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Starting your own business is a labor of love. You’ve made a commitment to go out on your own. Then the hard part starts: figuring out how to generate revenue, pay the bills on time and over-deliver value to your clients. All the while, you’re trying to get discovered by new clients on a shoestring budget and looking for creative ways to build your reputation in the marketplace. That’s why it’s critically important to be resourceful, patient and highly strategic about the decisions you make and the actions you take.
That last point is essential. My entrepreneurial journey started in 1997 and I’ve never looked back. But the process was never easy and oftentimes not fun. Transitioning from corporate executive to entrepreneur demanded a new mindset. The large budgets were gone. Fancy hotels were put on hold. Learning how to finance my business became a task within itself.
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No one could prepare me specifically for the many surprises I encountered and the mental toughness I needed, because my journey was different — everyone’s is. What was universal is I had to learn to stay calm when circumstances forced my hand and to consistently make good decisions. Because a bad decision can cost you more money than you are able to afford — a big reason 50 percent of entrepreneurs fail within the first five years, and over 70 percent after 10 years
Back then I couldn’t ask one of my former corporate colleagues for advice. Most of them didn’t understand the constant grind and obstacles that I faced — nor how dependent on corporate resources they were to be successful. It made me realize that being a successful entrepreneur was not only a privilege but also in many respects a sign of being an overachiever, especially given the failure rate.
To make good decisions and to learn how to not just succeed but also to “earn serendipity,” you must avoid falling into these five traps:
There is no such thing as being perfect. There always a better way. Getting sucked into ideals of perfection takes you down a rabbit hole you can’t get out of. Stay clear of trying to achieve utopia. Be more of a realist. Make incremental improvements constantly to keep up with the pace of change and over-deliver to your most valued relationships, clients and marketplace.
Bad decisions become apparent when you ignore doing the things that your business requires you to do, especially the ones you don’t like to do. There is no excuse for that. The more you try to take the easy way out, cut corners or ignore the realities of your responsibilities, the worse your decision making becomes. Own everything and be accountable to doing it. That’s how you become a wiser, smarter decision maker.
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3. Not hungry enough.
The moment you commit to being an entrepreneur, you must have a growth mindset — a mindset where there is no such thing as enough. You need to be hungry because you never know which seed of opportunity is going to grow. Entrepreneurs navigate constant uncertainty and unpredictability to nurture every opportunity. Being hungry is about creating impact, making a difference and finding ways to build sustained momentum. The day you stop caring about that is when you have lost your hunger to compete. It’s also the day when you start making bad decisions.
4. Lack attention to detail.
Entrepreneurs that don’t take the time to explore the details in everything they do and how they do it are the ones who can’t effectively multitask and make sound decisions. Attention to details requires you to ask a lot of questions, never assume answers and always be a student to better understand the things that you don’t and the things you don’t want to understand.
For example, I took courses in small business accounting and finance to understand my tax preparation and the types of decisions that were being made. I made sure that I was never going to be blindsided, by learning how to do the things I didn’t like doing. Mastering what you don’t know or don’t allows you anticipate and to be a much better decision maker.
5. Don’t devote enough time to critical thinking.
Time flies when you are an entrepreneur, especially when you are in survival mode. Don’t ever allow the intensity of entrepreneurship to limit you from taking a few steps back to think critically about how to best navigate the immense responsibility and pressures you’re dealing with. When you discipline yourself to be a critical thinker, it not only ensures your readiness to avoid the four previously mentioned warning signs, but also makes you a much better decision maker.
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Successful entrepreneurs thrive on disrupting the status quo to make things better, advancing humanity and leaving a legacy for society of bettering of a healthier whole. So make good decisions! But remember: Never fear failure. Good decisions don’t always ensure success — and that’s okay! Stay focused, be grateful for the momentum you are able to create. Don’t get complacent or play it safe. Do it better!