Every new entrepreneur will no doubt be initially overwhelmed by the amount of information coming to them left, right, and centre from business experts, coaches and leaders.
In the era of social media, everyone is an expert, everyone seems to know something about anything and it is a wonder that with all the influx of human knowledge and wisdom, people still seem more confused than ever on the precise formula to follow to achieve any semblance of lasting success anywhere.
The problem with advice is that more often than not it doesn't come from a point of empathy but rather, from a point of inadequacy. The bias in most advice you will hear is that it is based on a limited and subjective human experience. So you are being advised on the premise of, 'Do not try this, trust me - I did it and it did not work for me.' and that can be very lop-sided because who is to say one's experience is first and final?
When I started my own business consultancy 7 years ago, Business Growth Solutions I received tonnes of information from otherwise well-meaning people, most of it conflicting and confusing. I have made a point of listing the top 13 that stood out for me to date and sharing them with you. Adopt them for your business at your own peril:
LIE NO. 1. DO NOT LEAVE ANY MONEY ON THE TABLE
And the entrepreneur who gave me this advice was not exactly doing well financially but who was I to not take the advice all the same?
Look, you do not have to take up all business opportunities that show up at your doorstep. Not all business opportunities are good. Sometimes you get high paying clients who are hell to work with and other times you get low paying clients who are amazing people and lead on to better deals in future. It is all about what you can learn from the market in the initial stages of your business. Not about how much you can get from the market. So yes, leaving some money on the table is not a mortal sin.
LIE NO. 2. YOU NEED AN INVESTOR IN YOUR BUSINESS
Why? Why? Why this idea? When you start your business focus on the solution it is offering the market. Not the product, not your profile, not the money. The solution.
Lack of funds and limited resources can actually be an impetus for creativity and a pathway to creating great products that those focused on money may not necessarily have the awareness of doing.
Nothing wrong with getting investors for your business, but know when to get them: when you want to scale and grow your business and it already has some decent traction (minimum 3 years), not when you are fresh off the boat and drowning in personal debt.
LIE NO. 3. YOUR IDEA MUST BE UNIQUE
Let's face it, the world has grown smaller and more connected digitally. Developing something that no eye has seen nor ear heard is an uphill task and a dangerous gamble.
When starting out do not feel ashamed to copy or closely implement what the next guy is doing, the idea may not be unique BUT how you deliver the product should be unique. Your idea does not have to be unique for you to have a good business.
LIE NO. 4. ANYBODY CAN BE YOUR CUSTOMER
No, no, no. You do not have to sell to everybody and anybody even if they are interested in your product. Remember the 3 Ps of any worthwhile business: it must be something you are PASSIONATE about, that solves a real PROBLEM and that PAYS you.
In the beginning, you will attract a lot of cost-led customers. People with a lot of interest in your product but no money to buy nor interest in buying it. So rather than targetting to sell to anyone, spend time understanding who EXACTLY your customer is first and then speak to that person and that person alone. If others out of that scope come along, well and good but they must be able to pay for your products too.
LIE NO. 5. HUSTLING HARD LEADS TO SUCCESS
Yes, I hear you. The clarion call of the ages.
But overly hard work or hustle will do this for you: ruin your health, disrupt your relationships and eventually leave you broke.
Granted they are gifted humans who can go days on minimal sleep ad survive on copious amounts of coffee alone; laser focussed and ultra disciplined, with almost machine-like delivery. I will be honest: they are the genetic freaks and the exception to the rule. Wake up! You are NOT Gary Vaynerchuk. You never will be. Instead learn how to get the best results from your business by balancing time around your health, spirit, mind, diet, relationships and finances daily.
Balance and NOT more work is the key. True, there will be moments you have to stretch yourself but let those be just that: moments. Don't let grinding be your lifestyle.
LIE NO. 6. NETWORKS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS WILL HAVE YOUR BACK
I kid you not: there was a time on social media that business showers were actually being hyped. As in, events like baby showers but for new businesses instead, where the focus was for friends to help the new entrepreneur raise money. Love and light.
Entrepreneurship is not romantic. It is not a fun-filled adventure on a magic carpet ride. It is uncertainty, debt, lack of finances, auctioneers, lawsuits, betrayal and losses despite your best intentions and a triumph when you least expect it. Then you're back to square one. It is not for everyone and because it is so far placed from 'ordinary' life, ordinary people will not support you when you need them the most. Nothing wrong with that.
But something wrong with you expecting people to invest in your dream because they love you.
LIE NO. 7. IF YOU WERE A GOOD EMPLOYEE, YOU WILL BE A GREAT ENTREPRENEUR
This one is easy to dispute: in employment, you were the star player, the Ronaldo. In entrepreneurship, you move from being a player ( where all the assistants are at your beck and call and you are on a fixed contract ) to being a coach, more easily disposed of.
Coaches have a thankless job and they can be dropped as fast as they are picked up. They accept 100% responsibility and they do not have the luxury of focusing on self over others. Entrepreneurship is for coaches, not players. It is leadership on steroids and then some.
More on this under point number 9.
LIE NO. 8. THE MORE YOU READ ABOUT IT, THE MORE MONEY YOU WILL MAKE FROM IT
In school, you got better grades from reading books and writing out what you read. At the workplace, you got better chances at promotions when you parrotted what you had read from amazing books in the boardroom meetings that matter.
In entrepreneurship, you are rewarded on the basis of WHAT YOU DO, not WHAT YOU SAY. Knowledge without action counts for nothing. So it is less about how much you are reading and more about how well you are applying what you read.
LIE NO. 9. ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS WILL OPEN BUSINESS DOORS
What was that Kiyosaki book again: Why 'A' students work for 'C' students?
Sadly, your IQ counts for little much in the entrepreneurial world. Out here, it is not the BIG that eat the small, it's the FAST that eat the slow. ACTION, ACTION, ACTION.
Have a journal or diary with action-based activities. Be patient on the macro stuff ( I want a jet, I want to be a CEO, I want to be famous ) and be impatient on the micro stuff
( I will do 100 sales calls this week, I will put out social media content, I will write an e-book ). Move fast on the things that grow your business, not those that feed your ego.
Your customers do not really care about how well you performed in college, they do care to some degree about your professional qualifications and to a great degree about your business portfolio.
LIE NO. 10. WITH ENOUGH SAVINGS YOU CAN START A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
No amount of money is inexhaustible. And before you talk about Bezos, Musk, Dorsey, Ye or Gates kindly understand that you are not any of these individuals nor do you have their financial muscle.
It does not matter the amount of money you have sitting in your bank account at the time you want to start your business. Realise that one day ALL of that money can and will be gone. So instead, go into business with a frugal mindset even if you have the financial muscle to create miracles. Be wise with your money, rule with your mind and not your ATM card.
LIE NO. 11. YOU HAVE A UNIQUE PRODUCT THAT THE WORLD NEEDS
I will say it here before you hear it elsewhere. I will be the bad guy: your idea counts for nothing and the world will continue just fine without it.
Just today morning I was talking to a new entrepreneur who was telling me about his great idea. I told him ideas are useless, solutions are everything to which he responded in angst, '...but Jan, my idea is my solution!' and I felt disappointed because he still did not get it: the idea or product is created around a solution the market needs and not vice versa. This is partly why numerous businesses are dying way before their third birthday.
LIE NO. 12. IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT AND LIVING YOUR PURPOSE, THE PROFIT WILL COME
Passion is good and purpose is great but I can tell you, hand on my heart that if your business does not pay you, even as you pursue your purpose with passion - it will just be a matter of time before you become bitter and overcome by feelings of being unrewarded. Your blessing will become your curse.
If you felt unrewarded in employment, you will feel it in entrepreneurship.
So, payment matters. A lot. Make sure the customers are paying you. It alleviates bitterness.
LIE NO. 13. CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN, DO IT ON YOUR OWN, SAVE YOUR MONEY
You will hear this a lot. A lot of the current entrepreneurs will urge you not to share your profits, or hire staff - contracted or otherwise, or pay a creative for developing your concept.
You may feel you can do it all alone and yes, maybe at the beginning due to financial constraints you may be forced to be the multi-tasking octopuspreneur, but the thing is as your business grows and becomes more complex, it will need people more gifted than you in certain areas. You cannot be everything all the time, you cannot cut out the middle man forever.
Collaboration is the new competition.
Here's to more truth and less confusion in your business journey!
The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and Founder of the Pan-African accelerator BGS – Business Growth Solutions.
Jan is passionate about helping employees transition safely into entrepreneurship whilst turning their great ideas into profitable businesses and has helped entrepreneurs collectively grow their revenue to over $ 10 Million in the course of running BGS.
Get in touch with him and book a personal session HERE
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