I’ve dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. From a young age, I was surrounded by family members with their own businesses. I loved going to my grandfather's office and taking a tour of his factory. I loved spending time with uncles who had their own retail stores. I often imagined myself with my own business.
I'm interested in the way a person starts, leads and runs his business. Every time I meet a business owner, I ask how they got started. I asked what it takes to successfully run a business. I ask if they have any success stories or regrets.
A year ago, I met an established entrepreneur. He has successfully started and run at least 3 companies to my knowledge. For one of these companies, he won the prestigious Ernst & Young Entreprenuer of the Year award.
I am fortunate to have several shared connections. These connections recommended me for a position in his latest startup and I am currently working as his second in command.
These are the lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson One: Be passionate about your work.
An established entrepreneur believes strongly in her mission. She is passionate about the industry in which she works, contributing to that industry and achieving company goals.
Leadership requires believe in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory. — Jocko Willink
Though the passion and excitement of my manager, the team is motivated and eager to do a good job.
Lesson Two: Treat your employees like family.
I’m happiest working for companies with a family feel. Whether it's parties at the CEO’s house, potluck lunches, or being invited to a coworker’s wedding — these types of relationships contribute to a company’s culture.
If you’re struggling in your personal life and there is no compassion at work, it will affect your work ethic. If you’re not personable with your employees, you’ll create a culture that’s easy to walk away from. If you treat your employees like family, they will work harder and be more loyal.
Lesson Three: Pay well.
Want to show your employees you value them? Pay them what they deserve. Low balling in salary or bonus results in turnover. To show your team they are valuable, pay them the industry standard, or above if you can afford it. A well paid employee working in a company with good culture and proper management has no reason to leave.
I've had multiple managers that have let good employees go without oferring a counter. More money isn't always the solution. Find out why a good employee wants to leave, make changes and offer them more money. You'll keep a good person and give them faith in the company and culture.
Lesson Four: Care about the greater good of the industry.
Passionate people are successful. You can feel their passion in their speech and focus. A passionate entrepreneur not only runs his company succesfully but also contributes to a greater good. He may match a donation to a particular charity or create free solutions for the good of the industry.
Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies. — Mark Zuckerberg
When the leader of a company cares about the greater good of the industry, you do the same. You realize you're part of a bigger purpose. With purpose, a competitive salary, and good company culture, there's no reason to leave.
Lesson Five: Be honest with your customers and employees.
Have a bad quarter? Lose a deal? Tell your employees. Discuss lessons learned and ask for assistance in developing a plan for success.
Miss a deadline? Underestimate resources necessary to complete a project? Be honest with your customer and discuss options. I've witnessed many companies miss project deadlines yet expect the afffect on customer satisfaction to be minimal. Clear communication and fair appropriations for missed timelines results in higher level of customer satisfaction.
Lesson Six: Don’t hire a sales team until you have an established customer base.
Job titles don’t mater, everyone is in sales. It’s the only way we stay in business.
You are more likely to purchase a product that is sold by a passionate person. If the person selling the product speaks so highly of it’s effectiveness that it’s believable, chances are that you’ll buy it.
Not everyone shares an entrepreneur’s passion. Not everyone can buy into a company’s mission. Don’t immediately rely on others to do a task that’s best suited for you. As the company grows and matures, it may be time to take another look at this strategy but in its infancy, sell your product. You manifested it, you’re passionate about it, you’re best able to sell it.
Lesson Seven: Keep administrative costs low.
With so many people working virtually now, consider if you need office space. Consider the tools and resources you need to succeed. Just as you would create an MVP (minimally viable product) to verify its effectiveness, create a MVT (minimally viable team) of doers. You can add as you grow.
Lesson Eight: Give everyone a voice.
Let everyone be part of the company’s success by empowering your employees to make suggestions. Listen and try solutions recommended by your employees. A person vested in a company’s success will work hard for the company to be successful, especially if the idea was her own.
Lesson Nine: Decide on tradeoff between the company’s culture and financial success.
Prior to committing to a customer, determine the affect of the sale on your employees. Are you staffed adequately to deliver the product in the requested timeframe? Or are you putting a strain on your current employees to deliver? Sometimes a company’s culture is more important. Saying no may cost you a sale but may keep your entire team.
The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. — Nolan Bushnell
While I am still a dreamer, I am learning lessons to eventually make me a doer. I’m focused on noting these lessons and continuing to learn so that I can emulate the success I’ve seen. We all have the power to do this. We just need to learn, take a risk and focus on the reward.