Ten years ago, and certainly 15, this discussion would have been laughable. It’s the ‘debate’ between building a business and just raising money. Of course, anyone raising money will tell you that they’re actually building a business, and much of the time it’s true, but there’s still an important distinction to be made.
These days, everyone has an idea. And, at least up until relatively recently, there were a plethora of investors with money who wanted to eagerly hand it over to any young person they thought had an idea that was going to be the next Facebook or the next Uber. Now, with several years of this madness behind it, purses are being tightened, and we’re face with the need for some evaluation as to what exactly entrepreneurship actually is.
Over the past few years, anyone developing an app has likely at least had the thought pass that they might seek out investment in order to help them grow quicker and build a company much more rapidly than they could do on their own (or at all). That said, there are many of these companies who were never going to reach a point of revenue generation, nor would reach the user volume critical mass that has kept giants like Snapchat alive right up until they finally started generating a few bucks after nearly four years of being on the market.
That kind of run time without making a cent from your company was unheard of just a couple short decades ago, but now it’s commonplace. The problem isn’t that that market dynamic exists, it’s that it’s all many young entrepreneurs are banking on. They want to make something that so many people use that they can make a well-compensated exit, without having to worry about such business-related inconveniences as actually making money.
Soon, however, people will start to realize that everyone’s grandson isn’t Zuckerberg, and we’ll probably see a regression to something a little bit hybrid between how things were and how they are now… what will happen to your business when that occurs?
Answering this question before you have a real, pressing need to do so might be a smart place to start. Much like politicians on their last term with no prospect of reelection, business owners who find themselves in the position of having built a meaningful business that’s bringing in profit in that you are no longer scrambling for the next round, the next investment.
Some of the best business advice now lies in books from the 80’s and 90’s that will go largely untouched for many young entrepreneurs whose mistake is thinking that just because the execution has change, the fundamentals have too. In reality, the people who work the hardest and can make real numbers work, incoming vs outgoing, are the ones who tend to win in the end. Unless of course you really do have the next Facebook under your hat, in which case you and only you can ignore everything here… but still.
But no mater if your business is profitable right now or not, you need to be focusing on building your email list NOW as that is a real asset for your business that can pay you for many years to come.
Being an entrepreneur is a multi-faceted endeavor, in addition to needing to be willing to work hard, you’ve got to be preparing your mind and body to do that work well ahead of time. Here are a few habits besides “wake up earlier” and “eat healthy” that you can put to practical use.
Don’t Go It Alone With Your Organization
People like to think that they will keep themselves perfectly in line with just a bit of note taking here, a bit of list making there, but the reality is that most people practicing this organizational ‘method’ end up with sticky notes everywhere and sheets of paper that tend to disappear before you need them again. Instead, consider using a web app like Trello or Evernote to keep everything organized and in sync.
Start The Night Before
When you are organizing your (now digital) to-do and deadline lists, it’s a good idea to get them set in place the night before. This has a couple of benefits. One, is that it’s easy to let this drag out when starting your work day, but you’ll likely want to be concise about it if you are cutting into your evening personal or even sleep time. Plus, if sleep is an issue for you, you can ease anxiety about the next day’s happenings by having them planned out in advance. Two birds, one stone.
Eat More Regularly
No one else needs to tell you what to eat, that’s up to you, but many of us do need to be reminded when to eat, as it can become too easy to sit and work away for hours on end without so much as a snack. Much of the time we begin to feel tired, especially during an afternoon slump, our bodies are actually dehydrated and/or in need of some caloric energy! Make sure you’re taking this into account in your own schedule, and try and have a hard cutoff so you don’t keep doing ‘one more thing’ until your mealtime has long passed.
Find a Break Schedule That Makes Sense
Focusing alone on one task for extended periods of time can be tedious and tiring, so make sure you’re doing right by yourself and establishing a schedule that gives you breaks. For some, this may mean you simply work for an hour, take a 15 minute break, etc. For others, it might get more complex. Some people swear by a quicker pace in which they focus on something intently for 25 minutes, then completely disconnect for 5.
As with all of these habits, this last one is less about what exactly ‘works’ but more what works for you. This can mean making lots of little tweaks for your own situation, but the end results will be the same – a healthier, more productive, less-stressed you.
Today we’ll cover some habits for working more effectively:
Slash Your To-Do List
Most of us note down every little task that might need to get done throughout a day and then scramble through in a mad sprint to get them all done. Instead, consider slashing your to-do list down to only the most important tasks to growing your business so that you can actually give those things the attention they deserve.
Say Yes Less
While it’s always important to make sure you’re delivering top quality to your customers, there are situations in which you can get yourself into trouble. For example, software as a service (SaaS) startups often make the mistake of charging their first few large companies to use the product, but not for any kind of priority support. In the end, these companies end up wasting thousands of dollars worth of work hours guiding companies through simple software steps over the phone, helping them fix errors, and playing personal coach.
If you’re not getting paid for something, consider politely declining and letting the asker know that you just have too much on your plate right now. This can free up a surprising amount of time for many freelancers and independent business owners.
Use your mornings you ‘you’ time.
Let’s face it, many of us get up in the morning and jump right into our work – the earlier you start, the earlier you can finish, right? When looking at the lives of highly efficient and successful people across any number of fields, it becomes quickly apparent that morning routines are important to an alarming number of them!
When you get up in the morning, start out in a way that physically and mentally stimulates you and gets you ready for the day. It could be a quick jog and a read through the morning news, a small creative task that gets the juices flowing, whatever works!
The most important thing here is consistency.
Bring others in earlier than later.
Remember those tasks you took off of your to-do list? They may not be high ROI, but many of them may still need doing. To help with this, consider bringing on others to help you with the tasks you don’t deem a great use of your time. For many online marketers, the first step ends up being to hire a virtual assistant who can help you with time consuming but low-skill requirement tasks to free up your own time.
As you grow, you may consider growing your team further in similar fashion, or may decide that the right move for you is to become a registered business and start ramping up your workforce in a big way. In any event, most people wait way too long to start delegating the tasks that eat up so much of their time – don’t be ‘most people’!
Lose the guesswork.
Finally, start backing up every move you make with data. Intuition is great, but can you really say your sales page needs a new headline before testing? Can you really say that your product or service needs a complete makeover if you haven’t confirmed this through discussions with your customers or target market?
Too often, we confirm our own assumptions with our own thoughts, rather than hard evidence, and that can be a death sentence!
Just a few short years ago, many online marketers were still going down the road of blogging and creating websites, courses, and sales funnels in order to promote products or services as an affiliate or owner. While there are still many people working off of this or a similar model today. There’s also another offshoot of entrepreneurship, and that is the ‘startup.’
The definition of a startup is different depending on who you ask, but most people have some sort of mental image. It’s the tech company who believes they have the next Facebook. It’s the idea that people think is so good they throw money at it before it’s ever turned a profit based on pure potential alone.
If you find yourself ever making the move from a lone online marketing wolf to starting a small company off your own, especially in the startup space, here’s what you should know:
– People will depend on you. For many, their employees will be the first one’s they’ve ever had, and you need to be prepared to help manage not just your own goals and deadlines, but those of your workers as well.
– Things will get hectic. You will have to do more than you ever have before, and the legal hoops you may have to jump through might not be ones you had encountered when working on your own. It’s important to know that you will likely spend many more hours on admin duties than before.
– You’ll need to stem disorganization. In the midst of having to deal with the most you’ve ever dealt with before, you will need to also make sure that you don’t fall victim to the startup syndrome in which you have no systems in place for accountability, collaboration among the team, etc.
– You’ll need to provide fun. Yeah, this is an odd one. But you need to make sure you are teambuilding and fostering a positive environment. In the startup world, people are used to taking a hit on the salary their experience would normally command, but they also expect an enjoyable experience in which hard work can yield high rewards.
– Speaking of salaries… try to find people who are experienced by want something new, instead of just assuming you can only take super young and inexperienced employees because that’s what you think you’ll be able to pay for. You’d be surprised at the seasoned veterans you might find willing to work partially for equity.
– You have to play the long game. Even if you think that your idea has the possibility of absolutely explosiveness, you will likely need to need to wait quite some time to see a return. Make sure that you’re able to financially and mentally ride out the storm!
– Investment isn’t everything. Early on, there’s a cycle of hunting for funding to survive until the next time you need to hunt for funding. Instead, try and work on using your sales skills to get self-sustainable as soon as possible.
Finally, there are no guarantees in the startup world, so make sure that you’re ready to bend even these pointers to make them work for you!
In the United States, we elect a president every 4 years. One candidate can serve two terms, for a maximum total of 8 years in office. Now, around two-three years through any given president’s first term, a common trend prevails: Legislative agendas generally become less ambitious, previously polarizing views are swapped out for those that are more middle of the road, and messages which were previously more laden with detail and precise figures degrade once again into campaign-esque rhetoric.
What the heck is happening? In short, another election cycle will soon be upon these presidents, and they need to start thinking more about getting re-elected than continuing to push through any work their currently tied up in.
The exact same phenomenon happens with startup founders, except that their term is a burn rate runway, and their election campaign is a quest for further financing. If you find yourself heading up a grand idea, and it turns into a company, the way of business these days is, ironically, not very business-like at all. In fact, instead of focusing on profit margins and costs of operation, most founders are focused on obscure and multi-measurable metrics like ‘growth’ and the like, aimed at figuring out they can make the numbers, any numbers, impressive enough to secure another round of funding.
If you find yourself in this exact scenario with a company that you’re heading up, it’s important that you know that, for the rainmakers who founded the biggest, most disruptive companies in the world, these thoughts never even crossed their mind. Indeed, there has recently been a reversal, in which instead of achieving something great in order to secure wealth, people are working on the premise of securing wealth in order to achieve something great. Forgive the cliché, but did Zuckerberg start his ‘The Facebook’ website in his dorm room in hopes of securing millions of dollars from Sequoia Capital? Hell no!
Founders these days who want to not find themselves with a valueless company in three years’ time, need to get comfortable with the idea that they are still running a business, they still need to act and make decisions based on the premise that if they are not profitable very, very soon, they’re out. Most startups fail. Of those that don’t fail, the vast majority will be steady, sustainable businesses that can catapult their founders into the upper middleclass, but they won’t be Facebook, they won’t be Snapchat. And they won’t be a household name. And that’s OK.
The narrative that everyone has to be a tech founder that turns the market upside down is overhyped and, ironically, not the path to its own realization for most tech world heroes. Instead, the most common path to greatness is a stellar work ethic, a mental resilience to discouragement, and a passion and drive that’s the stuff of legends. So the next time you see that some Silicon Valley hotshot just closed a $200 million C-series, just remember that there is more than one path to greatness.