By Eric Winquist, founder of Jama Software, Inc.
I don’t necessarily consider myself to be a business expert, but I’ve learned a lot about how to be a successful entrepreneur. By combing the advice I’ve received over the years and the many lessons I learned from books, I’ve pulled together my top ten list of the business tips I try to apply in my own company.
1. Enjoy the journey. A business is a journey, and usually a long journey at that. I try to enjoy the ride because I commit a lot of time and energy into building my business.
2. Always give back. Sure, we’re in the business to make money. Still, there’s no reason why we can’t give back to others. We made it a priority from day one to be a socially responsible business. It’s doable, and it doesn’t require a lot of money. It’s all about commitment.
3. Move fast. Speed is one of the advantages a startup can have over larger, more established competitors. I learned to move quicker than our competitors in response to a market trend or customer need.
4. Listen to customers. It’s an overstatement to say, “Customers are always right.” They’re not, just like we’re not always right. However, I do always listen to them. I try to understand as best I can what they want, and then I do my best to give them exactly that.
5. Trust your gut. I learned awhile ago that you need to trust your gut. There are times when I’ll have different feedback from customers, advisors, partners and everyone under the sun. During those times, I go with what I believe is right. And if I’m wrong, I simply adjust to the results and try something else.
6. Follow your passion. In business, you have to love what you’re doing in order to be successful. Too many people have pursued business ideas because they thought they were lucrative, only to be miserable managing businesses they don’t enjoy. I try not to make that mistake.
7. Don’t overanalyze. This is called analysis paralysis. Too much data and too much analysis will freeze entrepreneurs. I take the information that’s most relevant to me and my business and I discard the rest. Adapt and execute— that’s the key to continued success.
8. Do your homework. A great idea alone doesn’t make a business. I learned a long time ago how important it is to do homework. This means knowing my market, competitors and customers. I keep my finger on the pulse of my industry because things change constantly, and I don’t want to be out of touch.
9. Be an open book. Some companies like to guard every secret, even from their employees. Many companies, like my own, are finding success adopting the opposite philosophy— being as open as possible with strategy, news, financials, product roadmaps and future plans. It’s a little thing called trust, and that might be the best competitive differentiator you could build.
10. Speak honestly. It’s amazing how many companies don’t follow this simple rule. It’s easy to communicate good news, but you need to apply the same approach to bad news, too. Entrepreneurs are either building or destroying trust every day, and there’s no neutral ground.