10 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Learn Sooner Than Later

Youth offers it’s fair share of challenges without the growing pains of entrepreneurship. It’s a time where you must figure out who you are and how you would like to spend your life.

Combine these tests with the daunting path of leadership and it’s easy to see how young business owners might feel overwhelmed. The brightside if you’re reading this is that those problems haven’t stopped you. Better yet, there are plenty of ways to prepare yourself for the long road ahead.

I’m going to share 10 valuable lessons that will save you time, money, and headaches.

1. Speak the truth.  

In order to communicate effectively, you’re going to need to say what needs to be said. There are challenges that come with this responsibility but it’s vital to your role as a leader. “Speaking the truth allows you to bring order to the parts of your business and life that are flawed, loosely defined, and unaddressed,” says Jonathan Foley, founder of WULF Marketing.

It reveals to other people exactly where you stand and that’s something people need to know before they can begin to think about following you. The same principle applies to the voice inside your head. Leaders are lost if they lie to themselves.

Being direct is the key to gaining the trust of your clients and employees. People will notice if you are beating around the bush and it gives the impression that you’re too weak to say what is on your mind. If something can’t be done, say so.

If someone isn’t doing what they said they would, address it. If you made a mistake, own it and quickly apologize. People are more likely to forgive or respect you when you take responsibility for your actions. Be a person of your word.

2. Treat your employees like humans.

Company culture is influenced by how you interact with employees, how they interact with each other, and the way everyone works together. It’s a delicate ecosystem which is only viable when built on a foundation of respect.

Be mindful of how you talk to people and what you’re asking of them. Listen to feedback and maintain an open dialogue without micromanaging. If you need to tell an employee no, provide context and use the moment to educate. Treating employees poorly will drain them of their motivation and send your turnover rate through the roof.

“Most people spend the majority of their day at work so if you can make that a positive experience you’re improving a significant portion of their life.” says Mike Clum of Clum Creative, a commercial video production company.

It’s critical that you understand the difference between a boss and a leader. Telling someone what to do might be enough to get them started but leadership is what inspires people to see it through.

The best thing you can do for your employees is get them excited about the work they’re doing. Employees who believe in the future of the company are more likely to devote themselves to the goals you put before them.

3. Sacrifice is part of the game.

Being your own boss is a lifestyle that follows the law of equivalent exchange. The more time, money, and energy you invest, the more likely you are to be rewarded. Due to the demands of your work, you will miss certain parties, dinners, road trips, etc.

People are not always going to understand why you’re working on a Saturday or how you haven’t found the time to binge watch the latest Netflix original. It’s all part of the game. If you find yourself struggling to do what needs to be done, remember you are making necessary sacrifices for the good of your future self.

The biggest sacrifice an entrepreneur makes when first getting started is stability. The leap from a comfortable day job to setting your own hours can be daunting. You’re taking a big risk and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be successful.

Navigate this feeling of uncertainty by developing a clear vision of what needs to be done. There will be plenty of highs and lows on this path but sacrificing comfort in exchange for passion should feel worth the risk of failure.

4. Pay attention to patterns.

Throughout the pursuit of your goals there will be wisdom to gain from situations happening all around you. Search for recurring patterns in the behavior of customers, employees, and yourself. Observing people’s actions can reveal a great deal about their motivations and future plans. It will also highlight blind spots that are causing mistakes to be repeated. Using these learning moments to your advantage will help you break bad habits and course correct.

Keep a log of how you’re spending your time each day. It’s a great tool for your business but it can also benefit your personal life. When something goes wrong, retrace your steps and figure out what actions led to this consequence.

Practicing this for the long term allows you to look back and compare what you’re doing now to what you did last year. If there are any glaring recurrences they will not go unnoticed. Whether you apply this strategy mentally or write in an actual notebook, the key is to decide if the patterns you’re seeing are healthy or not.

How to identify a healthy pattern vs unhealthy pattern

5. Staying organized is your life vest.

There are an endless amount of things to plan for, worry about, and focus on as a CEO. You can easily start to feel like you’re drowning if your organizational skills are not up to par. Keeping things in order will clear your mind, save you time, and set an example for your employees.

If you’re juggling multiple projects or a bulky list of tasks, you need to properly manage your time to ensure things aren’t slipping through the cracks.

Here’s a few ways to stay on top of things:

  • Maintain a schedule and daily planner.  
  • Have weekly operations meetings.
  • Keep your email inbox at zero.
  • Set short term and long term goals.
  • Use a productivity app.
  • Throw away things you aren’t using.

Being organized doesn’t mean that every aspect of your life must be on a strict schedule. In fact, having an organized calendar can actually help to make unscheduled plans more practical. It’s much easier to make spontaneous things happen once all of your tasks are already accounted for. You can go through the day with a much clearer sense of your flexibility and what to expect.

6. Invest in your relationships.

Networking isn’t handing someone your business card and trying to sell them something. In order to build lasting business relationships you need to invest time in establishing a sense of trust. When making an introduction you should try to find a shared mutual connection or interest. Take the time to genuinely learn about the person before diving into their company or work history.

Place your inner salesperson on hold and instead offer value without expecting anything in return. The key here is building up your network before you need it. People can usually sense when you’re reaching out simply because you want something.

You should always be working to develop your network. Get in the habit of regularly reaching out to people to see how they’re doing. Check in with people you lose touch with to make sure they haven’t forgotten you.

Maintaining an interest in the people around you will establish micro connections you can build upon later. Keep in mind that networks exist far beyond the workplace and stay with us forever. You never know who you will meet or where you will meet them.

7. Find your assertive side.

If you want to be effective in business you’re going to need to have an edge to you. Being confident and self assured is the only way to prevent people from walking all over you. Make your intentions known and don’t be afraid of the awkwardness that can come with confrontation.

With that said, it’s important to know that assertive managers aren’t bullies. Too much aggression will frustrate employees and send your customers packing.

There are a number of small hacks you can use to counter passive tendencies. If something you’re saying makes you feel weak, stop saying it. Use language that is direct, strongly tied to your values, and makes you feel confident. Body language is equally important.

Remember to face the person you’re speaking to, make eye contact, keep your head up, and shoulders back. Making these small adjustments will translate into other areas of your life. As you gain management experience you will become more sure of yourself over time.

8. Adapt like a champion.

From the moment you start your business, you will constantly find new problems that need solving. Employees will approach you with situations you’re not immediately sure how to handle. Customers will make demands you’re not certain can be met. The amount of things that can go wrong for a new company are infinite creating a never-ending need for adaptability.  

An adaptable leader works to make the best out of any situation. You must be open to change, willing to experiment, and able to see opportunity where others see failure. Having this type of mindset produces desirable results in almost any environment.

Make it a goal to ensure the people you’re hiring can adapt with you. Every company should search for resourceful people who aren’t wired to complain before they troubleshoot. You want to manage people who can learn and then unlearn when they need to make adjustments.

9. Curiosity is your growth hack.

Curiosity may have killed a cat but it also enables growth. Asking the right questions and trying new things will show you exactly what works and what doesn’t. It’s the secret recipe for innovation and without it your team will be stealing ideas from people who aren’t scared to take chances.

Don’t do something a certain way because it’s how you were taught, instead see what happens if you tweak and rethink it. Be a student of the game regardless of experience level.

Create a culture of curiosity at your company by encouraging employees to share new ideas. No one wants to work somewhere that makes them feel like a drone. Allowing people to take the lead and explore new concepts will increase their overall engagement. Employing an entire roster of people trained to look at things from different angles is a force to be reckoned with.

10. Find your peace.

Find something outside of work that you can do to relieve stress. After a long week of work, your mind can benefit from activities such as meditation, running, golf, or jiu jitsu. It’s great to have a strong work ethic but don’t put yourself in the hospital trying to be the next Steve Jobs.

When all is said and done, the biggest lesson to take away from this whole experience is to enjoy it. There will be always be a new source of stress or chaos but you can’t let that keep you from the satisfaction of running your own business. You will need to make peace with the idea that you are going to fail sometimes. How you react in those moments is what defines you.

There could be a million lessons worth adding to this list but the hard fact is that you will need to discover most of them on your own. When you find yourself stumbling, remember why you went down this road in the first place.

Be grateful that you’re able to take a chance on something you believe in. Keep your eyes open, be mindful of the people around you, and don’t stop pursuing your goals no matter how difficult things become. Have this mentality and you will succeed.

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