There are fairy tale stories that get reported in the media about the glorious life of an entrepreneur. The details are generally missing as it would be impossible to document the ups and downs of an entrepreneur throughout his or her journey. That would drive the reader insane for sure. The journey in simple terms is akin to a “wild” roller coaster ride in the dark.
This article is for people who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs. Think of it like a Pre-Entrepreneurship Crash Course. I am not going to cover things that are super obvious but will focus on those areas that are subtle and might easily be overlooked
(These are in no-particular order and the list is not complete)
1. Learn to keep promises to yourself:
Forget for a second about the promises that you make to others – you need to learn to keep the promises that you make to yourself. When you are an entrepreneur, you will make lots of promises to yourself (sometimes nobody will be listening to you – so you can’t make promises to others) and the only way you can get through to the next stage is by keeping those promises that you make to yourself.
2. Learn to be likable:
Being likable is harder than you think. The immediate temptation is to think about pleasing others as the easiest path to be likable. Being smart, you know that it won’t work and most probably it will backfire anyway. To keep this short, here are a few quick tips:
2.1 If you want to be likable, genuinely care for others. Care as if their problems are your own. If you are genuine, it shows. If your not genuine, it shows even more.
2.2 Be an energizer. Do you leave other people energized or do you suck the energy out of them. If you are doing the former, it would be impossible to be likable.
2.3 Don’t take yourself seriously. If you do, you will be worried more about you then caring for others.
Why should you be likable? Simple answer: It is easier to get things done if you are than when you are not. As an entrepreneur, you will have to get more things done with less resources as compared to someone who is having a job.
3. Learn to build lasting relationships:
If you are thinking about someone only when you need something from them, you have got it all wrong completely. A lasting relationship at the core is about enrichment. Are you both mutually being enriched as a result of the relationship? If not, the relationship may last only as long as it is convenient to keep it alive.
As an entrepreneur, relationships are your currency and treat them as such. If you have learned to build such relationships and already have built lots of them before you jump on the entrepreneurship bandwagon, life will be a bit simpler compared to the alternative.
Free eBook: Lasting Relationships
4. Build a personal brand:
Whether you want or not, your personal brand will add weight age to your message. There is a fine line between telling your story and showing off. Choose the former and you will pay the price of diluting your personal brand rather than enhancing it.
A note of caution: Because “personal branding” is such a cliched term, you may be tempted to build a brand on social media channels as there are gurus out there who are telling how to use all the social networks to amplify your brand. The keyword to watch here is – “amplify”. If you don’t have valuable accomplishments, there is nothing to amplify. Personal brands are first built on valuable accomplishments and then amplified through variety of channels that are available. The order is important.
Free eBook: Personal branding for technology professionals
5. Lead a volunteer effort where you are accountable for the results:
The best way to test your influencing skills is to lead a volunteer effort where:
a) you need to signup for some measurable results (e.g.: raise $XX funds
b) recruit volunteers
c) plan and execute the campaign to meet or exceed the results
If you can recruit and lead a team of volunteers and keep them motivated until the results are achieved, you would have learned a host of things that will serve you well in your entrepreneurship journey.
6. Make powerful requests:
In short, a powerful request does not come across as a request at all – it appears like an opportunity for the other party. Your ability to transform a request and convert that into an opportunity on the fly will serve you well later during your entrepreneurship journey. Remember that people are flooded with requests but are starved on opportunities. You are a minority in their life if you are bringing them thoughtful opportunities. That’s the fastest way to get people on your side.
7. Learn to reframe your questions:
Reframe as the name indicates is to look at something from a different angle. Here are a few questions and the reframed versions of the same:
7.1 Get vs Become (courtesy: Jim Rohn)
What am I getting?
Who am I becoming?
7.2 Victimization vs Accountability
Why is this happening to me?
How am I contributing to this?
What am I learning from this?
7.3 Ecosystems and Choreography
How can I get this done?
What is the right combination of (available) resources to execute this in the most optimal fashion?
Do I matter?
How do I matter?
8. Learn the fundamentals of storytelling:
This is a MUST whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not but if you WANT to be an entrepreneur, mastering this art will give you a huge competitive advantage. Storytelling skills are not required just when you are on the stage or when you are giving an elevator pitch to someone. It is required whenever you want to talk about your startup – even during a casual conversation with ANYONE. We as human beings operate on stories – the ones that we tell, ones that we tell ourselves and the ones that we hear from others.
Please read: How to weave a story around your startup?
9. Make meaningful and measurable contributions to other startups:
A startup looks very different from outside but it’s another world once you are in it. If you have never been part of one and try to start one, you will be in for a big surprise. One way to be “less” surprised is to avoid the sandbox and actually get involved in startups (for free) and make meaningful and measurable contributions to their growth. You will be trading time for the experience – it will the best investment you would have made in preparation to your own entrepreneurship journey.
The side benefit of this approach is that you are also building “good karma” along the way and one day it will pay back in ways that you can’t imagine.