When some people think of the ultimate entrepreneur, they imagine a confident and successful businessperson, who works flexible hours, conquers all challenges (come-what-may) and enjoys a career perfectly suited to their unique strengths, goals and values.
There are indeed many benefits to this pursuit. But as we know, there’s much more to being a successful entrepreneur than simply starting your own business. It takes a lot of time and hard work. And even then, the results can sometimes fall short.
If all the effort you’ve put into your business has left you feeling defeated and worn-out rather than invigorated and excited, it might be time to reassess your expectations. By exposing some common myths surrounding entrepreneurship, you can create a more realistic game plan to ensure you find the success you're already working hard to achieve.
Myth #1: If your product is good, you'll be successful
Simply having a great product isn’t enough in today’s competitive market. You need to fully understand your value proposition and what makes you attractive to a potential customer. There are a few key factors to consider when it comes to selling your products or services:
- How does my product or service solve my customer’s problems?
- What makes my business unique compared to others in my field?
- How can I spread the word so new customers can find me?
What you should be doing
Plan, plan, plan. When starting your entrepreneurial journey, plan before jumping in feet-first. Businesses that make it in the long run will require planning and careful consideration. Spend some time thinking about how you can market your product to your ideal customer and research what other businesses in your industry are doing.
Assess your skills and strengths. Play to your strengths and focus on improving your weaknesses. If you’re savvy online, then consider starting out with a strong website and social media marketing plan. If you’re better at public speaking, start hosting webinars, info sessions and other face-to-face engagements to promote your business and services. By starting out with your strengths you'll create momentum that can keep you energized for the journey ahead.
Always be building connections. Networking events, conferences, meetups and other social gatherings are all opportunities to meet new people and form business connections. Even if you prefer to be a wallflower, just showing up can go a long way towards helping people recognize you and the value your business provides.
Don't come on too strong. Don’t attend events with the intention of hustling your product or service to everyone you meet. Nathalie Lussier, creator of The Website Checkup Tool, explained in an interview, “Most deals aren’t made in the first few meetings. It’s about the long-term relationship. Connect people you believe could benefit from each other, and don’t hold back with what you can do or offer to help others.”
Foster friendships. Nobody wants to feel like they’re in a face-to-face sales call, so focus on building friendships and relationships. Help the people you meet and enjoy the business success that follows.
Myth #2: Everyone you meet is confident
One of the tricks to successful entrepreneurship is overcoming Impostor Syndrome. This is a term coined in the 1970s by clinical psychologists to explain the inability of high-achieving individuals to internalize their accomplishments and their constant fear of being exposed as frauds.
Whether it’s meeting with a new client for the first time, speaking at a conference or even talking to strangers at a networking event, it’s easy to be overcome with thoughts like, 'I’m not smart enough to be here' or 'I’m not qualified to speak on this subject.'
What you should be doing
Realize it's not just you. Here’s a secret that often takes people a long time to learn: everyone you meet, even the most accomplished CEO, feels Impostor Syndrome from time to time. Everyone has moments where they feel like they don’t measure up, but those feelings are a normal part of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Develop your EI. One of the easiest ways to feel confident is to spend the time developing your Emotional Intelligence (EI). This concept, first popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995, has become popular in the business world because it emphasizes “soft skills” which help foster understanding and inclusiveness.
- Be authentic. Show up and be genuine. Demonstrate fairness and consistency in all of your interactions with others.
- Demonstrate insight. Share your vision and passion with your team. Bring out the brilliance in yourself and your team by making those shifts in your presence and behaviour so that you can inspire and enlighten them.
- Be innovative. With heightened self-awareness, you can evaluate risk more easily, encourage new thinking and autonomous thought.
- Develop your team. If you manage others, take a coaching approach with your team. Always encourage, motivate and develop your team in the moment. This will bring out the best in everyone and keep the focus forward.
Myth #3: Work-life balance gets thrown out the window
While it’s true that all successful entrepreneurs work long hours, which often cuts into their personal lives, the primary difference between a busy entrepreneur and a corporate office manager is that entrepreneurship offers a level of schedule control that the average office job simply doesn’t allow.
As an entrepreneur who has already committed to working long hours to build your business, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the control you have over your schedule?
Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.” This sounds simple, but it’s actually genius in its implementation.
What you should be doing
Create a routine. Work regular business hours whenever possible, and try to create a routine for additional work hours, such as scheduling in a few hours of work time each Sunday afternoon.
Group your calls with your meetings. Alex Iskold, Managing Director of Techstars NYC, recommends scheduling time-consuming events, like meetings and conference calls, together in your calendar. He states, “If you need to have outside meetings, block two and a half days a week for those meetings, and go to the outside meetings only during those times.“
Plan your leisure and family time. Block out times for exercise, leisure activities, sports, friend visits and family time into your calendar. This will help make sure that the time to enjoy the fruits of your labour will be available when you want them to be.
Being an entrepreneur is a tough yet rewarding lifestyle. By setting realistic expectations, committing the right amount of time and energy for personal development, and taking intelligent steps to push your business forward, you too can be the 'Ultimate Entrepreneur.'