Entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging and rewarding career paths you can choose. Your time is your own (all six free hours a week), and the entire profit (or loss) is also yours.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 50 years, starting my own law firm, poetry journal, and commercial real estate business, and while there have been many rough days I’ve never regretted my choice. I love being my own boss and the challenge of building a growing and thriving business.
If you’re an entrepreneur already, or considering setting off in that direction, I offer five pieces of advice from everything I’ve learned over the years (often the hard way).
- Go to a movie. I’ve found that sometimes the best way to respond to a crisis or challenging day is to go to a movie. That’s right, I said it. You can become a little overwhelmed by the trials of being an entrepreneur and feel exhausted. In those moments, you may not make a sound, rational decision. In fact, if you try you may do more harm than good. I learned long ago that in such situations it’s best to take a break, step away, and give yourself time to relax, recharge, and regain your composure. My favorite distraction is a movie, but you may prefer a hike, hitting the gym, or a having a relaxing talk with a friend. The most important thing is to do it. Your challenges will be waiting for you when you return, and you will be in a much better state of mind to tackle them.
- Write down and refer to a 5-year plan. As an entrepreneur it’s easy to micromanage and get lost in the day-to-day details that come with running your business. And as much as it is your responsibility to be aware of the specifics, it’s even more important for you, as the owner, to maintain both a “big picture” perspective and a long-term trajectory. That’s why I recommend a 5-year plan. Weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets are important, but creating a 5-year plan allows you to step out of the daily grind and look toward the future. Your plan can be simple, with only major milestones, but with it you will gain a fresh perspective on your company, see factors you may have missed, and enjoy a broader context in which to tackle the daily needs of your business.
- Cut your losses. An entrepreneur never gives up. We always believe that with a little more time and effort, we’ll be able to turn everything around. But as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that it’s essential to know when to cut your losses. This might mean firing an employee who fails to live up to the potential you initially saw, or letting go of a project you’re passionate about and have invested countless hours developing when it becomes clear that future time and money will be wasted. A successful entrepreneur understands when the odds are too far against him (say 10,000 to 1), and moves on. Allocate your time and resources to more productive areas.
- Pay close attention to what's going well. As an entrepreneur you’re a problem solver. The buck stops with you, and you are likely to spend a large part of your time unraveling the difficulties that no one else can solve. As important as it is to address the problems in your business, it’s equally if not more important to recognize and expand what is going well. Identify the people on your team who excel and give them more projects. They will surprise you. Discover which of your products are performing best and build on those. Determine which marketing approaches are outperforming the others and invest in them more heavily. Success is the foundations of greater success.
- Hire right and retain your best employees. Business today is a team effort. As an entrepreneur one of your toughest and most rewarding responsibilities is to build your team. And while finding the right people may be difficult, it’s absolutely essential to your success. The way I see it your “people” are your business, and no matter how trivial the role, it’s important that you fill it with someone who reflects the culture you’re building. It’s always better to have the right people on board, even if you need to spend more time and money to find them, than it is to drown in mediocrity. And if a new hire isn’t turning out well, use one of my earlier tips and cut your loss quickly. Better to find someone new today than to waste time with an employee who will never make the grade.
When the entrepreneurial spirit whispers to you, or yells at you, listen, learn as much as you can about your field, and start moving toward success.
ALAN FOX is the president of ACF Property Management, Inc, and author of The New York Times bestseller PEOPLE TOOLS: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity. He is also the author of PEOPLE TOOLS FOR BUSINESS: 50 Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happiness. Fox is the founder, editor, and publisher of Rattle, one of the most respected literary magazines in the United States, and he sits on the board of directors of several non-profit foundations. Visit www.peopletoolsbook.com