Despite the fact that the year isn’t over yet, I have learned some valuable lessons that have helped me grow my businesses. I would like to share them with you. Some of these may seem like common sense, and others may be new to you…
Download this cheat sheet about 10 business lessons I learned this year.
Either way, here is what I have learned so far:
Shoot for the stars, and you’ll land on the moon
As Donald Trump once said:
I like thinking big. If you are going to be thinking about anything, you might as well think big.
If you want to build a medium-size company, you need to plan on creating a large company. Problems always pop up, and they can push your company off its current trajectory. As long as you strive to reach a star, you have a good chance at least to land on the moon.
When you shoot for the stars, you have to be realistic. You can’t just say you are going to create the next Facebook or that your company is going to grow into a billion-dollar business. Shooting for unrealistic goals won’t help you land on the moon — it will just cause you to keep on spinning your wheels, and you’ll get nowhere.
If your goal is to generate $100,000 in revenue over the next 12 months, aim for $250,000. By creating a plan that will allow you to generate $250,000 in revenue, maybe you at least hit $100,000. Just don’t plan on spending money as if you were making $250,000 until you actually hit that number. 😉
Think for yourself
You can’t base your business decisions on what others are telling you. No matter how smart they may be, you have to think for yourself.
Even the smartest people out there make mistakes… a lot of mistakes. If you just listen to them and follow everything they are telling you, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Be creative, and start thinking for yourself. You don’t have to ignore smart people altogether, but don’t rely solely on the advice they are giving you. Do your own research, draw your own conclusions, and, most importantly, stick to your guns.
Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself
I (or anyone else for that matter) can only do so much for you. Others can give you advice and tell you what to do if you want to be successful, but you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.
If you don’t have the drive to be successful, you aren’t going to succeed. So, here are some things that may help light a fire under your ass:
- Hang around successful people – being around successful people will make you want to be successful as well.
- Get back to reality – TV, movies, and video games are great ways to escape reality. Although it’s fun to watch shows, these activities will pull you away from your goals. Concentrate on your long-term goals, and don’t get caught up in things that take you away from reality.
- Stop thinking and start acting – to some extent, thinking too much isn’t good for you. Thinking will only get you so far; you have to start acting on things.
- Read success stories – there are a lot of rags-to-riches case studies of successful entrepreneurs on the web. Learning about these entrepreneurs should help you motivate yourself.
You never achieve real success unless you like what you are doing
If you don’t like what you are doing, you will get burned out. I know this sounds obvious, but it needs to be said nonetheless: even if you are making tons of money, you won’t be happy if you don’t like what you are doing.
Just for a moment, think about what you really want to do. Is that what you are doing right now?
If it isn’t, stop doing it! You are more likely to succeed in life if you actually enjoy what you are doing every day because then it won’t seem like “work.”
And if you happen to be one of those lucky individuals who are making a ton of money from something you don’t have a passion for… just wait, because it won’t last forever.
Customers don’t know what they want
As Steve Jobs once said:
You can’t just ask a customer what they want and try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.
Your customers don’t always know what they want. Yes, they may say they want this or that, but once you give it to them, they may never use it. So instead of just taking your customers’ word for what they want, you have to get into their minds and understand why they want something.
This will help you understand what problems your customers are facing and how you can solve them. If you can solve your customers’ problem, you’ll have something that they will use for a very long time — as long it doesn’t require them to change their behavior.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
The concept sounds obvious and you already know about it, but do you run your business that way? For example, I just pushed out a new design for Quick Sprout, and my designer was able to create something within 7 days. By no means is it done yet, and there are bugs, but if I wanted everything to be perfect, I would have had to wait 30 days for my new design.
Plus, by putting something up within 7 days, I can get feedback from you and modify/finish the design with your vision in mind. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?
By running your business with Eric’s philosophy, not only will you make it more agile, but you will also waste a lot less time and money. Instead of wasting 6 months creating something that your customers don’t want, you’ll only end up wasting a week or two before you realize how you need to adjust your product or service to satisfy them.
You learn more from success than failure
You learn from your mistakes, right? Well, that is true, but you actually learn more from success than failure.
Just think about it for a moment: this is the main reason why you make the same mistakes multiple times before learning from them.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop learning from your or other people’s mistakes, but you need to start reading up on how others became successful.
And don’t just read up on people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, but read up on people who are successful in your industry. For example, my businesses are in the software as a service category, so I may read up on companies like Salesforce and 37signals.
Run your business like NASCAR
In NASCAR, the team that wins is the one that does every little thing right.
Admire what each team member and vendor has to offer. Your business wins when the team does every job right. The engine, transmission, electrical system, chassis and aerodynamics all figure into a great race car. Dozens of people build several cars for every driver. At the race, the pit crew is there to keep the car running. The shop focuses on excellence, while the pit crew focuses on speed.
You need employees who specialize in specific areas. You don’t want employees who are considered to be a jack-of-all-trades because they won’t do any one thing really well.
If your employees specialize, they will do a better job, and your overall company performance will increase.
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing
Remember when you were a little kid and your mom told you not to eat too much candy or else you’d get a tummy ache? Well, after you didn’t listen to her and got a tummy ache, you learned that something this good can indeed make you feel bad.
The same goes for business: having too much of something good can be bad for you.
Just take a look at money. You love it and want a ton more of it. With things like money, you can grow your business and create a big empire, right? Well, if you have too much of it, e.g., if you raised too much venture capital, you’ll end up wasting a lot of it. Instead, if you had a limited amount of capital, you would be much scrappier and make smarter decisions.
So, next time you have something good, use it in moderation, and don’t abuse it.
Business opportunities are like buses: there’s always another one coming
You already know that there are so many opportunities that you shouldn’t jump on the first one you see. But did you know that you should be looking for opportunities with a limited downside instead of an unlimited upside?
Especially as a new entrepreneur, why would you want to take the risk of losing everything? By only taking opportunities with a limited downside, you’ll always know what your worst-case scenario will be.
Over time, what you’ll realize is that whether you have a million bucks or a few hundred, going with opportunities with a limited downside is always a safer bet.
Yes, you’ll miss the boat on opportunities like Facebook, but that’s all right. At least you won’t lose all your money because for every Facebook, there are millions more failures.
Although many of the business lessons I learned this year are basic, you should really take a close look at them. Even if you already know them, are you really using these principles within your business? Chances are, you aren’t.
Nonetheless, these 10 business lessons just skim the surface of your entrepreneurial education.
If there are any business lessons of your own that you would like to share, feel free to leave a comment.
P.S. If you want help growing your business click here.