Launching your own business can be a thrilling and rewarding ride, but the truth is, you're going to have to deal with your fair share of pitfalls along the way too. So how can you avoid as many of those as possible? Simple — climb onto the shoulders of giants and let them whisper a little wisdom into your ear.
With this in mind, here are four key business lessons from some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs:
1. Offer something of genuine value
Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said that 'You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.' In other words, half-baked or uninspired products aren't going to make an impact — you need to create something that people actually want. For instance, Richard Branson's philosophy is to only start a business if it will actually improve people’s lives. True to his vow, he only launched Virgin Atlantic because he was dissatisfied with his experiences on British Airways flights. He felt that it was time to shake up the aviation industry and set about doing so with incredible success. So when embarking on a new business venture, ask yourself the following — what problem can I solve? What need can I meet? Which itch can I scratch? And, most importantly, what can I offer that others can't (or aren't)?
2. Don't expect to make a profit straight away
A savvy business plan will anticipate potential profit delays and have a clear contingency plan in place for this. For instance, Amazon is now worth a staggering $1 trillion, but it took a whole seven years before the company started turning a profit. So ask yourself, what will you do if you don't make a profit until your second quarter? Or even your second year? What is your plan for this? And how will you ride out potential economic storms, should they arise? In short, the secret to business success is to think like an optimist and plan like a pessimist.
3. Don't treat marketing like an optional extra
When launching a new venture, too many business people view branding and advertising as luxuries that can come later when they are successful. But this is totally backwards thinking. Consider, for a minute, just how important those two 'luxuries' are — branding is about deciding what your message is and advertising is about getting that message out into the world. What could be more crucial than that? After all, you could have the best product on the planet, but what's the point if people don't understand why it's different or even that it exists in the first place?
In short, neglecting marketing in the short-term can cost you profits in the long term. Think you can build your own sales website, write your own advertising copy and design your own logo? Or even think that you can manage your own SEO or PPC? Think again. You need marketing experts as much as you need manufacturing and accounting experts, so don't let your business down with cheapskate alternatives.
4. Be willing to blow up a few rockets
Failure comes in a box of pain, but open it up and you'll find an important gift inside – the chance to learn from your mistakes. So if a business venture falls flat, then take stock of the lessons that the experience brought you, then move forward with greater knowledge.
For instance, Space X CEO Elon Musk had a habit of blowing up rockets for quite a while and Steve Jobs totally failed to find the right market for the NeXT Black Cube computer. But thankfully, they both turned out to be solid proof that people remember your successes, not your failures. So everyone talks about Musk sending a car into space, not his failed launches, and everyone talks about the Macbook, not the Black Cube. If you learn from your mistakes, then failure is never the issue — giving up is.
Hopefully, you have found these four tips useful. Building a successful business is hard work, but the key to it all is to have a vision that truly excites and inspires you. And once you have that, work won't even feel like work at all.