Ask any experienced entrepreneur and they will tell you that the difference between running a business and running a successful business is massive. To truly give yourself the best chance of success, and to help achieve your overall goals in the most effective ways possible, there are a number of key best practices you'll want to keep in mind along the way.
The Importance of a Well-Laid Plan
By far, the number one best practice that all successful entrepreneurs lean into has to do with developing not just a business idea, but a thorough, actionable business plan.
Anybody can come up with a business idea - countless people do it on a daily basis. Let's say you have an idea for a great new product and there's nothing really like it in the marketplace right now. Great - what next?
How are you going to procure the materials needed to bring that product to life? What design challenges are you going to need to overcome? How big is your market, who are your current competitors, and what does your ideal potential customer look like? These are all the types of questions that you need to answer before you even think about saying that you "run a business."
In five years, if your goal is to open a brick-and-mortar retail location, how do you connect where you want to be with where you currently are? How many employees will you need to make that happen? Where will your initial capital investment come from? Forget five years from now - what does the next fiscal quarter look like?
An actionable business plan breaks the entire process down into a series of smaller, more manageable steps and helps you accomplish your goals more organically.
Listen to Your Customers
Another key thing that early-stage entrepreneurs need to understand in particular has to do with the idea that you should always listen to your customers and your marketplace whenever possible.
If you're trying to bring a great new product or service into the world, at a certain point the genesis of that idea is out of your hands. It could be an objectively great product but if the market isn't there, it isn't going to be a success. But if the market is telling you in unison that "this would be better if you changed X, Y, or Z elements" or that they would buy it if "it had A, B, or C features," it is absolutely in your best interest to at least take that all into consideration.
Even though you're an entrepreneur, you are not the ultimate authority on what your business does and how it does it. Your customers have opinions that they are more than willing to share. Being willing to listen to them is often what propels successful entrepreneurs ahead of the pack.
You Are Not the Smartest Person in the Room... Or at Least, You Shouldn't Be
Finally, know that just because you're a passionate start-up entrepreneur doesn't mean you'll be able to "go it alone" forever. Yes, your "can-do attitude" has already gotten you far. There will come a time when you need to give that up and surround yourself with others.
When that time comes, resist the urge to hire people who will simply tell you what you want to hear. In your effort to become a "Jack of All Trades," there will be certain skills that you need that you don't personally have. Surround yourself with smart individuals - preferably those who are smarter than you are - who have those skills.
Likewise, always be proactive about seeking out advice. Participate in networking events and other opportunities to speak to entrepreneurs who have been where you are now. The type of advice they have to offer can be invaluable to understanding what it will take to sustain your vision for the long haul.
Overall, one of the most important things to understand about being an entrepreneur is that everybody's journey is different. There is no "one size fits all" approach to starting a successful business and what works incredibly well for one person may be woefully inadequate for the next.
That is to say, the advice in this list is intended to be exactly that - advice. Find the best practices that generate the results you're after and lean into them as much as possible. When you encounter a technique that doesn't work, move on to the next. Part of being an entrepreneur involves a willingness to try just about anything if it can help them get closer to that goal.
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