Becoming an Entrepreneur: The Do's and Don'ts

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t all roses, butterflies and entryways bursting with doves. Sure, it’s exciting. Sure, it’s full of interesting adventures, twists and turns - but at the end of the day, you might find yourself feeling confused, frustrated or worn out. First off, set aside your fears. Entrepreneurship is intimidating, especially for someone who is used to the stability and security of a regular paycheck. But, (and here’s the important part) there’s no reward without sacrifice. You’ve got to be okay with making mistakes, because no matter what, you will. It’s a given. You’re human.

To make things a little easier for you, here’s a list of some do’s and don’ts that I’ve learned over the last few years. Please try not to take these so much to heart that you feel as if you’ve failed if you’ve done one or more of the things on the “don’ts” list. You’ve never truly failed until you’ve given up. Sometimes it takes doing something once or twice to make it work. Either way, your chances for succeeding only go up the more you work at something.

The Do’s:

  • Do Innovate

Innovation and creative problem solving are the lifeblood of any company or organization. Look at companies like Apple or Google, who have entire teams dedicated to those things. Apple and Google wouldn’t be successful without their focus on creativity.

  • Do Sacrifice Materialistic Things

If you’re serious about succeeding in the world of business, you first need to make sure that your own finances are in order. Clear as much of your personal debt as possible and stop purchasing items you don’t need. Learn to sacrifice unnecessary luxuries so that you can reward yourself in the future.

  • Do Empathize

Emotional intelligence is a big part of leadership success. Making sure that you’re thinking not only from your client’s perspective but also from your employee’s standpoint, is what will separate you as a great leader. Remember that it’s the little things that count, whether that’s remembering someone’s name and birthday or listening to someone’s story. And most importantly, make sure that you have the emotional intelligence to problem solve situations involving other people.  

  • Do Find an Amazing Mentor

Your mentor can help you reach heights beyond your imagining. They should be doing what you want to do and live the life that you want to live. In other words, be choosy about your mentor and don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised how many successful people are open to helping someone new to entrepreneurship excel.

If you don’t feel like you know anyone yet, don’t be afraid to go out and network!

  • Do Smile

It never hurts to smile, even when things are at their most stressful or painful climactic point. Smiling will help trick your brain into believing that you feel great and it also creates positive interaction with everyone you come into contact with. If you can’t trick yourself into smiling, take some time to get your own spirits up - and no, a bottle of Jack Daniels is probably not the way to make that happen.  

  • Do Stay Positive

Positivity is contagious. Remaining positive when it’s tempting to whine and complain is a big part of becoming a leader that others can look up to. If you’re not really interested in becoming a leader, that’s okay, but remember that staying positive can have a major effect on your work as well as your home life. If you’re so unhappy with what you’re doing that you just can’t shake off the negativity, it’s probably time to shift directions.

Many successful people believe that their success stems from their ability to see the positive in any situation, that, and God or the Universe (whatever you believe in) will push your dreams and goals into existence if you put positive energy out into the world.  

  • Do Play

Vacationing with your significant other, going out on the town with your friends, or even going for a hike with your dog is so important for you and your brand’s success. Play helps with cognitive development, creative problem solving and mental health. Do NOT neglect this. You should be getting some form of play in every day.  Studies show that the smartest animals are the ones that play the most, similarly, the most successful people play regularly.

  • Do See Other’s Potential

To build the best possible brand, you have to build the best possible team. The only way to do that, is look, truly look at the people around you or people you bump into. What is it about them that’s special? What are they good at that you’re not? How can you implement that positive quality (or qualities) into your team? Your brand is only as good as your staff and your partners, so choose wisely and don’t neglect to recognize those with talent.

  • Do Laugh. A Lot.

Sometimes, it takes a major load off your shoulders and your team’s if you just take a moment to relax and joke around a little. Laughing has major psychological and physiological benefits which should be taken full advantage of. Don’t forget that despite your stresses, life is short. In the grand scheme of things, that legal blip or employee who left isn’t the end all be all. 

  • Do Take a Chance

Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that there’s no such thing as success without risk. You need to be willing to take chances if you are serious about your brand’s ultimate success. Of course, there needs to be some boundaries when it comes to what type of chances you’re willing to take, and ultimately, what type of chances could benefit your brand. Ask your mentor for their input if you’re ever in doubt and need an expert opinion to turn to.

Richard Branson is an awesome example of risk taking. He’s taken risks his entire life, and now owns about 400 companies and has developed over 100 brands. One of the risks he took was during the inception of Virgin Atlantic. His company didn’t exactly have all of the funds it needed to start an airline. After convincing his board that if the endeavor failed, the company would only lose about 6 months of profit. Look at where they are today! Imagine if they hadn’t taken the risk.  

  • Do Dream Big

Don’t ever settle for less or find a “safe place” when you have bigger and better aspirations for your brand. Don’t be afraid to dream big - in fact, do it! Dreaming big is one of the best motivators and is a great way to keep the fire of your passion burning.

  • Do Trust Your Gut

You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s an important reminder for an age-old warning. If something doesn’t sit well with you, or something feels just right, go with your instinct. It’s there for a reason.

Oftentimes I’ve ignored a gut feeling by over rationalizing with myself. The times I’ve ignored it, I’ve always ended up with regret. A little over a year ago, my mother and I made the mistake of buying a business that we felt a little iffy about. I had a horrible gut feeling about it, but we allowed ourselves to be swayed by an overzealous broker. To make a long story short, we ended up buying a business where the owner had been involved in shady accounting tactics and bookkeeping. If we’d just listened to our gut, we would have passed on the business and avoided the pain of thousands of extra dollars of legal fees and debt.

  • Do Work Smarter, Not Harder

Working smart is completely different than working hard. Take a look at everything you do on a daily basis and determine what percentage of your tasks actually benefit you and your brand. Usually people find that only about 20% of their daily tasks are beneficial, creating 80% of their positive return.

If you can find what works for you specifically, then you’ll be able to harness the power of snowballing (or the 80/20 rule). Know how to leverage out your daily tasks so that you have time to do what’s most important to you. And keep this in mind: residual income is the first step to working smart and not hard. Laboring endlessly to get one or two mediocre results (like an hourly wage) is not the key to your brand’s success.  

The key piece of advice here is: know your strengths! You’ll end up more profitable that way!

  • Do You!

First and foremost, do not let yourself fall away from your true self by allowing others to control your self-image or your goals. If you allow others to have control over those things, then you’ll lose your desire and your passion - the two very things that you need for your brand to succeed. Do everything you can to avoid “keeping up with the Joneses” and realize that at the end of the day, your happiness and feelings of fulfillment only matter to you. They’re not anyone else’s responsibility and never will be. Play to your strengths and stay away from mulling over your weaknesses.

You are an individual and there is something about you that sets you apart. Find what it is and stick with it.

The Don’ts:

  • Don’t Spread Negativity

Negativity is even more contagious than positivity, so be extremely careful not to sow it wherever you go. Being negative isn’t going to help you achieve your goals or get anything done. What it will do, is push good and positive people away from yourself and attract energy-vampires.

I’ve also found that people will mirror how you act around them or how you treat them. If you’ve had a completely horrible day and you decide to run to your local coffee shop for a latte, force yourself to smile at the people around you. Most of them will smile back at you.

If you do the opposite, drawing your arms across your chest, narrowing your eyes and pursing your lips, you’ll notice that people either act avoidant or they mirror you, narrowing their own eyes or acting slightly agitated.

Similarly, this can affect your brand image and company culture. Attract amazing, excited employees by emitting positivity into your daily attitude and actions. 

  • Don’t Give Up

Giving up is dangerous. The moment you give up on a project, a dream, or even starting your company, you’ve let go of massive potential. Of course, there are going to be times when you need to let go of an idea, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve given up. It simply means that you are continuing to try to find alternatives that work better. For every major blunder or “failure,” you’re one step closer to making your dreams a reality.

  • Don’t Try to Please Everyone

You can never please every single person. Thanks to our dual nature and our unique personalities, there will never come a point in time where everyone in your life is satisfied with what you do. This concept majorly applies to entrepreneurship. In business, it’s even worse. You can end up with an entire panel who disagrees with decisions you’ve made, or maybe your team questions every project. It’s important to listen to justified concerns and different opinions, but in the end, you need to make the ultimate decision, and that might not always sit well with everyone.  

  • Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

This can be really hard for entrepreneur-types. Usually, we’re fairly confident, thick-skinned people who go after our goals and dreams hard. These are awesome traits, and they’re traits that often help us get to the top, BUT, we’ve got to remember to lighten up.

We’re only human, and even if we think we’re the greatest thing that happened to this planet since iPhones or Oprah, we probably need a gentle reminder that it’s time to come back down to earth. Besides, if you take yourself too seriously, you could end up a lot more hurt or irritated when others don’t, and don’t you think that would make life a lot less enjoyable for you?

There’s strength in being able to admit mistakes, and even laugh at them. Don’t let pride or egocentrism guide your behavior, because the outcome might not be very pretty.

  • Don’t Neglect Your Health

Health is one of the first things to go when someone gets in over their head with their business. I’ve been guilty of allowing this to happen - letting convenience trump rationality because I “don’t have enough time”.

Health is central to your ability as a leader and an entrepreneur. Your body and your mind are interconnected, so a healthy body usually equals a healthy mind and vice versa. The moment you neglect your health, you’re putting your future at risk. After all, how can you run a business if you’re constantly sick? On the other hand, are you sure you’re willing to work yourself so hard that you end up in the ER from exhaustion?

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, ran into this problem when she collapsed in her office one day from exhaustion. After collapsing, she woke up in a pool of her own blood with a broken cheekbone. Later, she became a major advocate for work life balance and health and believes that far too many people overexert themselves.

You owe it to yourself to stay on top of your health, and if your business or brand is taking over so much of your life that you find it’s become a detriment to you and your person, you should probably start thinking about changing things around.  Here are some fun workouts that you can do without the gym.

  • Don’t Listen to Naysayers

Naysayers. You’re going to have them. Not everyone will see the beauty in your vision. Some of them might make fun of you, some might roll their eyes in annoyance, and some might try to talk you out of it. That’s okay. You don’t need to listen to them.

Life is full of people who’ve had their dreams crushed. They’ll do what they can to keep you from making your own dreams a reality. I like to call their dream-crushing comments “white noise” because it’s usually not conducive to anything. Oftentimes, it’s hard for them to watch someone else go after their own dreams without feeling the sting of their own failure.

Like I said earlier, you’ve never failed until you’ve completely given up. Keep on pushing toward your goals and drown out the “white noise.” Don’t let others drag you down or talk you out of your idea.

  • Don’t Forget Your Origin Story

Everyone has an origin story, but not everyone cares to remember it once they’ve reached the climax of their success. We all want to be seen as born winners, but the truth is, none of us are. Talented people don’t become talented out of nowhere. They put thousands, literally thousands of hours into something in order to hone it and perfect it the best that they can. This is just as true for violinists as it is for artists or even entrepreneurs.

Forgetting where you’ve come from is a great disservice to yourself and to others who look up to you. Remember that we all start somewhere, and that your beginning, whether it was humble or not, is what makes you who you are and is an integral part of your brand. 

  • Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Unfortunately, in the world of entrepreneurship, getting too comfortable means opening your business up to vulnerabilities. Things might feel like they’re going great, but you never know what move your competitors could be planning. Additionally, getting too comfortable can lead to boredom, loss of passion and even feelings of apathy. If your business is going really well and you find yourself asking, “well, what do I do next?” you’re either ready to sell or you’re ready for some major changes. Maybe create a new product or a new service.

Companies like Apple understand that constant innovation and change is what keeps them ahead of competition and relevant in the tech niche. This is true for any industry, so when you start to get too comfortable, think Apple.  

  • Don’t Get Attached To Your Idea

It’s important to stand up for what you believe in, but if you have an idea that, logically speaking, doesn’t or won’t work or perhaps isn’t relevant to your niche, you need to consider letting it go.

Don’t confine yourself by getting so stuck on one idea that you end up missing the bigger picture. And don’t be so attached that you take it personally if others don’t like your idea. If someone has legitimate constructive criticism for your idea, be glad that they had enough guts to tell you the truth.

In the end, you’re going to find your own way of doing things through your struggles and your successes. If there’s one thing I hope you’ve taken away from this, it’s that you’ve never truly failed until you’ve given up. In entrepreneurship you’re going to run into a lot of risks and you’ll find yourself questioning your decisions, but nothing is finished until you’ve decided it’s finished. One hundred failures means one hundred lessons that will eventually lead to your success.