8 Tips for the Entrepreneur in Us All

Who said running your own business or managing your own team would be easy? Most people I interact with, whether CEOs or managers, function in at least one role as an entrepreneur.

I compiled the top actions to which they credit their success, so that I can share them with you. You’ll notice that they are all actions because moving forward is the most important element of running a successful operation.

1. Take smart risks

Don’t be reckless, but you must make bold moves sometimes. Caution is important, but beware of too much circumspection. Any growing business will require risks on its path forward – make sure you choose the risks with the most potential for reward to cost ratio.

2. Hire wisely and accept that you won’t be able to do everything yourself

One of the biggest challenges leaders face is letting go of certain tasks they should no longer be doing. But tying your time up with things that others could do will only hold you back. Learn to delegate, choose the right people for the right positions and make it your personal challenge to train them well at the tasks you pass along.

3. Spend money on healthy business growth

Penny pinching seems to be a wide-spread attitude as well as a reality in the years since The Great Recession. It’s an admirable change in many ways, and I encourage you to be cautious financially and eliminate unnecessary costs. However, don’t be afraid of spending money on development. It takes money to make money – trite but true.

4. Learn from mistakes and don’t let them devastate you 

Mistakes are a part of life and business, and you will inevitably make them. What matters is less the mistake and more that you learn from it. In addition, you have to learn to move on from your mistakes. Dwelling on the mistake will not make you a better businessman – dwelling on the lesson will.

5. Make ambitious goals

Some days you may want to conquer the market in your field, while other days you may feel burdened just maintaining the status quo. Set ambitious goals, share them with your team and use them to motivate yourself and to hold yourself accountable. You started a business to grow it – not to maintain it. Ambition does not mean outrageous. Make them possible, but make them ambitious.

6. Don’t box yourself (or others) into one role

When people find something they are good at (especially if others notice it and praise them for it) they tend to keep returning to the same activity. This is great for becoming a specialist in one specific area, but being an entrepreneur and business leader means doing much more than specializing. By the same token, let people try new things and experiment with new roles – you never know what hidden talents you’ll uncover.

7. Challenge your business model and operational plan routinely 

Can you name a single business that was successful throughout the centuries without changing the way it operated? I can’t. Look at your business plan and the way you operate – find one thing that exposes you to a lot of risk and find one thing that may leave you behind if you don’t change it now. Brainstorm ways to improve these areas and see if any of the improvements are viable. Consider potential mistakes that could take a huge toll or technological advances of which you have not yet taken advantage.

8. Don’t be greedy

When business leaders taste the sweetness of success, they want more and more and more. This natural ambition is a fantastic catalyst for growth, so don’t lose it! But you must ask yourself if the actions you are taking now may only benefit you in the short term while proving detrimental in the long term. Don’t let the desire for instant gratification and visible success cloud your judgement.

What are some points you would add to these tips to help your fellow entrepreneurs run an even more successful business?

Learn From Your Mistakes or Enjoy Them in Round II

I was at a presentation recently where one of the handouts included the following quote. I thought it was a great one to share:

“No one learns from success; you really only learn from your mistakes and failures.”

– John Rowland, former governor of Connecticut

I love it, because it’s the essence of what makes a good turnaround professional. Oh, no, no – those failures are long past. We’re in the business of succeeding where it was not done before us. But as I’m fond of saying, it’s the gray hair or no-hair ones who succeed in this business.

That’s because we’ve been around long enough to have seen so much. No, it’s not that we were failing and learning so many lessons from our mistakes (though we’ve all got some gems in there, I’m sure). It’s that we’ve had so much experience of our own and watching and learning from others’ mistakes and all of the business hullabaloo that goes on around us.

I’m going to encourage you to take some time to think about some of your mistakes and share them. This is a great team-building exercise and a great way to pass around your wisdom. I suggest that you ask every member of your team to think about and explain – to everyone else – one big mistake he or she made and what was learned from that mistake. You never know who’s going to need that wisdom to avoid a blunder that could cost your company big-time.

What lessons have you learned from your mistakes and failures?

Not Owning Up to Your Mistakes Is a Huge Mistake

“It is only an error in judgement to make a mistake, but it shows infirmity of character to adhere to it when discovered.”

– Christian Bovee

When was the last time you made a serious mistake? How did you react when you realized the error?

In our success and efficiency-oriented world, people often think of making mistakes as something to be ashamed of, as something to ignore or hide. When realizing their mistakes, many leaders in the business world focus more on burying the error and coming up with an explanation than trying to fix the problem they created.

I am here to tell you: these leaders are wrong.

Of course, the perception of our mistakes as leaders can be wisely managed (it’s called PR). However, we must know that while making mistakes can be harmful to our companies and uncomfortable for us personally, it is also an opportunity for us to exercise true leadership.

Own Up to Your Mistakes

Think of mistakes as an opportunity to show strength during a crisis.

Aside from the practical implications of admitting our mistakes (whether to ourselves, others or both), as people of integrity we know it is the right thing to do. Only when we take responsibility for our mistakes can we start properly fixing them. And, owning up to our mistakes is the only viable long-term solution to correcting them and learning from them.

More often than not, mistakes are discovered. Wouldn’t you rather be seen as an upstanding leader, who acknowledged the flaw in his actions and proactively did something about it, rather than one who is confronted with the mistake, which he initially denies until facts prove he has been lying?

We make decisions every day. We weigh the set of options and opportunities available to us and make what we think is the most optimal choice. These choices are often based on assumptions. Assumptions are often incorrect, and circumstances change – and sometimes we can be wrong. Sometimes we will be wrong.

So, in short, here is my advice:

  1. Accept that we all make mistakes, but don’t be afraid to take wise risks because you are afraid of making mistakes
  2. If you make a mistake, own up to it should it become known by others. Use the opportunity to grow and act like a leader.
  3. Under all conditions, be proactive in finding a solution after you have made a mistake and in avoiding future comparable mistakes.

What have you learned from your past mistakes? Let me know in the comments below