I was lucky enough to spend some time with the entrepreneurs at the False Bay College incubator this week. I was asked to share ‘nuggets of wisdom’ with them to help them make sales in their business. Here is a rough transcribe of what I had to say:
I hear lots of excuses about why startups fail. From race to gender to funding, the excuses ae endless.
The absolute honest truth is that 99% of businesses fail in the first five years, 1% of all businesses will get funding. The rest of you need to bootstrap. So it’s not some personal conspiracy it’s a tiny market that 99.9% of people are not cut out for.
But most importantly if you are whining about it. That is your sign you are not cut out for it. It’s not easy, it’s the hunger games of life choices!
It’s wearing your thick skin with grit and determination all day, every day for a good five years. It’s not taking a pay cheque sometimes for three years while possibly paying your team. It’s being told you’re crazy and you’ve lost your mind by all friends and it’s sometimes it’s losing those. friends
If you have decided that this is for you, it’s time you harden up and get on with it. This country needs you. In fact, I would go as far a saying that it’s your patriotic duty to go out there and build a business that succeeds, helps stabilize the economy and creates jobs. If we aren’t going to do it, who will?
So here are a few points or nuggets of wisdom I would like to pass on to you today:
The most important decision you can make is…where do you want to spend your time. You only have so much time, energy and ability to focus. That means, as much as you would like to, you can’t do everything. The places which receive your full attention will do better than the places that won’t. You need to make hard choices about what you will do–and what you won’t. And it is really is the important decision you can make, because everything else you do will flow from it.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, there is no such thing as work-life balance. I am not advocating that you spend a disproportionate part of your life working on your company. (I am also not advocating against it.) I am simply reporting that is what the most successful entrepreneurs do. I have never found an exception.
The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas, they solve market needs. You and I can come up with wonderful ideas all day long but unless they satisfy a large enough need, one that can support a business, they don’t do anyone any good.
The one thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is the desire to make their idea a reality. What entrepreneurs need most of all—above motivation, focus, hope, financing, marketing skills, a brilliant idea, etc.—is the will to bring their idea into existence. Unless you truly want to make something happen, the odds are nothing will. Without that desire, nothing else matters…or occurs. Your life will be filled in other ways.
Forget about working on your weaknesses, play to your strengths. This is what will make you successful in the long-run.
All you need to know about marketing in exactly 30 words? Marketing, when you strip everything away, is extremely simple: You figure out who you want to sell to, and then you determine what it is that will get them to buy.
Here’s the only market research you need: Get your product out in the marketplace and see if it sells.
You must figure out how you are going to collect what you are owed. Nobody thinks about this before they get underway and suddenly they learn first hand what they phrase “cash flow crunch” means.
If you want to get more done faster and better…create checklists. Checklists are a wonderful way to make sure you don’t overlook anything, and that it is true whether we are talking about the best way to treat someone in the emergency room or if you are about to make a big presentation to a client you really want to land.
If you are going to fail, and sometimes you will, fail quickly and cheaply. Always take small steps toward your goal and pause after each one to make sure you are staying on the right track.
Creativity and innovation must be linked to a business objective. Creativity is wonderful. But creativity that isn’t tied to making money is just a hobby. It isn’t a viable business concept.
Get out while you still have your marbles. You never want to stay too long at the fair, even if you own the fair.
Financial capital is the funding you need to get off the ground, sustain growth, and develop operations. Human capital is the team that brings value to your organization. And while both are essential resources for your business, social capital — the connections and shared values that exist between people and enable cooperation — is the key to entrepreneurial success.
You see, when you’ve developed a wealth of social capital, you can obtain any other resources you need — whether that means gaining investors, recruiting experts, or building your team with the best of the best. Even if you’re earning millions of dollars and have a great team, though, without a network of supporters, the first bump in the road may just send you careening into a ditch
For some social capital grows slowly and steadily from birth due to a connected or wealthy family or a close-knit, private schooling. For the vast majority of us here today, we will wake up one day, clad with a business idea and a very big realization about just how small our network is.
The key to improving your social capital isn’t the number of contacts you make. What’s important is making contacts that become lasting relationships.
Imagine if you were putting together a marketing plan for the coming year and you called five close friends to ask them for help — in the form of either a referral or new business. Now, imagine cold-calling 10 people for the same reason. You’ll most likely have better luck with your close friends.
Focus on building relationships and you will never have a leadless business.