This article was originally published on EO’s Inc.com column.
By Jeremy Choi
Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy ride. If anyone has given you tips about starting your own business, they’re sure to have missed something, too. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to take the rough with the smooth, and know where to place your valuable, but limited, resources.
Here’s what I’ve learned from 19 years of experience:
1. You Don’t Have To Do It All
Many new businesses and entrepreneurs make the common mistake of thinking they can do everything internally. However, this takes a lot of work that turns out to be expensive, especially if you are not an expert in certain areas.
This is why I’ve found it to be a good idea to outsource certain tasks to those who are good at what they do and could probably do it for a lot less than you can. For example, I have designers, salespeople, bookkeepers, and project managers who are all better at what they do than I am. These individuals allow me to focus on what I do best–or, what I love to do–which is why many entrepreneurs start on their own in the first place.
2. Success Won’t Happen Overnight
Be prepared for tough times. While relationships may suffer, entrepreneurs don’t create a business plan and become millionaires in a day. It takes months of preparation, marketing, networking and other activities to create a strong business profile that will ultimately lead to a highly-successful organization.
Financially, you might be worse off than you’ve ever been and you may worry you’ll never be a success. But by sticking to it, you might gain the reward you are looking for. Before one of my design businesses became successful, it took me over a year of not paying myself and reinvesting all my money into paying for my staff to grow, as well as rent, transportation, etc. Having at least six months’ worth (ideally one year) of wages stored up can help you get through the more difficult times.
3. Your Social Circles Will Make or Break You
Who are your influencers, and what is their mentality? A poor choice of close influencers can make entrepreneurs quit early. To grow, you really need positive people, those who know you have the ability to succeed. If you can associate with people who challenge you to think positively, dream bigger and offer advice, your path to success becomes easier.
I have joined entrepreneurial groups, participated in high-level events and led associations dedicated to guiding leaders. I do my best to surround myself with peers and those who are also looking to learn, grow and boldly go beyond their comfort zone, while being real.
4. Customers Need To Know What You Stand For
You can’t create a business and expect your target customer to find you or believe in you. Consumer behaviors have changed dramatically in recent years. It takes time to develop a customer base and even longer to develop a loyal one.
Before you think your unique selling proposition is the most unique, I’ve been around long enough to notice there are probably hundreds of other businesses claiming the same thing you are. Writing words on a piece of paper or marketing material is only the first step. You must live it by defining your company culture and ensuring your whole company believes and follows it.
When I was helping to create a document outlining our company’s values, we listed examples of how we understand each value, gave an example of how we could demonstrate it, and shared why it was important to us. Living this established culture has earned me a few fans.
5. Funneling Money into Marketing Will Not Save You
Most entrepreneurs have very little money for marketing. Even when you have the money though, spending carelessly on every channel can be catastrophic. When I had money, my mindset was that we needed to outspend and out speak the competitors.
However, in doing so, it caused a bit of a financial burden and also created an expectation. When funds and resources are too low to uphold that expectation, it may cause the brand to deteriorate. Now with better knowledge, I surround myself with entrepreneurial experts in certain areas and consult before spending. Spending a few hundred to save a few thousand is well worth it.
Bonus: Start Doing
Being an entrepreneur is more than just an idea. It’s about executing that idea. It’s important to stop thinking about what you could have done and start doing. Sometimes, aspiring leaders forget this, which is why many startups fail.
No one ever mastered riding a bike by reading a book. They got on the bike.
Jeremy Choi, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from Toronto, is the CEO of WPUP Inc., a personal WordPress concierge service that focuses on providing peace of mind for websites by proactively updating, upgrading and monitoring the uptime of websites.