Many people will tell you that forming a company is easy. In fact, you can form your company online with no advice or guidance from us right now. Unfortunately mistakes are often made that are easily avoidable.
As entrepreneurs, we all follow our own path. For some, the rise to financial success is a long, slow, painful process. For others, things just seem to magically fall into place. The latter isn’t a result of magic, however, but is the sure sign of an entrepreneur who understands the importance of learning from, adapting to and growing with their business.
Here are the 10 lessons every entrepreneur must learn from their first year,
1. Time is money
Money, customers, ideas: all resources you can potentially gain more of. Time, however, is the one commodity you’ll always have a finite amount of. One way to ensure you make the most of your time is to assign an hourly dollar amount to your tasks.
2. Your passion leads to profit
The word entrepreneurship is often thought of as being synonymous with dollar signs and pictures of people throwing money out the door of their private jet. Those things are absolutely wonderful and they are every reason you should not become an entrepreneur. When you follow your passion instead of profit and concern yourself with relationships instead of numbers, the revenue comes and in a big way.
3. Stop trying to serve two kinds of customers
You can’t do two things great. You don’t have the time, money, or resources to figure out the product-market fit for more than one product doing one thing. It is always so enticing to try to follow new opportunities that come up, but don’t fool yourself. You can’t be great executing two go-to-market strategies at once. The split focus will mean you will be at best mediocre, but probably terrible at both. If you really think the new opportunity is better, pivot the company and go all in.
4. Mentors are better than one-off advisors
If someone gives you really helpful advice, do what the person says and then ask if you can meet with that individual again. The reason this works better than one-off meetings is that the advice gets smarter the more you meet. They begin to think about your product before and after meetings.
5. Don’t listen to the naysayers
People may tell you you’re crazy to follow your passion and leave the stability of a 9-5 job. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, what they are saying is “I Can’t Do Something” and they are projecting their own fears onto you. When you encounter a naysayer, take a deep breath, say thank you, forgive them and move on.
6. Attitude is everything
If you think you can you’re right. If you think you can’t you’re right. Good things take time, patience and perseverance. Focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t. Celebrate every small success and you will have more success. Focus on everything that has gone right and find gratitude each day for every new accomplishment. It may take time but it is on the way.
7. Fundraising will take twice as long as you think
What’s the longest you can imagine that it will take to raise money? Double it. So start early. And conserve money, especially when you feel like you have time to spare.
And return to your investors. Your friends and family investors can help give you the runway you need during the vetting process for a new investor group.
8. Be gracious
People can end up hurting other people, whether they are business partners, employees or investors. Entrepreneurs operate in a world of the future that’s all about generating ideas and navigating through any of these rough turns requires grace. Absorb the pain that others inflict on you and allow others to do the same with you.
9. Stop hiding behind fake traction
Founders often highlight what looks good and hide what looks bad. This is fake traction. Like: “All of my users love my product!” Sounds great, but if you only have 12 users, your sample size is two orders of magnitude too small. If you find 1000 people who can’t stop talking about your product, you are on to something big. Or another is “I have 300 people on my waiting list to buy my product!” Awesome, how many of them are willing to pay you for it up front? None? Haven’t even asked yet?
10. Stop lying to yourself when things are not right
How long have you been telling yourself that the employee (you know which one I mean) is not pulling his weight and is causing more harm than good? How many times have you turned the other way hoping it will go away? STOP IT. DEAL WITH IT. TODAY. NOW. REALLY. You can’t afford to put problems off to the side at a startup. There is no time. Deal with your problems today, stop putting them off. Stop hoping they will resolve themselves. This is business, do your job. Deal with your mess.