We are definitely living in the age of the start-up- it seems that everyone is developing an app or starting a business from their basement, hoping to be the next Facebook or Amazon. Start-ups are so oversaturated, with a full 90% failing before they get off the ground, that telling people you're an entrepreneur is more likely to elicit eye-rolls instead of interest. However, without entrepreneurs making waves despite the challenges, our world would be devoid of smartphones, social media, streaming video, and many other every day amenities that you would sorely miss!
Many fail at launching successful businesses, but that doesn't deter budding entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams. And, countless people fail their first (or second, or third) try and yet do it over and over again. While nothing can guarantee success in the cutthroat world of start-up entrepreneurship, keeping a few vital tips in mind can certainly give you a leg up on your less-prepared competition.
1. Learn the Difference Between Management and Leadership
Leadership is difficult! It requires communication, diplomacy, and problem-solving skills many people simply don't have. Contrary to common perception, management involves a different skill set altogether. Leadership is about leading people, and management is about leading processes, projects, and channels. It’s not unfair or unprofessional to discriminate between the two roles- frankly, it’s smart.
You can have a superior manager who controls multiple processes and systems with infallible precision, but would be unable to lead a kindergarten class on a field trip. Conversely, a leader who inspires even the most reserved employee to achieve greatness may not have the ability to order lunch without ruining everything. Learn to distinguish between these two important skills and delegate accordingly- within your team, and within YOU. A founder or CEO doesn't have to be all things to all people- concentrate on your strengths, and hire experts for the rest.
2. Don’t Look Back, Leave It All on the Track
This line from the 2005 movie Racing Stripes is one of the most insightful movie lines of all time- both for racing and for business. It means don't look back at the people behind you when you’re leading thepack, and don't reserve any energy for the walk home after the race.
You have to crave success and show the work ethic necessary to achieve it. Leave it all on the track, act like your life is on the line, and don’t stop until you’re tapped out with nothing left. Starting a business is one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever take on! Commit to succeeding. Believe in yourself and your potential and move forward.
3. If It Was Easy, Anyone Could Do It
Launching a business is, unsurprisingly, hard. Keeping it afloat is even harder. This is why mostpeople choose to work for other people's businesses rather than start their own! The good news is that if you pay attention to even the most minor details, the bigger issues can tend to take care of themselves- or at least be easier to wrangle. With that said, be prepared to prioritize and make hard choices all day, every day.
Not only must you have money on hand for basics like operating costs, inventory, and possibly payroll, but you’ll also have to make a lot of difficult decisions. You'll have to choose between a business meeting and your child’s dance recital, going to a conference or visiting your parents in another state, buying a luxury item you really want or putting that cash back into your business. On top of all that, you’ll constantly have to judge people’s character, decide which risks are worth taking, and when it’s time to fold or ante up.
4. Your Business Culture
In the 21st century, workplace discrimination and harassment should no longer be an issue- but as recent news has demonstrated for us, it still runs rampant. Don't let it creep into your business culture. Instead, empower and entrust your employees to achieve. Learn about your employees as people. Discover what drives them. Put them in positions to be at their most valuable. Invest in your employees and inspire them to be better (in their roles, and to each other) every day.
Lead by example - train yourself and your team on workplace harassment and discrimination and set a firm zero-tolerance policy. Create an environment for your employees to be themselves and never forget that each member of the team has a part to play. You all should be pushing in the same direction.
5. Great Leaders Can Make Great Managers
Occasionally you’ll discover an employee who leads with ease and who also has unbeatable management skills. You can either play it safe and keep that person on one track or the other, or roll the dice and see what happens if they mingle those two talents. However, it's much more uncommon to run across a rockstar manager who’s also a good leader. Many stellar managers think they're good leaders, and may even convince you they are, but the combination can be rare. Remember: A team needs quality leadership. Always leave room for your employees to explore their talents and career potential, but never be afraid to designate roles and the people in them in your company's best interests.
Starting a business is an uphill battle, but by staying on top of the nitty-gritty details from the start and concentrating on building an excellent team, you'll have a better chance of being a start-up success story rather than in with the 90%!
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