As usual, I was on Quora on Saturday, Dec 3rd, and I got to writing. I googled the question “tips for struggling entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs” This is a good list, so why re-invent the wheel with my own advice?. I couldn’t get everyone and all of their advice (otherwise you would be here all day, and no one wants that haha!) But I got as many as possible!
Here’s some great advice I’ve come across from other entrepreneurs themselves.
1) Provide value. Find out your customers’ needs and wants. Find problems. Solve them. This is common advice on Quora and makes sense for businesses of any size. I like to think of it as an instance of the Golden Rule (Treat others as you would like to be treated in their situation.). It is also an example of positive-sum game theory.
2) Give top priority to generating revenue, ahead of raising investment funding. Give especially high priority to sources of recurring revenue. I first read this advice in The Entrepreneur’s Manual: Richard M. White, published in the 1970s. It emphasizes this point over and over with many little vignettes and case studies.
3) Keep expenses as low as possible. Once you have revenue, take extreme measures if necessary to cut expenses to be less than revenue. Aim for positive cash flow. Follow the Macawber Principle (from the Dickens character: Wilkins Micawber ).
4) Utilize networking. Use your network to find co-founders. Use your network for advice. Use your network to review and critique your products. Create a marketing network.
5.) The struggle is part of entrepreneurship. It should be a struggle to achieve something big. It should be really, really hard. There should be a high chance of failure. It should be really stressful. There should be many times when you are not sure if you are following the right path. It should be filled with heartache and rejection.… and those are some of the fun parts
6.) Entrepreneur is freakin’ hard. It is difficult. It can be overwhelming. It is not for the faint-hearted. And while being entrepreneurial should be for everyone, being an entrepreneur (starting a company from scratch) should only appeal to a tiny minority … many of which have some sort of social disfunction and difficulty working for others (I put my younger self in that category … I have mellowed a bit as I got older).
And guess what, the struggle is part of doing anything great.
7.) Don’t beat a dead horse. My advice is that you change the way you are approaching your business. If you have been persistent in your efforts for a while without any returns, it means you have to change something. You may have to change the way you market, improve your attitude, focus or expand your niche, increase the hours you are working, or ultimately change your business.
There is no shame in changing your route if it is to accomplish the same goal. You are not a quitter by changing your path, be open to taking different approaches. You will most likely do a better job the second time anyway since you can apply all the lessons you learned from your first approach. Be adaptable.
9.) Cut costs in other areas, but never und
ercapitalize your sales efforts.
10.) Investing in sales starts with yourself. You cannot be a leader of a company and not understand the sales process inside and out. The best entrepreneurs have sold their product and were the company’s first and often times best sales person. There comes a time in the growth cycle, when the CEO or founder has to step away from sales to focus on other areas, but the company’s leader should always have deep ties to the sales process and team.
11.) Create a don’t do list. As the leader of the company, there’s a list of things you should not be doing. Anything you can reasonably delegate or outsource, you should. When you become an entrepreneur, you stop getting to do the things you like to do and do the most important things to be done.
12. ) Do the hard things first. Don’t hesitate on having hard conversations. Prioritize your to do’s with the things you least want to do at the top. Often times these are the most important to do. If you don’t, you’ll have a long to do list of things you don’t like doing or don’t want to do, and it will seem insurmountable. Then you’ll hate your life, not want to get out of bed and your business will fail
13.) Hire the absolute best people you can find. Spend the extra time doing this. It’s one of the biggest challenges businesses have. That’s true from small start-ups all the way up to Google, but investing in right people team will be one of the best investments you make. Having the right core team will make the difference between success and failure. It can seem impossible to find the time to hire well, but trust me in knowing that not hiring well will cost you far more time.
14.) Get good at sales. You don’t have to be selling, but you do have to understand the process. Meet regularly with the team. Understand their pain points. Set realistic and achievable goals and reward the high performers.
15.) Invest in sales. Make sure everyone on your sales team has all the tools they need. There are million of them now. Sales tools will have one of the highest ROI of any aspect in your business, so get the best ones for your team.
16.) Learn relentlessly. You don’t know what you don’t know. And if you’re struggling in business, then you hardly know anything. Here’s a problem that’s entirely in your control and fixable. Learn every day. Everything from Quora to podcasts on business and entrepreneurship to books. Make it you hobby. There’s never been easily access to information and learning. Have an area you don’t feel strong in? Search that topic on Udemy and buy the top three courses and get to work.
17.) Stop trying to make money and provide value instead. If you can solve someone’s problem, then they’ll stick with you and they’ll tell their friends. If you’re solving one person’s problem, then it’s likely that others have this problem and you have a business, now you just have to tell people about it.
18.) Stop networking and sell. There’s a lot written out there about how important events, meet ups and networking on are for entrepreneurs. And for those with the time, they can be great. If I had to pick getting good at selling or getting good at networking, I would pick selling every time. If you can sell, you will not fail. Cut out the distractions.
19.) Find support. Meet and spend time with other entrepreneurs. Business in all different categories tend to have similar problems and similar solutions. Share learning and become a resource to a peer group.
20. ) Take breaks. Entrepreneurship is an incredible stressful path. If you’re the type of person that’s drawn to it, you’ll find it hard to get away from and hard to stop working. Take regular breaks. Don’t work all weekend. Take one day off. Get out and exercise regularly. Take care of yourself. You need the rest and breaks to perform at your maximum. Otherwise, you’ll fool yourself into thinking working 80 hours weeks is productive and eventually crash and burn.
21.) Be obsessed Being obsessed with the things you want most is a good thing. It means that you’ve got a reason to live, a mission. So be obsessed with your success, your health, wealth and purpose in life.
22.) Eat your frog in the morning. There is an old saying that says:
“If the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day.”
Brian Tracy said that your “frog” should be the most difficult task on your things-to-do list, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on.
23.) Script your day. Your time is your most valuable asset, you have to protect it. Scripting your day is the best way to do it. When you script your day you know exactly what to focus on at any given time, which leaves no room for time vampires.
24.) Protect every “yes” with 100 no’s As you work on your dreams and goals, you will come across many opportunities. But learn to say “no” to most of them, usually they are a distraction. Only say “yes” to opportunities that bring you closer to your ultimate goal.
25. ) Be accountable Share your goal with strategic people who support you. Being accountable is great because it leaves you no choice but to keep going. It gives you the boost you need when you feel a little down or experience setbacks.
26. ) Take advantage of being under-capitalized Being under-capitalized is highly beneficial because it forces you to be creative and to solve problems. Because of your lack of financial resources, you become a problem-solver. If you can’t make money without money, you can’t make money with money.
27.) Learn to prioritize and delegate You can’t win alone. You need other talented people to succeed. Learn to delegate to people who are able to do things better and faster than you do. Only work strategically on what’s important and prioritize.
28.) Live urgently Always keep in mind that time is scarce. So live and work as if there’s someone trying to take it away from you.
29.) Hate the idea of retirement Retirement is dangerous. It’s a slippery slope. First you stop working then you start losing your hunger and the next thing you now, you’ve completely lost your momentum and get disconnected from the market. Never retire, always pursue something that’s the only way to get to the top.
30.) Always follow up. Reaching out to new people is great but following up with them is even better. All the money is in the follow up. Build the habits of always following up to get a response.
31.) Stop trying to convert Stop spending your time and energy trying to convert, instead spend that time reaching out to more people, engaging with them, helping them. You need to think long term in a world where people look for short-term reward. That’s how you’ll differentiate yourself and become more successful.
32.) Find someone to support you in this journey.If you look at your life (and the current business you run or the job position you have), and you’re not even close to financial security — let alone freedom. The world seems abstract from your end, and you keep asking yourself:
“Isn’t there a way to change my life?”
Don’t be perturbed! There is a way out of every ugly situation. But it’s never a smooth journey. Entrepreneurs’ journey is never smooth, it’s full of hurdles and challenges, but it’s extremely rewarding in the end….
33.) Think what you are really passionate about. Roll your calendar a few years back and start CONNECTING THE DOTS.
Am I really passionate about it?
Will I really be able to withstand problems and keep trying until I get some success ? Your passion can successfully translate into your business.
34.) Envision. Having an inspiring, soul-uplifting vision is biblical for an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, your mind is your limit. As long as your mind can envision the fact that you can do something, become something unique in your journey, achieve something out of your reach, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100% in your powers. When I am telling you that mind is the limit, I am actually trying to tell you that you are boundless. You are limitless and you can stretch your boundaries.
Become a visionary person, have a dream that you believe is possible. It will give you the direction, the drive, the perseverance, the force to succeed against all odds.
Having a vision doesn’t mean that you have only the big picture of what you want to create, it is also a call to action, a call to change. Because you have to change in order to receive great things in your life. An old, inadequate mind and body can’t receive the abundance of new. A new life won’t fit in an outdated mind. There would be no congruence. There has to be a clear congruence between who you are and what you achieve. So you have to change.
35.) Adopt the winners’ mindset
There are two major ways to see life and perceive its experiences and hurdles: fixed mindset and growth mindset. People with these two mindsets actually think differently and also react differently.
While people with a fixed mindset believe that they are cursed to age with the same competencies and skills they were born with, people with growth mindset believe that they can develop their skills and enhance their knowledge through learning and hard work.
These two different beliefs lead to different behavior, and also to different results.
People with a growth mindset tend to believe that they are in control of their destiny, which is true. They work hard, they persevere, they learn from experience and they are never afraid to fail.
In order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to let go to beliefs and behaviors that are holding you back from evolving. If you have a skills, then double it, again and again. If you decide to keep your abilities safe for the entire life, you will never grow, they will deteriorate. But if you work on them, chances are that you will succeed.
36.) Build Gut, Resilience, Integrity, Tenaticy — -> One way → GRIT
Dreaming day and night doesn’t create the life you want, building grit does. Dreams are just the beginning of a tremendous, nerve-racking, consumptive journey as an entrepreneur.
Where you end up in life is determined solely by the amount of times you fall and get up, and how much punishment you can withstand along the way.
The path to an extraordinary accomplishment and a life worth living is not innate talent, but rather focused perseverance, raw endurance, firmness of character, indomitable spirit, and passion for what you do.
37.) Aim high and hit
I want you to think about your social contribution. What will be different because you showed up? If you do what is easy, your life will be hard, full of complaints and shortcomings, poor into circumstances, you will start blaming everyone except you. The real problem is that you are not on that list. YOU are the one who can change the course of your life, no one will, no one can, no one cares for you, because they are too busy to work for what they want to achieve.
But if you do what is hard, your life will be easy. It’s hard to make a radical change in your behavior, to take ownership. You are gonna get hurt in life, make mistakes, fail your way to success, but you’ve got to be willing to experiment, to push yourself, to challenge yourself by putting yourself in a perpetual state of discomfort. This is how you grow, how you become ready to embrace the new. Feeling uncomfortable is a sign that you are evolving, that you are challenging yourself to face struggles and eventually win. Unless you aim high, you can’t get out of the small circle of existence.
38.) Greatness comes when you are hustling.
But you will not discover your greatness in your comfort zone. You have to be willing to get out of the comfort zone because in order to do something you have never done you’ve got to become someone you have never been.
39.) Invest in yourself
How much time do you spend working on yourself? How many books have you read?
Expand your mind for what is possible.
Read books, build that positive attitude you need in order to face all the hurdles, the stress, the negative influence of others.
Listen to audio books while you are driving, when you are cooking, before you go to bed. They are a valuable source of inspiration, of ideas.
Just like Warren Buffet once said, today the best investment that you can make is in yourself. Nobody can steal what’s inside your head. Each month try to learn, grow, and discipline yourself (constantly).
40.) Make a list of your goals.
41.) Embody your goals
You have to stand for what you believe and adjust your actions in order to create harmony between what you stand for and what you are actually doing.
Embody your vision by taking consistent action.
42.) Take risks and assume the consequences.
If it’s not working this way, then you have 9999 ways that will probably work.
43.) Become a lifelong learner. That’s the only way you can embrace the change without falling. The only way to bounce back to adversity.
44.) Accept the pain of losing. You learn more by losing than you do by winning.
Become one of those who’ve found ways to opt out of traditional employment and create the time and income to pursue what they find meaningful.
Sometimes, achieving that perfect blend of passion and income doesn’t depend on shelving what you currently do. You can start small with your venture, committing little time or money, and wait to take the real plunge when you’re sure it’s successful.
45) You may be doing better than you think. This is a mistake many entrepreneurs make once they have the tiniest bit of product-market fit. I know you aren’t doing as well as Uber or Slack or whatever. But it’s possible you are doing better than you think. If you got 10, 50, 100 businessess to actually buy Yet Another SaaS Product — that is something. Real.
46.) Get a (better) mentor if you can. This doesn’t have to be Marc Benioff. What it does need to be is someone at least 18–24 months further down the road than you. They’ll help you see what’s working and what isn’t.
47.) Buffer for more time. Great founders almost always find a way to pull it out in my experience. Running out of time becomes the enemy. So find an extra 8–12 months of time. Of runway. Of capital. Of committment. Of everything.
48.) The 1.0 isn’t supposed to be great. Final advice if you are a perfectionist. It’s supposed to take iterations. The first version doesn’t always work, nor sometimes, the third. It can take longer than you’d hoped to ever really understand what your customers really want. And then even longer than that to convince them to somehow buy from you. Don’t quit. As Auren Hoffman wrote in another post, of all his seed investments, the only ones that have truly failed are where the founders quit.
49.) >> Don’t quit. <<
I left #50 blank. If you’re an entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs? (Especially if they are just starting out)?