Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is “Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability” This blog first appeared in Business Insider.
But courage is just the beginning. At a fundamental level, most entrepreneurs need to repeatedly overcome adversity and pursue opportunities with very limited resources.
My path as an entrepreneur has been marked by the adversity I’ve experienced in my own life and the struggles I’ve witnessed in the lives of others.
Here are the five essential things that I believe are must-haves for any successful entrepreneurial journey:
1. A companion
Nobody succeeds in a silo. The majority of life’s travels include a partner or two or many. Be it a significant other, friend, or business colleague, you are most likely to have some company. If I’ve learned anything from my entrepreneurial journey, it’s that your choice of partners — be it a life partner, cofounder, management team, investors, or board members — can make or break a venture.
The people you surround yourself with are the difference between failure and success. It’s also how you interact with them that makes the difference. It’s important to be reminded of the people who believe in and support you and to cultivate those relationships. Spending time with people who make you stronger requires intentional effort and is a key component in being able to move forward.
Equally important is to avoid people who bring you down, waste your time, take you backward, and have no interest in your suffering. A close friend constantly reminds me to “get rid of toxic people from your daily life.” While you cannot always avoid them, at a minimum you can choose not to allow them to weaken you.
Your job, then, is to continuously search for those right companions at each new stage. It is only when the right person shows up that you see why it has never worked out with anyone else.
2. Good timing
The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. If the market isn’t ready and you are way ahead of the market, then you must possess the drive and the willingness to sacrifice in order to make that product or service work.
You will need to choose to either wait for the market to catch up (requiring the resources to survive during that period, and accepting the risk of emerging competition), or you’ll need to adjust your offering to something more palatable to the market’s current readiness.
Smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations. You need to anticipate your market and customers’ needs and constantly innovate to stay ahead. This requires leadership with agility, resilience, and a willingness to fail — and to recognize that failure quickly enough to adapt and move forward.
3. Connection with your audience
Today’s innovative “social economy” requires entrepreneurs to create positive memories for customers and partners, or customers will turn to a competitor in search of a better experience. If you want to create a scalable business, you have to understand just how crucial it is to build products and services with brand equity and emotional connections. The emotional attachment that links customers to your products, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth.
Here are some basic rules to connect, shape, influence, and lead with your products and brands:
- Choose your target audience: The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people and to be overly complex.
- Connect with the public: Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your products and brands.
- Inspire and influence your audience: A simple, inspirational product and brand message is far more influential than one that highlights many product features and functions.
Here’s more on the topic of audience connection and value creation:
Creating a unique product and a unique brand isn’t enough. It takes repeatable sales processes to create a scalable business. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design, and implement repeatable sales and customer-delivery processes. You have created a repeatable and scalable sales model when:
- You can add new hires at the same productivity level as the entrepreneur or the sales leader.
- You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.
- You have a sales conversion rate and revenue that can be consistently forecasted.
- The cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.
- Customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.
A repeatable sales model builds the platform to scale. Like the search for product and market fit, it can take major experimentation and R&D to find a repeatable and scalable sales model.
5. Ways to de-stress
Most entrepreneurs consider managing the ongoing success of their business to be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing their personal finances.
The stressors can be relentless. But if you’re not happy, healthy, and motivated, you can’t create a business model that provides a positive market experience. You set the tone for everyone who works with you. Nobody wants to do business with a grouchy, bitter, and exhausted entrepreneur. Therefore, investing the time and effort to adequately take care of your physical and mental well-being will further increase your chances for long-term success.
Mental health is not just about going to the gym to let off steam. It’s about achieving a state of mental calmness to see you though the relentless challenges — but that’s another topic in itself!