Being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t come naturally; the bright ideas do, yet learning how to run a prosperous business takes a lot of time. Effective businessmen and women know how to make the most of a bad situation and learn from their mistakes. They didn’t pick up this skill through education but rather through experience along the way.
To help you avoid a number of hurdles and setbacks, here are the most important business lessons you can learn from successful entrepreneurs.
1. Don’t Waste Time Dwelling on Your Ideas
Bill Gates gained success through telling a little white lie. He told computer company Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) that he had developed a BASIC interpreter for their microcomputer, the Altair 8800. Turns out he managed to bag himself a gig but hadn’t actually produced any software at all! Within a short amount of time, Gates had to create a demonstration of the software – that, ultimately, paid off and kick-started his career. As Roy Ash, cofounder of Litton Industries, put it: ‘An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it’.
2. It’s Not all About the Money
Obviously, making money is a major part of your business’s success – but what’s even more important is the vision and passion you have for your company. Take social media mogul and multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg, for example, who just about broke even in his first year of business. He also turned down a billion-dollar offer from Yahoo!’s CEO Terry Semel for the sale of Facebook. (He’s definitely gloating that he made the right decision now.) Mark’s dedication and desire to feel like he’s doing his best every minute of the day is what has made his social networking site dominate the industry.
3. Create Something of Value and Dream Big
If you create an identical business plan to that of a successful competitor, you’re literally just setting yourself up to fail. What you want to do is create something that will be of value to your consumers. Take Richard Branson, who says that he starts a business only if it will improve people’s lives. His idea for Virgin Atlantic came about after he was consistently unhappy with the service on British Airways. He only every builds something he is passionate about, too: the devotion he had to make his airline number one was what made it victorious, and it is now the biggest airline leading the travel industry.
4. Learn from Your Mistakes
Many celebrities and entrepreneurs are living proof that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as long as you learn from your mistakes. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX has a 10-year history of blowing up one rocket after another. Yet, he didn’t let that failure set him back and recently successfully landed another Falcon 9 first-stage booster after launching a US Air Force space plane from Cape Canaveral. He constantly questions himself and looks for ways to do things better and push boundaries.
5. Believe in Yourself
Do you know of an entrepreneur that doesn’t believe in themselves? Probably not, because all prosperous business tycoons have believed in their product or service right from the start; if they, didn’t who else would? Self-doubt can hold you back from taking a risk that would have otherwise paid off and from following through with your new innovative idea because you’re afraid of the negative feedback. As Shane Barker from Inc so eloquently put it: ‘If Larry Page had listened to naysayers, we probably won't have Google today’.
6. The Customer Is the One That Truly Matters
Any customer service role will teach you that the customer is always right. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a strong believer of this and strives to keep his customers happy, and has a 24-hour team at hand when a problem arises with one of his services. Barker says: ‘By fulfilling your customers' needs, you can win their loyalty and eventually establish yourself as a successful entrepreneur, beating your competitors in the process.’
7. Set Your Own Trends
In entrepreneurship, it’s important to set your own trends instead of following the pack. You want people to be following your vision and to inspire to be like you. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a prime example of setting her own trends; she doesn’t conform to society and has still proven herself as one of the leading designers in the industry. She doesn’t believe in social media, either; in fact, doesn’t even own a phone, and is therefore able to create what she thinks is fashionable and wearable without following catwalk trends. If you believe in something, you’ll encourage others along your journey, too.
8. Forget the Haters
Whether you’re a celebrity, artist, reality star, model, public figure or entrepreneur, you’re always going to receive some kind of backlash. There will always be haters that will try to bring you down and knock you off your game. Successful entrepreneur and media icon Arianna Huffington knows this a little too well: when she first launched the Huffington Post back in 2005, she received major criticism, with the online publication being described as an ‘unsurvivable failure’. The moral of the story here is that you need to develop a thick skin in business and try to ignore the naysayers.
9. Constantly Improve and Reinvent
If you want to get ahead in business, you need to think ahead; it’s no good just creating a one-hit wonder and sitting back to relax. You need to think of your next move and what you can do to improve and outdo what you previously did. This is a vital business lesson we learned from Walt Disney. He created the first ever animation movies that we have all come to know and love. But he didn’t stop there: he went on to design merchandise and build an amusement park, too. He would also personally test all the park rides and instantly make changes if he felt that something could be improved.
10. Don’t Count on Always Having a High Salary
When some people first make it big in their industry, they get a little silly with their money, splashing out on expensive cars, lad pads, glam squads, extravagant holidays and flash designer gear, and fail to appreciate that fame doesn’t last forever. Mike Tyson is a prime example, having spent $140,000 (£98,700) on a Bengal tiger – soon after this, he declared bankruptcy. On the other hand, tennis champion Serena Williams deposited her first $1 million (£704,000) cheque in the bank, storing her assets, and is now worth over $80 million.
11. Value Your Team
Many managers think that they run the entire ship, the puppet master holding the strings, but it’s actually their team putting in all the work to get the desired results. Danny Morel, author of The Resilience Roadmap (paid link) and founder of M.PIRE University said: ‘People means [that] every person who works for you is equal. I don’t let anyone call me “boss”. No matter how big you get, remember: you’re nothing without your team.’ In other words, it’s vital to show appreciation and value your team members because without them, you’ll actually be a sinking ship.
Born leaders are rare, but learning to manage a successful business is something we all aspire to do. With advice from self-made billionaires, you’ll have a better understanding of what helped them discover fame and fortune, and how to follow in their footsteps.
Are you thinking of developing your own business or are still in the start-up phase? Do you think these vital lessons will help you? Join in on the conversation below and let us know your thoughts…