Worried about your job? Worried about the future? Join the club. You aren't alone. In a recent survey, 34% of all Americans were found to be worried about their jobs. So if you worry, you're normal. But I think there is a big difference between the worry a business owner or entrepreneur has about the economy and the standard company employee has about the economy. And that is because the average company employee, in many cases, has no control over whether or not they lose their job. Often times, company restructuring and decisions are made and terminations decided in offices five thousand miles away by people the employees don't even know or will ever meet.
Be disruptive and rough!
Entrepreneurs, self-employed and business owners have a better grasp over their situation and more control.
I have found through people I have met, and through my own experiences, that people who are self-employed or own their own businesses are generally more resolved and more confident about their future. Oh sure, like I said, in this economy everyone worries, and that is probably most prudent, but the self-employed or people who have learned to depend upon themselves are the most happy and confident.
So, if you are a company employee and you want to get started on creating your own business and perhaps setting yourself on the road to freedom, then today's short blog post is for you.
Here are my five most important rules for becoming an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship. These are the ones that I believe are the most basic to the success of starting your own business and actually becoming your own boss. I think there might be a few more rules that are good to know but, for now, these are the "five aces" (okay, four aces and a Joker), if you will, of the game as I see them.
The five most important rules are:
1) Try new things until you find what works
2) Be persistent as hell
3) Adapt & overcome
4) Always refine
5) Focus! And become a specialist
Simple. Now, let me break these down and talk about each one for a moment.
First off, trying new things. You've decided that you want to start your own business but aren't sure what it is going to be. Fine. Try many new things. Did you know that Bill Hewett and Dave Packard of Hewlett-Packard got together initially and decided to make a new company but they didn't know what they wanted to make? They were completely unfocused and starting out making measuring devices like thermometers... They tried many things until they found some things that worked... The rest is, as they say, history.
Hey! Someone already beat me to these great ideas!
A few years ago, I decided that I was going to open a marketing company that focused on the travel market. I came up with a few ideas and then I was brash enough to arrange a meeting with a large, world famous airlines. I was unable to conclude a deal on the initial meetings. I was told that my presentation was "rough."
That was fine with me, actually. I wasn't insulted in the least. In my thinking I was trying something new and I had two goals: first to try to get the contract and; two, to at least learn enough from the initial meetings so that when I tried again at another company I would have learned enough from the first company to be able the get the deals. I saw it as sort of a "on the job" training and there's no better training than real-world. If you think this way then you'll realize that there is no such thing as failure, just the discovery of better ways to do things as you go.
As it turns out, I didn't get the deal at the first airlines. But, after the first meeting, I learned enough from my mistakes that I was able to land several big contracts with one European National Tourism Agency, one airline from China and the contracts for national campaigns for several big airlines. I think I ran a total of 20 campaigns (large and small) after the "failure" of the first approach to the first airlines.
By the way, a full year and one half after that first approach to the first airlines, I finally landed a massive national campaign for them at the end of last year and now they seem eager to participate in another big campaign later this year! That makes me very pleased.
That's the part of being persistent: You have to be persistent, but it's not good to be pushy. Always be available and always pass on information. That way, when your chance comes you'll be available to take it. Even after the first airlines rejected my offer, I still kept in contact with them and still passed along useful information. Whenever I thought I had a "deal they couldn't refuse" I passed along the information to them... Of course, they refused on some of the "deals they couldn't refuse" but it still allowed me to stay in touch and let them know that I was available and convenient.
So, staying persistent - but not pestering - is necessary.
The third most important point is adapting and overcoming. In the case I gave above, after the "failure" of the first presentation, I went over that meeting in my head and "learned" what was good and I kept those parts and threw away the parts that were bad. I especially decided to work on my attitude and self-fulling prophesy. I decided to make it a rule that I would envision every meeting from now on each and every time - with no exceptions - before I went into them to create a positive outcome. Even though I almost always do this, I did not do that at the first airlines company that I went to. That won't happen again. I was too cocky and not focused on the goal enough.
Some people might think that visualizing a successful outcome is silly, but it is not. I am a firm believer that visualizing meetings with new people is a key in creating positive outcomes... Perhaps it is akin to practicing a speech before you give it. I even visualize shaking people's hands for the first time and smiling and looking into their eyes!
Of course I visualize leaving the meeting with a great feeling and smiles on the faces of all involved.
The fourth point is about refining. That has a lot to do with number three. As you go along, making your presentation from company to company, you adapt and overcome but you continually refine your message and your presentation. Did you know that Colonel Sanders used this method 99 times before he finally made the sale that has become what Kentucky Fried Chicken is today? Ninety-nine times he "failed" but he kept trying and adapting and overcoming and he kept refining until one day someone said, "Yes!"
Oh, and did I mention that Colonel Sanders was persistent? I hope that I can continually keep up the fight even after 99 people say "No!" to me. Fact of the matter is that when that first airlines said, "No!" to me I was somewhat surprised. I knew what I had was powerful and I knew that if they said, "No!" that merely meant that I wasn't skilled enough at getting my message across. I had to refine (that is, after slapping myself on the forehead).
Colonel Sanders: He who laughs last, laughs best.
Finally, focus. You must specialize. I meet people all the time who are doing this and doing that and they can't figure out why they can't get ahead. Well, it is easy: they aren't focused.
Here's a simple real-world example: Look around you at the restaurants. There's specialization shops and then there's family restaurants like Denny's. The specialization shops serve one type of food. Say, sushi, Italian, French, steak, etc. The family restaurant serves everything.
The family restaurant has its place but I don't think many consider it delicious. It is the specialization places one goes to for fine and delicious food. I have written more about this here.
To take the specialization example one-step further, how about professional baseball players? The so-called "Utility man" who can play several positions; they can play first base, outfield, catcher... Can you name one famous utility man? I can't. And utility men usually get paid the league minimum and are gone in a few years. But a specialist? Ah! That's different. Maybe a specialist can only do one thing well. Maybe the specialist can only throw 25 hard and fast pitches and can only last one inning but can strike out three batters... Oh, a guy like that will always have a job. A guy like that will get paid millions and be famous.
What does he do? He does one thing and he does that well. This is called "The Hedgehog Concept" you can read more about that here.
And those are the five rules for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
Some people will read this and ask themselves, "Well, okay, Mike. Now what do I have to do to get started?" I suppose to answer that question, there might be a sixth rule. That rule would say something like
"You get started by doing."
Or, as Yoda would say, "There is no try. There is only do."
As in my example above in going to the airline for the very first time, I think it would be foolish to expect that I would have had a 100% success rate (actually have batted almost 1000 since that first time) but we must be realistic and remember what our purpose is: We want success but we will also have to adapt and overcome, refine and be persistent. Get started by doing. Learn as you go. Get advice and read books.
There is nothing stopping you from being an entrepreneur excepting your own fears, indecision and hesitation.
The world needs entrepreneurs. There's definitely an job opening there for you.
This post inspired by Jeffrey Scott