Advice is given to us so often, it’s easy for it to fall on deaf ears. Some of this so-called advice is given from friends and family; other comes from colleagues or a mentor. How do you decide what sticks? The top 8 things I’ve learned from those around me can be summed up in close to 500 words. So what will you take with you?
1) Do what you love
We grow up wanting to be doctors, actors, sports players; yet many end up working in cubicles 8 hours a day. Does that mean settling? I don’t think so…it’s easy to get somewhere and stuck in a rut. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue what you love – work or hobby. Find a way to keep a piece of what you enjoy doing in your everyday life and you will find yourself significantly happier.
2) It’s not just about money
Money is great; we all would agree. It pays the bills and provides luxuries we couldn’t afford otherwise. But, if money is all you had, would you be happy? The cynical may say yes, but truth is – it comes back to #1: do what you love.
3) Find your niche
It would be great to follow every passion…own an animal shelter, be a pastry chef, practice law. Unfortunately focusing on too many different angles can leave you – and business prospects – confused. Find an area to specialize in, and devote all your efforts to that. The more you do any one thing, the better you’ll get. Once you’ve mastered it, you can always move on to something else.
4) Stay motivated
It can be easy to get side-tracked with all of life’s daily responsibilities. Family, friends, your “real job” – all of these are important; but don’t forget to invest in your business – time, money, whatever resources you are able. The more involved you are, the easier it will be to stay motivated and get to the point you’re working towards – a sustainable business.
Once you decide you’re going all-in, do it. Many people stay at their day jobs while trying to start their businesses, and that’s great when you first begin. However, when you see the opportunity present itself, don’t let it pass. Sure it’s scary, and yes it might even fail. It’s certainly difficult to do and you should only do it if you’re at a point that you could support yourself (to the extent you’re comfortable with). There’s no better time than now if you’re ready.
Spend 80% of your time on the 20% that drives the most value. That could be your top paying customers, your top product or service offering, or your website vs. offline marketing. This principle has been applied to so many situations, and it is one of the best ways to handle time management. There are not enough hours in the day to focus on every detail that needs to get done, but if you spend time on what’s important, you’ll get it right.
7) Spend wisely
Starting a business often times equates with spending money. Yes, you might need the new laptop or desk for your office, but focus on those purchases (big or small) that will drive value to the business: think business cards, reinventing your brand with a new logo, or a newly-designed website.
8) Educate yourself
It’s difficult for one person to be the jack-of-all-trades, but try to have some knowledge of all things relevant. This means, have an idea of the structure of your business (proprietorship? partnership? LLC? etc.). Know what tax laws will mean for you. Understand basic accounting. Learn fundamental marketing. You get the picture. You can’t be all things to all people, but you want to make sure if you’re outsourcing, you have the underlying foundation.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
As written for YoungEntrepreneur, December 2, 2010