By Farida Yahya
(This Article was first published on Bella Naija)
I was recently asked by a startup owner about the lessons I’ve learnt in 6 years as an entrepreneur. While that question wasn’t anything new, it actually made me stop and reflect on my entrepreneurial journey. I reflected on the mistakes I made, the times I stumbled, the successes I recorded, the failures, the depression and misery, the achievements…
And I came up with 6 major lessons from 6 years as the founder of over 4 businesses that summarizes the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Now, while this list doesn’t summarize al the lessons you NEED to implement or know to grow a successful business as mine, it comes on the back of years of experience and tens of thousands of hours working in my business, standing in my laboratory creating products, growing my network, working with various individuals, funding and mentoring female-owned startups, writing a best-selling book, creating online courses, hosting trainings and live classes, among a host of other activities.
These six points are what I would offer:
1. PICK A NICHE AND BE THE BEST AT IT
Instead of being a “Jack of all trade and master of none,” it’s better to pick a niche and be known for it. Be the “go-to person” or “go-to business” in a particular niche. Not only would this get you better customers, countless referrals and more money, but make you an authority in your niche as well. Therefore, master your craft, aspire and work towards being the best person in your space.
2. BE 100% RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY FACET OF YOUR STARTUP
If there’s one thing being an entrepreneur has taught me several times, it’s that everything catches up with you eventually no matter how hard you work to escape from them. As an entrepreneur, you would be constantly faced with big and difficult issues that if not nipped in the bud or solved quickly, could become worse.
Over the years, I’ve made mistakes such as not quickly disengaging a client or a staff that doesn’t share my brand values, not following up with cold leads and many more. They all caught up with me and the price and time I had to pay to eventually solve them when I took up the responsibility were huge. Therefore, when tough issues come up, deal with them swiftly.
3. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Only a few small business owners really know the expenses incurred monthly. When you don’t know how much it costs you to run your business, you can’t know if your business is generating revenue or running at a loss.
Additionally, I see many new startup owners place the full responsibility of their business’ finances solely on the shoulders of their accountants. What happens to being financially literate yourself? Dear entrepreneur, it is important as well as your responsibility to know your numbers!
4. GET TOUGH
Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint-hearted. Sure, you don’t have a boss breathing down her/his nose on your back or have to report to a superior. While the grass might seem greener, and other businesses are busy racking up awards, making more money, opening outlets in different parts of the country, closing deals and so on; however, the reality is much different. My advice? Toughen up and get on with it. Consistency pays, and when you put in the work, and position yourself as the go-to person in your field, everything else will follow.
5. NEVER TAKE OUR INTUITION FOR GRANTED
As entrepreneurs, we tend to develop good intuition that benefits us personally as well as our businesses. However, we make the mistake of not listening to our guts; which most times, have dire consequences, at least from my experience. We need to listen to our intuition in every business situation or decision we make. The more we use it, the better the protection it serves us.
6. LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE WADED THE WATERS BEFORE YOU
Finally, learn from those who “have walked the walk” before you did. If done well, you can learn from tons of amazingly successful people who won’t hesitate to share with you the tips and strategies necessary to grow your business if you ask them.
However, while it’s great to seek advice, please be careful of whom you take advice from. Since we live in a world where anyone thanks to the internet can easily label themselves as coaches or mentors; ensure that you do your due diligence, ask the right questions, and be sure that the people advising you are worth their onions.
Also, I will suggest that you don’t abuse the access mentors provide you. A business mentor doesn’t owe you their time, and they don’t have to give you advice about your personal life, that’s the job of a life coach. Be clear on what and why you are seeking mentorship and set realistic goals to help you maximise the time you get from your chosen mentor.
While I’ve highlighted my 6 biggest lessons, it won’t hurt to add that you treat everyone with respect. By this, I mean treating your customers (potential and existing), employees, independent contractors, competitors, suppliers, your community – basically, TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT!
Additionally, there’s a saying that “show me your friends and I’ll know who you are.” I can’t emphasize enough how important your peer group is. The kind of people you move with plays a huge impact. If they are supportive, energetic and smart, keep them in your circle. If they are lazy, criticize you (not constructively), unsupportive, toxic/negative, it’s important to discard them as quickly as possible, because they will only slow you down and eventually make you lose focus.