Have you ever heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20? The great thing about learning from leaders who have come before us is that they can look back on their experiences in hindsight and share what worked and what didn’t so we can (hopefully) learn from their mistakes.
As entrepreneurs, it’s often difficult to know whose opinion to rely on or whose advice is best. We’ve narrowed down some of the best guidance from the world’s most successful CEOs and founders, all of which were once small business owners themselves.
Lesson #1: Failure is inevitable; learn from it
One hard fact about being an entrepreneur is that you will, at some point, fail. Whether it’s simply not landing a big client or having your business idea tank, the truth of the matter is that failure is inevitable. It’s what you do with that failure that counts.
Serial entrepreneur and CEO of Xigem Technologies, Brian Kalish, says failure can be a wonderful teacher if you’re prepared to learn from it. He says that if you take the time to analyse what went wrong and how it went wrong, you can learn more from your failures than your wins.
Lesson #2: Work on your business and not in your business
As an entrepreneur, you’re likely wearing several hats and spinning numerous plates simultaneously. This is when it becomes easy to get bogged down by the details. By becoming immersed in the day-to-day operations of your business, you will have little time for much else.
President and CEO of VistaVu Solutions, Jory Lamb’s best advice is to do a few things and do them well, rather than trying to do everything yourself and not making much progress. He says you should be concerned with working on your business and focusing your energy where it matters most. In other words, learn when and where to delegate, outsource, and rely on the expertise of others.
Lesson #3: Continue learning
Whether you have three degrees behind your name or barely scraped through school, learning doesn’t and shouldn’t end when you decide to start your own business. The more educated you are, the more effective you can be – learning should be continuous, no matter where you are in your business journey.
Entrepreneur and business magnate, Richard Branson, has shared before that he views life almost like one long university education. Whether it’s specific business knowledge or just insight in general, you should be learning something new every day.
Lesson #4: Be prepared for new opportunities
You’ve probably started your business because your product or service solves a particular problem for your customers. The fact that you figured this out is great. However, you shouldn’t stop there. The market is constantly evolving and changing. You never know when a new problem could pop up that you can solve too.
Take it from Barry Nalebuff, founder of Honest Tea. When he spotted Oprah Winfrey at a yoga retreat, he offered her a sample and was quickly featured in her magazine. Before he knew it, business was booming.
So, always ensure you’ve got your elevator pitch ready; you never know who you may encounter next.
Lesson #5: Keep your customers happy
If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you’ll know one thing for sure: the customer is always right. Regardless of what you’re selling, spend time creating a customer service model that keeps your customers happy. Happy customers become repeat customers and excellent advocates for your brand.
Executive Chairman of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has a 24-hour customer service team on hand whenever a problem arises. By fulfilling customers’ needs and solving their problems for them in a way that is quick and efficient, you’re winning over their loyalty and beating your competitors in the process.
Lesson #6: A thick skin is necessary
There’s a difference between listening to feedback and taking criticism to heart. As an entrepreneur, it’s essential that you learn not to take negative feedback personally. Although you can still always act with compassion and kindness, developing a thick skin will help you make better decisions.
Just ask Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post. When she first started her publication, she was told it was an “unsurvivable failure”. Did she listen? No. She ignored the naysayers and did it anyway.
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