If you’re an entrepreneur, the good news is that no one else can tell you what to do. But the bad news is that no one else will tell you what to do: the fate of your business rests solely on your shoulders.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s more than possible to thrive in this lifestyle. There’s no silver bullet or easy fix that will turn your business into an overnight success, but there are several easy things you can do to improve your chances:
1. Ditch the busy work
These days it’s very easy to spend your whole day doing “work,” but getting very little done. Cell phones, email, and Twitter constantly bombard your attention, making it easier than every to lose control of your schedule and long-term priorities. Successful entrepreneurs do what they can to stay focused on their key priorities in the face of all these distractions, such as unplugging from the phone and/or email to get some critical work done. For example, David Karp doesn’t check his email until 9:30 or 10 am.
You may want to conduct a time audit of an average day or week. Keep track of exactly how you’re spending your time, compared to what your goals were when you started the day. How well are you sticking to those initial plans? Remember – when you’re in charge, you’re going to need to make time for long-term strategic planning, no matter how many “fires” pop up on a given day.
2. Learn to delegate
Most entrepreneurs are highly driven by nature, and it can be hard for this personality type to give up the reigns. But in order to scale your business, you’re eventually going to need help. This can mean two things. One, you can find someone to help you take care of the busy work (i.e. part-time assistant, intern, etc). Or, you can also decide to outsource more complex business issues to specialists – such as an accountant to handle your taxes and bookkeeping – so you can stay focused on what you know and do best.
3. Don’t be afraid of failing
Fear of failure is probably the strongest force holding people back from their potential. When you’re scared of failing, you play things too safe. If you’re nervous about what might happen, just think about all the possibilities and opportunities you leave behind by not trying. As a lifelong entrepreneur, I’ve had my share of failures and I know that I’m not done failing. But more importantly, I know that I’m not done trying and I’m definitely not done succeeding.
4. Focus on your “productivity” hours
Most people typically have certain times in the day when they’re most productive and focused. Maybe you’re a morning person, or a night owl. Either way, identify when you’re the most productive and use that time for your high priority and most challenging projects. Another time management strategy (that comes from Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog) is to do your most challenging thing first. As Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
5. Put your customer first
No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of products or services you sell, your business is all about your customers, period. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day grind: redesigning your website, monitoring your competition, paying the bills, creating new marketing campaigns, etc. But at the end of the day, it’s your customers that determine the success of your business. Spend some time each day focusing on who your customers are, what they want, and the major challenges they face. Then make sure you’re doing all you can to meet those needs better than anyone else.
6. Take some time off
Being an entrepreneur is a non-stop job, and you’ll quickly realize that there’s no boss to approve your vacation or sick days. However, if you’re working seven days a week, you’ll probably start to burn out and lose the passion you originally had for your business. Once per week (or even once per day), make sure to do something you love, and that’s not related to your business. Taking time off will not only refresh and recharge your batteries, but will also open you to fresh perspectives and inspirations. By taking some time off of work, you’ll not only end up being happier, you’ll be a better entrepreneur as well.
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