Being an entrepreneur can be a stressful occupation. It’s said that 50% of all new businesses fail within the first year, and most of the other 50% fail within the first five years. Those numbers do not sound very promising. However, a study done [PDF, 11 pages] on SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) stats suggest that those numbers represent business closures, not necessarily failures. That is a very different perspective, and suggests that entrepreneurship might not be as bad as often suggested.
28 Tips for Achieving Balance as an Entrepreneur
The balanced entrepreneur knows that success in business is not just about what you plan and do, but also how deal with situations. Here are some tips that collectively suggest a more pragmatic approach to entrepreneuring.
1. Know why. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Is it because of the freedom of working for yourself? Maybe it’s the potential for earning far more than with a salaried job? What about the downsides? Are you prepared for that? If you don’t “know why” and don’t have an emotionally powerful reason for success, then obstacles will be hard to get around.
2. Be proud and determined. Don’t be ashamed of your aspirations. Many entrepreneurs are doing what they are because they want to pursue prosperity. There’s nothing wrong with that, despite a belief by some that wealth is bad. It’s great to have noble, charitable goals, too, but you need to have your own emotional motivation to keep going if/when things get difficult, before success comes.
3. Have goals. You can’t get “there” if you don’t know where you’re going. Concrete goals give you something to work towards. While you should have some sort of deadlines, don’t force yourself to “be” something by a certain date. That just sets you up for a feeling of failure if you don’t get there.
4. Be realistic. You can’t possibly know the answer to everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just be sure you’re asking the right people.
5. Be prepared. Have backup plans, operating capital, emergency funds (for personal needs), mentors and “lifeline” advisors.
6. Stay positive. Things can and will go wrong, but focus on the things you can change or improve, not on those you cannot.
7. Be detached. Some business goals need deadlines. They’re small and you know intuitively how to achieve them. It’s the larger goals that require visualization without deadlines – at least until you know how to break them down into smaller goals.
8. Delay gratification. You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice all luxuries in your work or life, but when it comes to big purchasing decisions (business and work), ask yourself if you really need it now.
9. Be pragmatic. In the course of building your business, situations might occur which will bother you. If you can do something, do so. If you cannot, do whatever you can do and then move on, let it sort itself out.
10. See the big picture. Don’t judge your progress by how much money you made in a particular day. Give yourself a bit more leeway in terms of a daily average over a week. This will still give you motivation without getting stressed out, and makes it easier to see trends in your performance, as well as come up with an adjusted action plan.
11. Track sales trends. However your business earns revenue, don’t gauge your success by day to day sales. A daily average based on the preceding week or month might be a better way, and will be less stressful. Track trends over short- and long-term periods to see how your average has changed. That will give you a far better sense of the relative success of your business.
12. Pay attention. Pay attention to what your clients/ customers want. They won’t necessarily spell it out for you, and not even directly to you. They might be commenting on other websites about you, or even writing negative things on their own website. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not necessity for every business, though sometimes you cannot get by without it. At the least, take opportunities to interact with your end users.
13. Be adaptive. It’s not enough to pay attention to trends and customer desires. Can you adapt to this feedback? Can you do it fast enough to matter, or will you be left behind by your competition?
14. Consider the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle is is also known as the 70/30 or 80/20 rule and can be interpreted in a number of ways. One very general interpretation is that 70% of your income will come from 30% of sources. However, you do need those other sources to balance things out. They may later transform into something more promising, which is valuable if another source ceases to be. A “source” could be a project, a product, a customer/ client.
15. Step out of your comfort zones. Or at least part way. Risks are necessary to step out of static, unchanging situations. However, no one ever said the risks had to be large and taken in a great big leap.
16. Take one step at a time. Big problems become little ones when you break them down into smaller steps. Smaller steps are both logically and emotionally easier to complete.
17. Review your progress. It’s important to review, on a regular basis, how any element of your original business plan is progressing – especially if you are building your business with OPM (Other People’s Money). Whether you do this weekly or monthly is up to. Don’t take longer than that, as it’s too easy to fall out of the habit.
18. Reassess your goals. When you review your progress, you might come across goals that either no longer interest you, do not apply, or you’ve already achieved. Whatever the case, come up with new goals and remove those which are outdated.
19. Keep a mindset of learning. Sure, there have been incredibly successful entrepreneurs who didn’t finish college, but they probably kept learning. Apply the ancient wisdom of emptying your “cup” of knowledge. Learn from others, and consider that they might be sharing their experience with you rather than criticizing you. It may even be fun to audit a class or two at a local college to encourage new lines of thought for your business.
20. Bootstrap. Don’t have money for something? VC funds are unlikely for the average startup, especially in the early stages. So adopt a bootstrapping mindset. This includes being a frugal entrpreneur as well as reinvesting your profits.
21. Have a toolkit. There’s a plethora of free software available, much of it web browser-based. Try out new software regularly and learn what works for you. Put those tools you can’t live without into your entrepreneurial toolbox.
23. Network offline. So many of us have gotten used to networking online that we forget that the old way is often effective as well. There are many entrepreneur networks, some with local chapters in larger cities. There are also online forums where you might supportive people in your niche.
24. Be persistent. You probably already know that Thomas Edison took about 10,000 tries before inventing the lightbulb. He looked at the preceding 9,999 ways as a lesson of how not to create a lightbulb. In a similar vein, there’s a bit of wisdom that success in life comes from being knocked down seven times and getting up eight times.
25. Spend less time. Persistence does not mean never relaxing. If spending more time working on something is not producing results, try spending less time on it. You can decide whether to work on something else in the meantime, or just relax for a while.
26. Meditate. Whether you need temporary relief from stress or need to calm yourself about troubling situations that you can’t do anything about, try meditation. It can be as simple as just deep breathing exercises, or more advanced “reflection”.
27. Have mastermind mentors. A variation of meditation is to quietly imagine figures from past or present history as your mentors. Given a certain situation, ask what would they do? Then answer based on what you know about them, their legacy and point of view. Compare to your own approach.
28. Relax, live now. Spend time for yourself, friends and family. This should be part of your schedule, not your goals. The mind thinks more clearly when it has a change of pace, a chance to relax and process what you’ve recently absorbed.