage of credit card promotions to leverage your credit.
- Use business credit cards to improve your cash flow. Business credit cards can help bridge the gap between expenses and income.
- Use business cards to organize your finances. With a credit card exclusively used for business, it will be easier to keep track of deductible expenses and consolidate your spending.
- Simplify your spending.
- Get better rewards! Compared to personal credit cards, business credit cards tend to offer larger credit limits and greater rewards. These rewards can add up over time.
#7: Don't Just Build a Business, Build a Brand.
When building a business you are also building a brand. Branding is extremely important in today's market. Your brand offers a sense of comfort to your customers, it is your instant recognizability and showcases your uniqueness in your niche. Your brand represents your reputation. Showing up on social media is going to be crucial for building your brand. Always display your most authentic self online and give off positivity. Connect with your audience and potential customers.
#8: Have Your Pulse In Your Community and Stay Connected.
Never lose touch with your community and where you came from. Stay up to date with current events, what your community needs, and how you can do your best to support them. Your customers and potential customers will appreciate this more than you know. It makes them feel seen and gives you as a brand a relatability factor. Get involved with your community, whether it's in person or online, and listen to them.
#9: Invest in Your Community.
This goes hand and hand with my previous lesson, but don't forget to give back and invest in your community! This will not only benefit your immediate community but will also help improve overall morale and company culture. Company-sponsored volunteering is shown to improve employee leadership and broadens professional skill sets, help employee well-being, boost morale, and strengthen trust with work colleagues.
#10: Have Integrity and Stay True to Your Values.
My final lesson, and probably one of the most important, is to always stay true to your values. Hold on to your integrity as your business grows and always remember your WHY.
Why you started your business.
Who you wanted to help.
When facilitating a client's deal, my team and I continuously ask ourselves, "Would I put my mom on this loan?" This ensures that we always have a moral compass and keep our customers' best interests at the forefront.
Entrepreneurship is hard, it is not for everyone. But if it's a road you choose to go down, buckle up because it's going to be the adventure of a lifetime! It's one of the most challenging, yet rewarding careers you can have. It's taken me ten years to learn these ten lessons I've given you today and I still have so much to learn. I'd love to hear from you, whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just beginning your journey! Drop a comment below or send me an email anytime!