In 2015, a study conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor revealed that almost 14 percent of working-age Americans are in the process of launching or actively running a new business. This data reflects companies with paid employees, as well as an increasing number of solopreneurs and freelancers.
With so many people diving eagerly into the world of business, you might be wondering how you can establish your own small startup. For those who already own a business, it is also important to maintain a competitive edge.
Whether you have been self-employed for years or you are just getting started, here are seven valuable pieces of insight from American entrepreneurs who know what it takes to succeed.
1. Find a Mentor
One of the most important things to remember as a business owner is that there is always room for improvement. In order to adhere to this principle, you must be willing to learn. As a result, many entrepreneurs recommend finding a mentor, an individual who can be trusted as an honest and supportive critic throughout your career. It’s as simple as this – learn from those who came before you. Take instruction with gratitude, especially when it comes from someone with experience.
If you are having a hard time finding a mentor, you can also research leading entrepreneurs in your field to familiarize yourself with the competition. For example, Tim McMullen, founder of Redpepper, says that he used to find 10 of the smartest people in his industry and study them closely. In fact, this personal emphasis on growth and creative coaching has become the foundation of Redpepper’s branding philosophy, an approach that has landed him contracts with clients like Coca-Cola and Claire’s.
2. Share Opportunities
Another important piece of advice is to share exciting opportunities with your colleagues. Do you know someone who is great with marketing and promotions? Ask them for help with an upcoming campaign. Are you collaborating frequently with other people to complete high-profile projects? Consider hiring an intern or consultant to assist you with various duties. Even if you prefer to tackle challenges on your own, remember that working together can yield extraordinary results.
John Stonecipher, president of Guidance Aviation, suggests partnering with people who are passionate about what they do. When selecting faculty for his flight school in Arizona, he surrounds himself with individuals who already possess the skills of a leader. What started as a single-man operation is now a collegiate flight training academy where Stonecipher can delegate responsibilities with confidence.
3. Forget Your Fears
When faced with an obstacle, do you make excuses to give up or do you dig deeper for a solution? In many cases, entrepreneurs must make difficult decisions regarding suppliers, customer service, and insurance. However, finances are the true cause of these concerns no matter how long you have been in business. Fortunately, there are several ways to get funding for startups or expansions, such as:
- Microloans and peer lending groups
- Home equity lines of credit
- SBA loan programs
- Angel investors
- Credit cards
- Small business grants
These are only a few of the options available for entrepreneurs, so investigate thoroughly before making any commitments. If you cannot get approved for the requested funds, it might be time to revise your business plan or cut back on operational costs.
4. Accept Social Responsibility
In terms of American businesses, what is lacking from the framework of modern society? According to Matt Qualey, president of the Maine Stone Design Center, the answer is social responsibility. Although the economy has changed much over the years, it is still the duty of each individual to maintain an ethical balance between the management of an organization and the interests of those in the community. “Do the best you can,” says Qualey. “And do it when you say you’re going to.” This also includes active preservation of the environment, since unethical business practices have been known to disrupt ecological cycles.
5. Improve the Market
What are your intentions as a business owner? A common misconception amongst entrepreneurs is that they need to do something unique to make a difference. While niche marketing does give some companies a competitive edge, providing a one-of-a-kind service is not the only way to get attention from consumers. Instead, look at businesses that are similar to your own and compare factors like quality and reliability. Offer the same services as your competitors, but improve the market by implementing a more effective method of delivery. If you know you can do the job better, make that known to potential clients and your work will speak for itself.
6. Don’t Get Discouraged
Running a business takes discipline and perseverance, so try to stay positive when things are not going the way you planned. Some people think that entrepreneurs have it easy, setting their own schedule and handing down orders, but there will always be problems that require additional effort to resolve. Don’t get discouraged when you come across these challenges. When you pursue something that you are passionate about, take the time to enjoy the journey and stop worrying about your destination. If you are still struggling to embrace the path you are on, it might be time to reconsider your goals.
7. Tell Your Story
Finally, many entrepreneurs write books or speak at seminars to generate attention and sales, but these actions can also be used for a much greater purpose. The next time you are asked to share your story at a conference, think of it as an opportunity to enlighten others about the trials and joys of entrepreneurship. Talk about the challenges, the rewards, and the victories along the way. Even if you don’t think your story is worth telling, the fact remains that someone in the audience can probably relate to your experiences.
In the end, each person must follow a different path to success, a fact that business owners know all too well. During your journey, remember to reflect on these seven simple insights from fellow entrepreneurs, and pursue your own chapter in the never-ending novel of the American dream.
What are your favorite pieces of insight from entrepreneurs? I’d love to hear them! Please share them in the comments below.