There’s no specific set of innate qualities that you need to make it as an entrepreneur. Believe me, I certainly never thought of myself as being entrepreneurial in any sense! I had never considered starting a business before and I didn’t have any encouragement or help to do so when I was growing up. What it does require, however – especially when you’re transitioning from being a full-time employee in a corporate 9 to 5 – is a lot of mindset shifts in order to be able to succeed.
Here are 9 mindset shifts you’ll need to make to succeed in running your own business.
1. Learning vs getting it right the first time
Large companies in particular tend to be risk averse and as employees we may feel like we’re constantly being judged and measured on our results. We’ve been hired for our expertise, we have a certain set of skills, and we need to use those skills to deliver great results. We have to get everything right the first time. As an entrepreneur, however, you’re by definition creating something more or less new, that hasn’t been done before. No, you don’t know everything (yet) – and there’s no one to tell you either – but you’re going to find out! Get used to focusing on testing, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes rather than trying to get things right the first time.
2. Flexibility vs systems and processes
There are no systems and processes when you’re starting out because it’s all new, and it’s just you! You’ll probably want to create systems and processes eventually but for the time being you’re laying the tracks as you go. There’s no exact roadmap that you can follow, you’re not working on just one more launch after hundreds of launches in your company, and you’re really creating everything from scratch. If you come across an obstacle – and you will, every day! – then you need to work out how you can overcome that obstacle. What can you adjust, who can you talk to, what could you try? You need to learn to ‘pivot’ rather than give up altogether, or else you’ll never get anywhere.
3. Long term vs short term
The not-so-sexy reality of building a business is that it takes time. It takes time for you to refine your message and positioning so that it resonates with your target audience. It takes time to get your name out there, to build credibility and to get clients. It takes time to start bringing in consistent sales rather than the ‘feast or famine’ that’s so familiar to many freelancers in particular. If you focus on the short term – the views you got today on a particular video, or the comments on a Facebook post – then you’ll give up before the work you’re doing has had time to make an impact. If you’re committed to making this business a success, if you’re in it for the long haul, you need to do it for long enough to actually make a difference! So focus on the bigger picture of what you’re working towards, your long-term brand-building strategy, and don’t get obsessed with those individual metrics.
4. External vs internal
It’s easy to get caught up in strategy and planning, talking about all the things you’re going to do and preparing materials on the back end. But the risk is that you focus your attention inward rather than outward and to grow your business – or even to start a business – you need go out in the world and talk to people! Listen, interact, engage – this will do much more for your business than tweaking your website for the umpteenth time or revising your package names, pricing and so on. Those things are important but there’s no point if no one’s ever going to see them because you’re not focusing externally.
5. Giving vs taking
Traditional marketing models were all about pushing out your brand and product message to as many people as possible: “buy me, buy me!” Sales was associated with sleazy used car salesmen who were trying to push their less-than-quality offering on us. When we go to networking events, we get obsessed with what our elevator pitch should be and how other people can help us. But it doesn’t work like that (anymore): we have to give before we take. Marketing, and business as a whole, is all about the customer. You need to understand your audience and give incredible value, over deliver, give your best for free – so that people can get to know, like and trust you before they buy. When you meet people, you want to be thinking first and foremost about how you can serve that person rather than get caught up in what they can do for you.
6. Humility vs ego
Related to the previous point, you need to be focusing on serving others, solving problems and, above all, continually seeing how you can do better. How can you learn more, how can you refine your craft, how can you deliver even more value? This is going to involve trying things and sometimes failing, it’s going to mean taking your ego out of the equation so that you can be honest about your weaknesses and any gaps, and looking at where you can do more and get better. It also means not thinking that you’re the only one who can do things right and instead learning to delegate. It means asking for help when you need it, rather than muddling through because you feel like you should be able to manage alone.
7. Abundance vs scarcity
These days, social media shows you everyone’s best and shiniest self and you end up comparing yourself to other people’s goals and achievements. Seeing someone else succeed risks making you bitter and envious – you might feel that you deserve that as much as she does, or you’re better than her. Well, prove it! She’s got that result because she has put the work in, she has put herself out there – so you need to do that too. And, believe me, this is not a zero-sum game: there is enough for everyone and, if anything, someone else succeeding makes your success more likely rather than less, as it proves that it’s possible. Learn from other people, by all means, but don’t let them distract you from your own goals and progress.
8. CEO vs super employee
This is the message that my coach is always emphasising and one that I’ve been trying to internalise: even when you’re just starting out as a solopreneur, you cannot and should not do everything yourself. Yes, you’ll need to get your hands dirty and do a bit of everything at the start, but you need to be working ‘on’ your business rather than only ‘in’ the business. That means focusing on business development and taking time to review the strategy, monitoring results and adjusting as needed. Know your limits and outsource admin, accounting, anything that takes a lot of time, time that you could and should be spending on revenue-generating activities.
9. Investing now vs investing later
This is a tough one because it’s scary to invest time and money in something that has uncertain returns – but in business, everything has uncertain returns! Waiting for your business to be successful and only then taking it seriously and committing to it isn’t going to work, because you need to commit and dedicate yourself to it in order to get results. That’s not to say that you should over-stretch yourself and put your own or your family’s security at risk; but you do need to get a little bit uncomfortable. Whether it’s investing in a tool, or an assistant, or a coach – you need to view these as an investment in growing the business rather than as an expense that will drain your resources.
*ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m opening up new 1:1 coaching slots to support 5 self-motivated people in making the transition from employee to entrepreneur, in terms of the mindset shifts and the concrete strategies and plans that you’ll need to be successful. If you’re ready to take your business seriously and to find a way to make it work for you – without sacrificing your health and relationships to do so – then get in touch to book a free consultation. We’ll dig into your situation and see how I can best support you in achieving your goals.*