Most entrepreneurs start their ventures with high expectations. You have a brilliant idea for a product or service and it’s going to make a difference in the world. Then you get into the day-to-day operations of running your business. Things change. Tasks you don’t enjoy take up more and more of your time. You’re confronted with rules and regulations you have to follow, management challenges that seem unsolvable, and financial complexities you’ve never faced before. You may even feel burned out and overwhelmed. What now? What should you focus on to ensure your business flourishes?
John Moore, Ph.D., CPA, Chair and Professor of Finance at Walsh College, encourages entrepreneurs to put sustainability first. “The greatest potential for entrepreneurial business failure happens in the first 36 months. There’s a difference between a wish and a goal and the primary difference between the two is a systematic plan or program for how to get you there. If you don’t have a sustainable business model, you won’t survive.”
Here are Moore’s suggestions for building sustainability in your business during the critical early years:
Study business basics
“To be successful in today's world, you have to be a renaissance person. Entrepreneurs have to know a bit about sales, a bit about management, some accounting… You have to have an understanding of finance. You need some level of comfort in a lot of different areas,” explains Moore. “While you don’t need to know everything to be successful in the business world, you have to know how to ask really good questions.
“My advice for any budding entrepreneur is that you have to be curious and become a serious reader. You have to have some level of comfort in a lot of different areas. For example, when your business grows to the point where you find you need a loan, you’re most likely to get it if the banker knows that you have command of your business’s financial reports.”
Many colleges and universities offer programs targeted to entrepreneurs. You can also access a wealth of information in bestselling books, blogs and video series online. There’s no shortage of information, though you’ll need to make sure you add “learning about all aspects of business” to your priority list.
Build a circle of advisors
Another way to ensure you’re able to manage the most critical aspects of your business well is to gather a group of people with the specific talents you’re lacking who are willing to support you. “Find other entrepreneurs and team up so that you create a small group that covers a broad array of skills,” advises Moore. “That's the greatest challenge for entrepreneurs. They may have a great idea, but they may not have the skill set to develop it for a credible and sustainable market application.”
You need to be intellectually honest about your own weaknesses and get specific about the areas with which you could use more education and assistance. Your advisors can help you get clear about where you need help and the type of support you need.
You can create your advisor group in several ways, from building your own business mastermind group, inviting close associates to serve as an informal board of directors, or partnering with other entrepreneurs.
Get comfortable with failure
The process of starting a company can be grueling. We hear success stories from celebrities like Richard Branson or Bill Gates, yet only rarely do those stories include the numerous struggles that they and their business ventures had to endure to reach that pinnacle.
“The real world is probably 25 percent success in the beginning and 75 percent challenges, beatdowns and disappointments,” comments Moore. “It doesn’t come free and it doesn’t come easy. Not only do you have to be intellectually talented, you have to be willing to regroup on a daily basis. There’s a psychological element to business. You need to be comfortable going out there every day with the wolves, fighting for your idea and learning from your successes and your disappointments on a daily basis.
“In a world of instant gratification, success rarely comes from instant gratification. It comes from a long arduous process. With all the rejection and failure that entrepreneurs deal with, there’s a big personal growth aspect to it. And the more often you deal with failure, the sooner you realize it’s not terminal.”
Learn more about Walsh College, Detroit’s all-business school.
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