I remember the excitement of starting my first business in 1997 as though it were yesterday. My husband and I launched our first online legal document filing service from our apartment living room—with only $100 and no previous entrepreneurial experience.
We had to learn the ins and outs of business ownership as we went. It was gratifying—and challenging. Now, having sold that first business for $20M 15 years ago and operating our second successful online document filing company since 2009, I enjoy sharing words of advice to other aspiring women business owners. If you have your sights set on making your entrepreneurial dream a reality, here are some tips for boosting your business acumen.
6 Tips for Learning How to Survive and Thrive as an Entrepreneur
1. Let Your Passion Drive You
While not every personal passion makes a sustainable business concept, it is important to feel passionate about your business idea. I believe that emotional connection needs to be there because building a business requires a great deal of time and energy. Without that personal bond, you may not find the stamina and resolution to learn as much as you should or put in the hard work necessary to overcome the challenges ahead.
2. Reflect on Your Existing and Past Work Experiences
There’s much to learn about running a business from the experience of being an employee. Think about what you’ve observed about customer service, staff interactions, product and service quality, administrative processes, and more. What have your employers done well, and what could they have improved upon to make their businesses more successful? You don’t have to have a business degree to identify what worked and what didn’t work. Consider your past bosses’ best practices and lessons learned as case studies that can help you put your best foot forward and avoid mistakes.
3. Tune Into Resources That Will Help You Develop Your Leadership Potential
It’s normal to have some self-doubts when working for someone to own your own business and be the boss. Not all successful entrepreneurs are born leaders; they educate themselves and take the initiative to develop their leadership skills. One way to do that is to leverage the vast amount of online resources—including blogs, podcasts, webinars, books, etc.—available to boost your leadership prowess.
A few of my favorite business and leadership books include:
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
- Super Attractor: Methods for Manifesting a Life Beyond Your Wildest Dreams by Gabrielle Bernstein
Some of the sources of business blog articles, podcasts, and webinars that I recommend include:
- Small Business Success Blog via SCORE
- SBA Blog via the U.S. Small Business Administration
- Duct Tape Marketing
4. Join Groups Geared Toward Entrepreneurs and Professionals in Your Industry
While face-to-face networking opportunities are limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, you have many online venues for mingling with and learning from other successful entrepreneurs. Seek to join social media groups with an entrepreneurial focus and those that are specific to your industry. Also, most local chambers of commerce have modified their programming to provide more online networking opportunities via virtual “lunch and learn” events, mixers, and professional forums.
5. Find a Mentor
Successful entrepreneurs recognize that they’re not infallible. They must be willing to get honest feedback and accept constructive criticism along the way. I encourage you to consider finding a mentor with whom you can share ideas and receive insight. A mentor might be someone who is already running a business in your industry or another person you trust and respect. You might also benefit from contacting SCORE, a national nonprofit organization that offers free mentoring to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs throughout the United States.
6. Be Choosy About the People Who Surround You
I have loved my entrepreneurial journey and do not have any regrets. That said, there’s one thing I would have done differently in my early years of entrepreneurship; I would have chosen my friends and acquaintances with more scrutiny. It’s essential to surround yourself with people who will be supportive of your efforts—even if they don’t fully understand why or what you’re doing.
Sadly, not everyone will be as excited about your path to business ownership as others. That’s OK…generally…unless their lack of enthusiasm stands in your way of accomplishing your goals. Whenever possible, be selective about with whom you spend time because it can directly affect your motivation and mindset. As an entrepreneur, you must be firing on all cylinders to be the best that you can be.
Entrepreneurship: A Professional – and Personal – Evolution
Entrepreneurship is more of a journey than a final destination. While taking the initiative to learn what it takes to launch and run a successful business, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself in the process. As a business owner, you gain both authority and accountability. Embrace the opportunity to obtain new knowledge, hone skills, and make a difference for your customers, your employees, and your community.