Always Be Learning
By Patrick Clements, SherpaDesk Founder & CEO
Looking to start your own business? Don’t do it.
I know that sounds harsh. However, there is a point to my reasoning. Most people are fascinated by the idea of running their own business and being their own boss, of setting their own agenda and controlling their schedule. The idea of making more money with more control on how you live your life can be very, very attractive.
These things may be true, but based on statistical averages they are not a sure shot path to success. 95% of most new ventures fail. It’s just the reality, and often it’s not the fault of the business owner or the quality of the service they are providing. It could be timing, economic factors, loss of opportunities, etc.
Another harsh reality is that most business owners have more responsibility once they've started a new business than when they had a job. Their schedule is now controlled by those that they employ, by their partners, their customers, their vendors, etc. Business owners end up making less money than in their previous job while working longer hours and doing less of what they loved doing in the first place. This is why I say ‘Don’t Do It.’
However, those that still say ‘I’m going to do it anyway’ are the ones that I am interested in talking to :)
The first thing is, if you are skilled at your craft and you just love what you do, you need to take a moment to decide if you want to start a new company. Whether it be design, software development, IT consulting, or accounting, once you decide to start a new venture you can no longer work ‘in’ the business. You have to work ‘on’ the business. What this means is that what you enjoy doing is no longer going to be your top priority. Your priority is to ensure the sustainability of your company.
So, for example, if you love graphic design, and would happily do it every day, as a new small business owner, you'll probably spend more time working out your taxes and marketing campaigns than doing any design work. So you have to ask yourself, is this worth it for me? To not do what I love anymore because the buck stops with me and there's no one else to pass it on to?
The second thing you have to realize is that you need to be humble. A good lesson for small business owners and entrepreneurs is never to feel like you have all the answers. There are people out there that have trod the same path before and have learned a couple of things. There's no sense in making the same mistakes twice, especially when the "how-to" advice to avoid specific pitfalls is readily available.
You just don’t know everything there is to know about building a business. The fastest way to combat this is to practice continual learning. There are experts in your field out there that are writing books, putting on seminars, or have recurring podcasts. I suggest you make it a priority to spend a couple of hours a week to learn from those that have walked the walk before and have proven to be successful at it.
Another quick way to get your company up to speed in the knowledge department is to hire really good people to supplement the areas where your current team lacks knowledge or has deficiencies.
After plenty of trial and error, I've narrowed down the qualities that I look for when hiring new people:
#1 Are they SMART?
#2 Have they proven success in their job?
#3 Can they get shit done?
Most of us in this business are engineers and what that typically translates to is a lack of marketing and sales expertise. I would strongly encourage you to find someone that has a strong track record of being able to market your business to drive traffic and revenue.
Another key to success is to have the right tools. Even the best of experts will fail when not provided with the right tools. The tricky thing is that the 'best' tools evolve. What works today may not work tomorrow. That's why we designed our PSA tool SherpaDesk to be constantly evolving to meet the needs of our users. By listening to our users, we learn of their most urgent needs and can then figure out what new features we should introduce next. It is by remaining humble as an entrepreneur that we can stay nimble because we can listen and learn from our users to make our SherpaDesk IT Helpdesk solution better every day.
I've included some suggested readings that I've personally found valuable in understanding the challenges of building a business and developing leadership. Let us know what other ones you suggest so I can add them to my reading list!
Re-Imagine - Tom Peters
Good to Great - Jim Collins
One Thing You Need to Know - Marcus Buckingham
Drive - Daniel Pink
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John C Maxwell
Rework - Jason Fried
The Lean Startup - Eric Ries
The Founder’s Dilemmas - Noam Wasserman