Five Life Lessons For Entrepreneurs17 October, 2017 / Articles
What advice do entrepreneurs have for one another? Over the past three years, I’ve interviewed a successful entrepreneur almost every single week, asking each one of them for a pearl of wisdom they’d share with others trying to get small businesses off the ground. The answers they gave were remarkably similar – and they coalesce into five life lessons that every entrepreneurs must learn.
- Back yourself
This is the big one – around a third of entrepreneurs offer a variation on this theme. The point they make is that if you don’t believe in yourself, no-one else is going to – not your investors, not your employees and not your customers. For a small business just starting out on its journey, that’s crucial because there are going to be loads of people you meet who don’t share your positivity.
Fashion designer Tom Cridland, one of the youngest entrepreneurs on my interview list, says: “Don’t listen to those who don’t understand your vision and are “play it safe” characters. They’re inevitably the ones who will be most envious should your plans succeed and, if they don’t, they couldn’t comprehend the sense of fulfilment that at least trying to follow your dreams will bring you.”
- Build a team
This is another very common answer. People sometimes have an image of entrepreneurs as single-minded control freaks who can’t bear to delegate responsibility – the reality is that no business can grow without a team of people with a broad range of skills and experience (and an ability to share the workload). Plus you need to be surrounded by people who inspire you.
Gemma Young, who runs an online property business called Settled, says: “We have a group of amazing people who are all passionate about improving home buying and selling and this drives the business every day.” Similarly, “surround yourself with smarter people than yourself,” Colin Pyle, the founder of Cru Kafe advises.
- Listen to your customers
Sometimes you have to accept that the customer really does know best. Gill Haywood, the founder of a children’s backpack designer YUU World explains how her business changed its model after a trade customer suggested a less costly range would sell well with their clients. After all, if a pivot is good enough for Twitter, it’s probably good enough for you.
- Master the detail as well as the big picture
Shaun Thomson, the CEO of Sandler Training, says: “I work with many entrepreneurs and the key commonality is they all have a very low boredom threshold. They are great starters, but they sometimes lack the skills to consolidate, build and put procedures in place.”
The point Shaun is trying to make here is that entrepreneurs are sometimes not so good at being granular. Chris Bowden, the boss of Squeaky Energy, says his advice is to “understand the unit economics of your business”. Bowden adds: “It’s remarkable how many people don’t understand the cost drivers in their business.” Blue sky thinking is great, but sometimes you need to come down to earth.
- Avoid imposter syndrome
The insight shared by Olly Culverhouse, who founded a technology business called Signable, is revealing. “Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know enough to be doing what you do,” Olly says. “The truth is that everyone feels that way, even if they’re not admitting to it.” Entrepreneurs are prone to imposter syndrome – the feeling that they’re about to be found out – but they have to put it to one side.