Are you a millennial looking to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path? Well, there are some things that need to happen before you take the plunge.
So what should you do? Quit your job? Find a rich uncle? Keep working while you launch it? Go broke trying?
The answer to this is more art than science–and even more importantly–crafted based on the experience of many failures and some triumphs.
The Internet is littered with blogs and articles from some very successful entrepreneurs and business people, seemingly with a plagiarized tone, that state the do’s and don’ts of developing an idea or venture into something great.
As a second-generation entrepreneur, I will tell you this: you’ll never get the exact answer you need from these articles because each individual has different resources and abilities—no person or entrepreneur is the same. Some become entrepreneurs out of necessity while others do it simply because they want to be their own boss. We are all unique and we all have a different path to achieving our goals. What worked for someone else may or may not work for you.
However with that said, there are some ways of thinking that most successful entrepreneurs share. I have selected a few tips (not in any order) from my experience as a young entrepreneur. These aren’t the token ‘how to turn your idea into a successful venture’ tips, but rather a list of mental shifts that will help you succeed as an entrepreneur, regardless of your idea, resources, or abilities.
1. Develop thick skin, I mean very.
This is something you will need from the word ‘go,’ beginning with begging for startup capital, closing your first revenue event, to potentially negotiating an exit. You will naturally develop a tolerance, no different than becoming an alcoholic (We’ll discuss the similarities between alcoholism and entrepreneurship in another installment). This tolerance will allow you to not fear, feel, or be bothered by ‘the noise.’ You’ll be focused–blinders on.
At some point on your journey you may find yourself broke (or close to it)–you’ll be survival mode. Thick skin is what will help you persevere through survival mode. It’s what will prevent the negativity of naysayer’s from affecting you. It’s what will make the fact that you’re working all weekend seem normal. And that girlfriend you once had? She’s gone – and it feels great thanks to your thick skin.
2. Be skeptical of the world.
Don’t develop a ‘rosy colored’ perception of the world. This will serve to hurt you. Skepticism is not a bad thing—it can be extremely helpful if you get the dosage right. A healthy problem solver has the right amount—enough to obsess over what’s wrong in the world, but not so much that it prevents them from ever finding a solution. Many entrepreneurs are inherently skeptical of the world. I mean who else would create products or services that we didn’t even think we needed?
3. Drop your ego.
Do not get stuck on your initial vision. You’ll need to absorb input and execute required changes to your product, business, or methodologies for creating value as your venture evolves. One of the greatest traits of superior leadership is having the humility to accept the input of people far more experienced and intelligent in areas you are not.
4. Don’t skip nickels and dimes for $100 bills.
It’s easy to get enamored with the thought of closing a big round of capital or securing a massive sales contract that leads to valuations riches beyond your wildest dreams. But don’t forget—you must keep the lights on. As an entrepreneur, and more importantly a leader, you need to develop a balanced approach for yourself and your team while chasing the big picture. Experience has taught me well.
Want to eat next week? Then be sure to develop a realistic and balanced plan for allocating time and resources towards creating value. An unbalanced approach creates a starvation effect, where you and your team continually play catch up, seeking bigger and bigger wins to compensate for a growing deficit (possibly only supported by debt, family, friends, or IOUs). If business opportunities present themselves, never overlook them, regardless of size, period.
5. Settle at the right time.
This sounds contradictory to an insanely ambitious human being, but it’s not. The speed you launched at is not the speed you should be cruising at, nor should it be the speed you exit at. It’s akin to a speedometer and
odometer on a car, judge the speed and endurance against your mental, physical, and social well being as a person.
I won’t get academic—get rest, have fun, reflect, and be aware of the people and things around you. Not everyone becomes Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, but we can all be successful. Once you settle, you’ll be happier, more content, and able to make the best decisions for you and your company as both mature. Simply put—do not let yourself wear to a point that you make irrational, fatigued, or even morally questionable decisions based upon your well-being.
These tips have been developed from my adventures as a corporate job fearing entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter who your partner or co-founders are, these will help you reflect, or hopefully plan, for some anticipated forks (or bumps) in the road on your journey as a creator of something great.