There are many truths in starting and operating a successful business. Many business truths are common sense concepts — like if you run out of cash, your business might not make it. But, you can also draw on general life lessons when growing your business.
I’ve been in the entrepreneurship game for more than 30 years now. I’ve applied a lot of the lessons I learned in life to starting and growing my businesses. And believe it or not, keeping these in mind has helped my businesses succeed.
1. Take the plunge sooner rather than later.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a business but haven’t gotten around to doing it, what are you waiting for? Of course, it’s important to conduct a business risk analysis and develop a solid business plan. But if you’ve done all of your homework and keep waiting for “the right time,” you might be waiting for a while.
You often hear that there’s no perfect time to do certain things in life. It’s easy to make excuses as to why you’re putting off your dreams — like travelling, buying a home, etc. Starting a business is the same way. But, taking risks is all part of the fun of living life to its fullest — including starting a business. Being able to take calculated risks is an important attribute of entrepreneurs.
By default, anyone who starts a business is a risk taker. There’s no guarantee a business will survive. But, taking that initial plunge is the first step in proving that you have what it takes to live out your dream.
Taking the plunge doesn’t just apply to those of you thinking of owning a business. It also applies to those of you who are already business owners. Each day in business, you take risks. Should you unveil a new line of products or services? Should you invest? Should you expand your business?
If you wait too long to take the plunge, you might miss a golden opportunity.
2. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
To grow as an individual, you need to stretch yourself. You might try new foods, change up your routine, or travel somewhere you’ve never been. Every one of us goes through difficult situations and has opportunities to leave our comfort zone. Likewise, you need to be willing to leave your comfort zone when you start or own a business.
Facing situations that are outside our comfort zones is just a part of life. If we refuse to leave our comfort zones, we could miss out on big things. And, it could lead to the destruction of your business.
Successful business owners are comfortable pushing the envelope in most things they do. I forced myself to leave my comfort zone throughout my entrepreneurship journey, and in my life, and I’m so glad I did.
I’ve always been more of an introvert than an extrovert, and in my startup days, the thought of public speaking terrified me. As a business owner, I knew I needed to conquer my fears. To date, I have spoken at about 70 business conventions. Writing was not my forte, either. I graduated from college with an engineering degree, so I didn’t practice my writing much. But once I started my first business, I forced myself to write a 20-page weekly newsletter. I did this for eight years!
I’m 100 percent sure that my willingness to conquer my fears and push myself outside my comfort zone was instrumental to the growth and success of my businesses.
So, what’s your comfort zone look like?
3. Strengthen your communication skills.
Having good communication skills will help get you far in life. Being able to communicate helps you make connections, diffuse conflicts, vocalize your viewpoints and understand what others have to say.
Likewise, I’ve learned that communication skills are essential for growing your business. In fact, they just might be the most important trait for business growth. You don’t have to be a TV talk show host, but you must be willing to be a little outgoing.
If you’re a good verbal communicator, can speak well enough that people understand you and are able to speak in front of an audience (if necessary), your odds of business success increase.
Public speaking and writing were very limiting constraints for me when I started my business. I was terrified of public speaking, and I was a terrible writer! If you want to strengthen your communication skills, practice. Consider starting a blog or speaking in public. And, you can practice every day in your personal life, too!
4. Stay loyal to the people who helped get you where you are.
Think about all the people you’re loyal to in your personal life. And, think about how strong that relationship has to be for you to want to be loyal to them.
Being loyal in business is another vital part of business growth. It’s important to stay loyal to the people who have helped you get where you are, especially your employees and customers. When you’re loyal to your employees, you can expect high retention rates, quality work and increased employee engagement. When you are loyal to your customers, you don’t sacrifice the quality of your offerings. You help them work through questions and concerns they have.
If you remain loyal to your customers and employees, the majority will remain loyal to you.
5. Embrace failure.
Failure is probably one of the least liked words in the English language. But if we spend all our energy getting self-conscious and closing off when we fail at something in life, we won’t be able to bounce back, learn from it and grow. In life and business, once you learn what causes failure and learn how to recover, you have a recipe for success.
Business failures might shake you up for a bit. But instead of thinking that every failure is going to end in small business bankruptcy, you can look at them as learning experiences. Every time you fail in business, you have the opportunity to turn your situation around.
Running my businesses hasn’t always been a walk in the park. I’ve made decisions that cost me money, and I faced failure during the Great Recession. At first, I didn’t want to admit that these failures were happening. But once I did, I embraced and fought through them. Thankfully, my startups pulled through. And, I learned a great deal from that those experiences.
Sometimes, the only way to learn important lessons is by failing.
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