Establishing your own business and working for yourself to create a better life is extremely rewarding. The opportunities to create wealth and enjoy an improved lifestyle are huge, compared to working for someone else.
It’s impossible to predict all the problems which will come along when you embark on becoming a business owner. But with dedication and motivation, you can try to ensure the path to success is as smooth as possible.
As women in business, we have unique challenges. We are often working moms who are balancing our work with raising a family or supporting other family members.
But we can learn a lot from any entrepreneur that has built up successful businesses and who’s willing to share their experience. What I do in my business is take the best advice from other successful business leaders and emulate them.
In a previous article, I talked about the importance of working smarter not harder.
But there is no getting away from it – setting up and running a business is hard work. The more work you put in, the greater the chance of success, and the less chance of failure.
Mark Cuban is a billionaire entrepreneur from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with an estimated net worth of $4.8 billion.
He started his first business aged just 12, buying and selling baseball cards. He’d repackage the sets at three times the price so people would be guaranteed to get a player from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a set.
Cuban went on to have considerable success developing and selling software and websites. Cuban is one of the investors on the ABC show Shark Tank, which I love, and also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.
According to Cuban, the number one reason why most people fail in business is ‘lack of brains and lack of effort’.
In this article, I’m going to summarize some of Cuban’s business coaching philosophy. His ideas resonate with me as someone who learnt the hard way how to grow a profitable business.
He’s a firm believer in the power of learning and knowledge. Like me, he went to college. Cuban graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in management.
Also like me, his college education did not teach him everything he needed to know to achieve business success.
Cuban says you must know your own business better than anybody else. He says entrepreneurs never stop learning and growing. You must adopt the mindset that your competitors will always be looking to take a slice out of your business – and make sure you are ahead of them.
Here are some of Cuban’s key pieces of advice for entrepreneurs, which I incorporate into my business coaching and digital marketing strategies.
Do the work. Get to know your business.
Entrepreneurs who fail are not willing to put in the work necessary to succeed. It is often 10X the effort. They’re not mastering their craft and learning more about their industry. This is an example of a ‘lack of brains’ – a.k.a. lack of learning, and a lack of effort.
When you start a business, you’re never in a vacuum of no competition, unless you’re extremely lucky. There’s always going to be competition. That means there will be somebody else who knows your business as well as you do.
If you walk into a competitive environment and your rivals know more about the business than you do, and more about your customers, you’re going to lose.
Most people don’t consider that. They don’t do the work. They don’t learn about their industry. They don’t even know about their own business.
You’ve got to put in the effort to know more about your industry than anybody else.
It’s usually that combination of a lack of learning/knowledge and a lack of effort which kills businesses early on.
Work like someone is trying to take it away from you
There’s always a question over whether entrepreneurs are born or built. I knew I was wired to be excited about business. How or why? I don’t know.
Certain people are blessed with the right genetics to excel at sport.
But you can only succeed by knowing what your skillset is and finding the right place to use those skills.
If you pick the right industry and apply the following tactics, you will give yourself the best chance of success:
- Outwork everybody
- Try to be a little smarter than everybody
- Try to be a better salesperson
- Try to be better prepared
If you don’t do it, somebody else will.
Work like someone is trying to take it all away from you. That’s the way I look at it.
You’ll hear some entrepreneurs encouraging people to drop out of college in order to focus on business as soon as possible. Those people are not wrong, but you need the essential skills in business as well.
Accountancy, finance, sales and marketing – these are all part of the language of business.
Learn these elements and you can save money, especially in the early days of setting up a business, by doing as much as you can yourself. This way, when you’re ready to delegate and hire, you know exactly how to manage your employees.
For example, not understanding the basics of accounting is an enormous handicap. This is where most business owners fail; they don’t know their numbers.
You could hire an accountant to tell you that you’re in a profitable position or your cash reserves are going down, but it’s better to understand that breakdown yourself.
If you don’t understand your balance sheet that well, sign up for an accountancy course at a local community college, or work with a coach that can help you make sense of what you need to know. Investing the money in the right places forces you to pay attention to what matters most in your business.
As your business grows, there will be more specialist problems which come along, and you will need professional support. But even then, being able to speak the language of accountancy, banking, law or marketing will help a lot.
Never stop learning
Beyond the specific business skills, the most important thing you can learn is how to learn.
The one certainty in business is that it’s always going to be changing.
Unless you are always learning and continuously absorbing, someone else is going to overtake you.
Successful entrepreneurs will always have a thirst for learning and acquiring information.
It is not just the specific things you may have learnt in college or courses. You have to be ahead of the curve with what’s going on in your industry.
Ask the right questions
Some people say the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask. That’s not right.
The questions you ask reveal more about you than anything else you do. It reveals how much preparation you have done – or not done.
You should not be asking basic questions about things you should know.
So do your research, and then only ask the questions which advance your knowledge and business. Don’t reveal through poor questioning that you have been lazy and failed to prepare.
Paranoia is good
Whatever business you have, there’s somebody trying to put you down. Somebody’s trying to take a bite out of your business.
You are right to be paranoid. You should anticipate other people’s next moves, and don’t ever downplay or underestimate your competitors. They’re out there trying to take you down, and they’re not going to just sit still.
If you’re good, you should be inspiring them to work even harder, faster, better.
You must be very self-aware of what you’re good at, and what other people are good at. A healthy dose of paranoia is very helpful.
Know how fast to grow
You’ve got to know your own skillset and how that fits within your company’s lifecycle.
Some companies are a slow grind. You just have to bide your time until it starts to click, and then grow with it quickly.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to release a product that needs to be ubiquitous, you’ve got to go as fast as you can.
A lot of people say perfection is the enemy of profitability. You don’t always have to wait until you have the perfect product. Those decisions really depend on the product. Is it an app, is it a service, is it a product?
The key is looking for the low-hanging fruit. What are customers willing to write you a check for or commit to? Will they integrate it into their daily lives?
Getting a commitment, either through time or revenue, is what I look for. If I can get a commitment, then I’m going to be able to learn and see how my product or service can be iterated.
You have got to get that first customer. Then, evaluate what you have learnt from them.
Once you get the next one, hopefully, it comes a little bit faster. As this process continues, you can start asking for referrals and try to ramp it up.
Smart work is how you can save your business and continue to grow to scale. It’s not about doing the right things; it is about doing one thing right at a time to succeed in business.