10 ways to be a better entrepreneur

Why does one entrepreneur succeed where another one fails? What is the secret ingredient that allows an entrepreneur to succeed in business? In general, how can you become a good entrepreneur, really? Many start-up entrepreneurs are obsessed with these questions. While successful entrepreneur models proliferate nowadays, it is still very hard to define the essence of entrepreneurial success.

I would love to tell you that I have the magic recipe. Then I could bottle it and distribute it to everyone. My work as a guide would be so much simpler! Well, I’m afraid this ingredient doesn’t exist. I’ve been looking for it in the woods near my home, but up until now I’ve only found some lichen and dandelions.

Entrepreneurial success is a combination of several factors. While you have control over some of them, others will completely escape your influence. Your personality, the economic situation or the trends in your industry are just a few examples of static elements on which you cannot act. Quite simply, they just exist. You have to deal with them. Happily, there are many other factors for success on which you can act directly.

What would you say to ten tips to become a better entrepreneur and power your business success? Hard to refuse, no? For those of you who aren’t interested, I also have an excellent recipe for apple crumble. Contact me, I’ll be pleased to send it to you. And for everyone else, follow me, let’s get going!

Tip # 1: Develop your patience

Personally, I’m not a patient guy. So this makes me the best person in the world to advise you to be patient. I’ve often noticed the negative consequences of a lack of patience. It’s just as true personally, as in business.

In my workshops and speaking engagements, I often explained to entrepreneurs that business development brings delayed results. Translation, please! It means that the energy and money that you are going to invest in your marketing will bring absolutely nothing … in the short term. So patience is a key to success when starting up a business. You have to accept from the beginning that you are going to have to give a lot of time to your business project and vast amounts of energy. There will be a long dead period before things really take off. It’s essential to be aware of this latency period, so you can avoid constantly questioning yourself and wasting your energies. You just have to accept it, roll up your sleeves and continue the work.

Tip # 2: Learn how to fail

The worst enemy of an entrepreneur is pride. Successful entrepreneurs have previously experienced monumental failures. If you can’t accept failure from the start, don’t begin your project. It’s the failures that build successful entrepreneurs, by bringing them knowledge and skills that are impossible to acquire otherwise. We call it life experience. It’s a simple as that.

Think about it, who would you call if you experience a great heartache? Your friend who has been in coupledom for 14 years or the one who has been dumped 6 times? See! Life is the source of knowledge and wisdom, in business as in your personal life.

Some entrepreneurs tell me: “There’s no way my project won’t work—it will be huge!” When I hear that, it’s often a very bad sign, because the entrepreneur hasn’t admitted the possibility of failure. In such cases, I ask entrepreneurs to write down everything that could go wrong with their project and to explain to me how they would feel when faced with bitter failure. Admitting the possibility of failing and experiencing failure are necessary paths to success. In the end, knowing how to get back up on your feet is all that counts!

 Tip # 3: Trust your collaborators

A business idea is worth nothing. A business, however, is really worth something! What’s the difference between the two? While an idea is just a seed in one person’s mind, a business is the result of collaboration between various people.

For your business project to come alive and be successful, you will need to bring people together and get them to collaborate. Whether you pay each collaborator or not doesn’t change anything. You have to let them use their own knowledge and their own ways of visualizing your project.

As a promoter, you won’t go far without the expertise and experience of others. Your business is a complex system; you’ll have to integrate the maximum know-how for it to take off.

If you’re stuck on your own ideas and refuse to let collaborators think freely, you will deprive your company of key resources for its development. You have to develop confidence in your collaborators and open yourself up to everything they can bring to your company.

Tip # 4: Speak to your competitors

While it may seem counterintuitive to consort with the enemy, it’s an essential step! When I was young, my parents often took me out for ice cream. I know, I was so spoiled! They were friends with the owner of the ice cream shop around the corner. One hot day, I saw his competitor come in to buy stock from him. He had run out and wanted to continue to make sales. Well, you know what? The owner sold him the ice cream. From the knowledgeable perspective of a six-year-old, I was shocked. I ate my cone and tried to understand what had just happened.

You have to realize your competitors are not your enemies. Instead, they should be your best friends. They work in your industry and they want the same thing you do, to please the same client you do. Just like you, your competitors have developed a knowledge and philosophy about the industry. This knowledge is one of the most important resources for a business start-up. So why not discuss the subject freely.

Maintaining healthy business relations with competitors allows you not only to regularly keep a finger on the pulse of the industry; it can also lead to partnerships. It’s what is called coopetition. Whether through a joint venture, a marketing alliance or investment in research and development, coopetition benefits both parties. So don’t deprive your company of everything that your competitors can bring it!

Tip # 5: Learn to do open innovation

Let’s make life simpler for ourselves and not reinvent the wheel. This is the essential purpose of open innovation. It simply means to pool existing knowledge instead of constantly re-creating them from scratch. What knowledge would you like to integrate into your company? What information would you like to share?

All knowledge is expensive to develop. Your company can avoid many costs and numerous fruitless trials by acquiring innovations already established in other companies, organizations, or communities. Conversely, you can benefit from an innovation you have developed which is underutilized or unused.

For example, why not use an existing supply platform instead of creating a new network of suppliers? Why not share your production cost calculation Excel file? While there is extensive documentation on open innovation, the concept is simple: you just share. Whether for free or at a cost, just… share.

Tip # 6: Constantly redefine what you offer

There it is, you’ve got your first contract. Congratulations! While this might let you think your product or service will please your client, that’s not necessary true! Your product may please the client or even several clients, but is it optimal? It’s highly probable the answer is no! Successful entrepreneurs constantly redefine what they offer, whether product or service.

In e-commerce, A/B testing is the constant refinement of the product, contents or publications in light of public preferences. This e-commerce principle must be applied to your company, no matter what kind it is. Your product or service must never become static; it must remain dynamic and react to the market and to industry trends.

Successful entrepreneurs are tuned-in to their customers. They can adjust the smallest details of their product or service and how it’s communicated so as to obtain the optimal response from their customers.

Tip # 7: Work less

Start-up entrepreneurs don’t count their work hours. They work non-stop and sometimes it’s just too much! Few people will tell you to work less. But I’m not shy or embarrassed to say it.

It’s essential to find balance between your project and personal life. If you don’t let yourself recharge enough in the different aspects of your life, your project will end up by taking over completely and you will no longer be effective.

It is important to take a step back and constantly figure out where you are. You have to make adjustments as needed. If the project is taking up too much space in your life, you’ll be indirectly harming its success.

Tip # 8: Remember why you’re doing all this

Successful entrepreneurs find the motivation in the fact that they’re making their own decisions and accomplishing a vision that is truly theirs. These are the strongest and most effective entrepreneurial motivations. They are directly linked to entrepreneurial success.

Sometimes, daily life can distance you from the deep reasons for which you took on this entrepreneurial adventure. But these motivations are your fuel. They give you the energy to advance when times are tough. So take a moment, once a day, to stop. Simply ask yourself: Why am I doing all this? What’s pushing me? What gives me energy? See, it’s as simple as that!

Tip # 9: Do what you love

It is clear that as an entrepreneur, you’re not just doing what you’re passionate about. Of course not! You have to learn how to accomplish a whole range of tasks that will take you out of your comfort zone.

Also, from the start you need to understand that your company will need knowledge and skills you won’t be able to develop. You have your own personality; you can’t fulfill the profile of all jobs and professions! Even though I am constantly amazed to see entrepreneurs push their limits and get out of their comfort zone, no one is perfect in everything.

You have to learn to delegate and concentrate on your strengths. The good news is that your strengths are necessarily what you enjoy using. Your natural skills are those that energize you, make your tasks easy and pleasant; they make you feel vital.

Tip # 10: Be stubborn 

It often happens that entrepreneurs accept assignments that are beyond the mission of their company. Why? Simply because they have to pay their bills, like everybody else! Make sense, doesn’t it? Everyone’s gotta eat.

While it may sometimes be necessary to move away from your company mission and goals, there is a risk this can slowly transform your company. Let me explain. Over time, by accepting assignments that don’t correspond to what you really want to do, it’s highly probable you will be gradually become an expert in that field despite yourself. You’ll be getting projects that take you out of your field of interest and your strengths. You’ll tire yourself out, and without realizing it, you will develop a company that doesn’t resemble the business project you were hoping for.

We don’t always have the luxury of refusing contracts, I agree. However, you should learn to develop a certain firmness regarding your business vision. The more you depart from it, the more you’ll be dispersing the energy and resources of the company, and the less you will feel motivated with regard to your project. Imagine if you were to accept this kind of contract and then, the following week, were obliged to refuse a project that excites you because you’re overloaded. Wouldn’t that be incredibly sad? The same logic applies to collaboration, marketing alliances or projects parallel to your company. There are three rules for business start-ups: consistency, consistency and consistency.

Be stubborn, go for the project that interest you, and stay focused on your ultimate objective. What brand do you want to create? In what field do you want to become recognized? Who do you want to serve? In what way? What’s your company’s personality?

A little bonus tip

Among all the pieces of advice I can give you, one thing dominates above everything else: learn how to learn. Gradually become your own business adviser. Jot down notes on your company, your clients, your own attitudes and behaviour. What do you need the most to succeed? What’s halting you? What excites you and helps you overcome obstacles? Learn how to take a critical and systemic view of your company, your collaborators and, especially, yourself. The success of a business start-up is entirely connected to its promoter or promoters, so this self-teaching capacity is crucial. That’s why the best advice I can give you is: develop your capacity to become your own adviser!

Written by: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence at Futurpreneur Canada, @JP_Lecuyer

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