In this episode I talk about why now is the time to get started on your entrepreneurial journey, and I give my 6 steps to getting started.
I've know for a long time that what I do day to day, my job, isn't all there is. That there is something more for me to do. My guess is that there are a lot of people out there just like me. That's why I started this podcast, to help people find their calling, and execute on it. To learn from others and take action on their own dreams and ambitions.
Entrepreneurs have been around forever. For as long as there has been a person who is willing to swap something that another person values, for something that they value in return. For thousands of years that's the way business used to work. And then people started to find it easier to let someone else do the thinking. Companies became bigger, and barriers to entry grew with them.
I used to think that starting a business was near-on impossible for the average person. That you needed something “special”. That you needed to be someone special. Without charisma, arrogance, or truck-loads of cash, it was just too difficult. Starting a business was just too tough for someone like me.
But the world is changing... rapidly. Barriers to entry are crumbling before our very eyes. You can have an e-commerce store up and running in a matter of hours, for less money than it takes to drive to a physical store. 3D printing allows you to prototype at a fraction of the cost that it used to.
Seriously. All of the tools you need are available if you look for them. A smart phone and social media allow anyone to reach a billion people. Software is all in the cloud, and lots of it can be accessed for free. We have more information available to us today than we can possibly consume, ever. Small tasks can be outsourced for a few dollars.
There’s just no excuse any more. Today, it’s more a case of “Do I?”, rather than “Can I?”. Do I stop being a slave and start spending my time on something I love? Do I care enough about myself to chase my dreams? Do I really, truly want to do this? If you're brave enough to answer yes, then there’s nothing that will stop you, other than you.
The only thing you need to start with is the idea, and that’s the easy part.
Now is the time to get on board and ride the wave.
It’s not just for those who see working for themselves as the ultimate either. The same lessons that will help you become an entrepreneur will also help you advance your career. As more and more people leave the corporate world to venture out on their own, big businesses are being forced to play catchup now, re-inventing themselves to attract the entrepreneurial mindset. It’s no longer acceptable to rely on salary alone to keep talented people. Larger businesses are adopting lean principles, implementing employee engagement practices to encourage a startup mentality, or getting back to their core values and just hustling like they used to. Act like an entrepreneur in your job and you'll improve your chances of receiving opportunities for promotion.
Maybe you don't want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the hype about unicorns and IPOs and mega valuations. But who says you can’t be ambitious while starting a lifestyle business? Maybe you want to create something that helps others. Start a Social Enterprise. Have a listen to my interview with Cassie Dewar from Inspirationery in episode one of this podcast. I also plan to cover social enterprises in more detail in future episodes.
Whatever your goal is, now is the time to get started. There are a few truths you need to know first though.
You need to know that: -
Everything will take longer than you expect. In fact you will under-estimate just about everything about your business. How long it will take. How much it will cost. How easy it will be to gain a following. How much time you have. About the only thing that you will over-estimate is the value of your business. To overcome this, accept that you will reschedule regularly. You will make changes, cut stuff out, even go back to the drawing board several times. You will become familiar with the word “pivot”.
You need to know how you are going to survive; you might need to keep working, rely on your partner’s income, sell some assets, or use your nest egg (right now in Australia you cannot use your superannuation to start a business. Other countries might have different rules. Consider carefully). You need to know how far you can go before financial survival becomes an issue, especially for the mature aged entrepreneur. Remembering that things will take way longer than you expect, you will need to be able to survive for as long as it takes for your business to be successful. That’s why most people will keep working while they start a business on the side. Talk to your boss. As long as there is no conflict, it shouldn’t be a problem. They might even encourage it and help you get off the ground!
Be prepared for life to get in the way. I’ve personally heard from a number of founders who have almost stalled their business due to personal illness or other issues, and everything goes on hold for a short while. Life get’s in the way. It’s a very real possibility that might just kill your business. The number one way to avoid this is to have co-founders. Not only can you share the load and bring a wider skill set to the business, but if one of you has to step out temporarily, the business continues on.
Everything becomes exaggerated. Tiny obstacles become mountains. Every setback is a massive failure that will spell the end for your business. Small wins make you feel invincible. I ride the roller coaster of emotions almost daily. Don’t pay too much attention to the criticism or the praise.
Don’t wait for permission to start. When I say permission, I’m talking about the permission that comes in the form of; the funding you think you need before you can start, it’s the “time” you fail to make for yourself, it’s the approval you seek from those around you. The only permission you need is that which you give yourself to spend time on going after your dreams.
The idea doesn’t need to be perfect. In most cases, what you start out building, won’t be the final product. You’ll change course, pivot, rethink, redesign several times before you find the formula that you are happy with and that works.
So you’ve heard the good and the bad, and some of the ugly, and you still want to give it a go? Here are my 6 steps to getting started: -
1. Be self-aware
Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Make a list, if you have to, of what you are good at and what you suck at. Honesty with yourself is important here. Start focusing on what you are good at, and become really good at it. Become an expert in that discipline. Be better than everyone else at doing that thing. But also know your weaknesses. Work out how you can prevent them from derailing your progress. You can either: -
Partner with someone who has specific strengths that compliment your weaknesses (e.g. I am no good a selling, so it’s likely that I will need to partner with someone who excels at selling)
Outsource the tasks that you are no good at (e.g. I suck at copywriting and graphic design, I mean really suck, so I need to outsource those tasks)
Spend some time getting better at the things you suck at (take some online courses, read some books, find a mentor who can give you some guidance)
2. Expect failure
You’re going to fail, get over it. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t avoid failure. But they don’t seek it either. They just accept it as a part of the journey. They acknowledge it... barely, learn what they can from it, then move on. Start doing the same. Don’t get caught up in the hype of failure porn; fail fast fail often, you need to fail to succeed. Let’s be honest, if everything worked out perfectly first time, that would be brilliant. But it probably won’t. It’s just a fact of life. Don’t crush yourself with expectation.
3. Get rid of the negative self-talk
We all have that little voice that says “you’re not good enough”, or “who are you to try and do this?” Don’t ignore the voice, answer it.
Here’s a couple of tips: -
Keep track of all of the wins you have each week and remind yourself what it took to get those wins.
If you catch yourself saying “I can’t do this”, finish the sentence with “...yet”.
And stop complaining to anyone who’ll listen. No-one really want’s to hear that shit anyway. Start being more positive and you’ll forget how to be negative.
4. Make a sacrifice
I don’t mean find a sharp knife and an alter. What I mean is, you’re going to need to work harder than you ever have before, and that means giving up some of the things that you deliberately make a part of your life today. It might be: television, sleeping in on the weekends, partying with friends... and the recovery that goes with it. If you’re not willing to give up some, or all of these things, you may as well switch off this podcast now and forget this whole idea of entrepreneurship.
It’s going to be tough. Really tough. Time is your most valuable asset, and when it’s spent, you can’t get it back. If you lack the self-discipline to take control of the things you spend your time on in your life, you’ll give up at the first tiny challenge that comes your way.
You'll also most likely need to give up some of the things you are spending money on. If money is limited, stop wasting it on things that add no value.
5. Push your own boundaries
You already know that all the good stuff happens outside of your comfort zone. That means you have to push… hard, to get out of that little fort of security you've built for yourself. You just can’t wave your hand out into the unknown and expect the universe to take notice. Take a deep breath and walk out boldly, with confidence. Get out of your comfort zone, and make it a daily trip.
Lastly, and most importantly:
6. Take action
All the planning in the world means nothing unless you can take some action. If you’re not sure where to start, start with the first thing you can do that will get you a tangible, measurable result. Good or bad, but a result none-the-less. You'll have made plenty of assumptions in working out your business idea. Start by testing them. Then keep working from there.
Most actionable steps will involve communicating with someone else. Make phone calls, go and meet people, talk to your customers, talk to your suppliers.
If you can’t take a big step forward, take a small one. Shuffle, crawl or drag yourself forward. Just don’t stand still.
It’s always more important to chase progress than it is to chase perfection.
Now get going. You can do this. You don’t need to be a superstar. You don’t need some innate, natural ability. Be somewhat realistic with what you initially set out to do, but don’t let past experiences, self reflection or other people stop you. You have the tools, access to knowledge, and the ability to access markets that will allow you to do anything you set your mind to. Jodie Fox from Shoes of Prey says “Start before you’re ready”, and she’s 100% right.
Don’t wait. Just start.
What are you waiting for?
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