Most successful entrepreneurs in history, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, despite having no formal training and no family background in business, they did just fine.
That begs the question: where did they learn the skills they needed to succeed? After all, educational institutions around the world are just now starting to grapple with the task of preparing young entrepreneurs to start their first businesses. And as any veteran entrepreneur can tell you, simple common sense will only get you so far.
The answer, for most of them, is that they learned what to do on-the-fly by simply doing it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today’s budding entrepreneurs can draw some very valuable lessons from those who have come before them. To help them get started on that business journey, here are four lessons all entrepreneurs must learn on the way to success, and some advice on what to do with that knowledge:
1.The customer is king but isn’t infallible
In the early days of any business, it’s easy to see each new customer as the lifeline keeping the business afloat. For that reason, it’s only natural for an entrepreneur to bend over backward to make early-stage customers as happy as possible. On the whole, that’s a good impulse. That doesn’t mean, however, that there shouldn’t be limits.
2.Ask for guidance early and often
For any new entrepreneur, the biggest hurdle is often their own pride. Many first-time founders start their ventures convinced that their vision will see them through to success. That creates a powerful disincentive to reach out for help when it’s necessary or to seek other entrepreneurs who’ve already dealt with common early-stage business problems. Failing to do so can doom any new business.
New entrepreneurs have to recognize right away that there’s going to be plenty about building a thriving business that they don’t know. Trusting your gut feeling can sometimes help, but business intelligence exists for a reason, so use it. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask someone more experienced for help—it’s a sign of wisdom. That’s why it’s a good idea for every first-time business owner to find themselves a mentor or coach who has deep and relevant experience running a similar operation.
3. Protect your cash flow
It should go without saying, but no business can operate without enough money to keep the doors open. Still, an astounding number of businesses fail due to cash flow problems. Most of that is due to the fact that the majority of first-time entrepreneurs don’t have a firm grasp on the basics of business accounting, which is far more complex than managing their personal finances.
Stabilizing a new business’s cash flow should be top priority for every entrepreneur. Getting that right will form a foundation for growth and success. The effort starts with a solid business plan to finance the business as it gets up and running. Then, it’s necessary to do the often difficult work of aligning the business’s credit terms and accounts receivable procedures with its ongoing expenses. Where that’s not possible, alternate means of securing cash flow must be considered.
The work doesn’t stop there. The next thing an entrepreneur has to do is either learn how to create an accurate cash flow forecast or find someone else to do the job instead. Having a cash flow forecast that’s in line with real-world results helps assure that the business won’t have any sudden bottom-line surprises that can threaten its existence.
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4.An entrepreneur’s time is money
If there’s one experience that’s common to almost all new entrepreneurs, it’s that in the early days of their first venture, they feel it necessary to be everywhere. In a one-person operation, that makes sense. But it’s almost always the right decision to ditch those tendencies as soon as possible. That’s because how every moment of an entrepreneur’s day is spent holds a direct correlation to how successful the business will be. A great way to start doing that is to plan each day with a schedule and make every effort to keep to it.