Starting a business whilst developing yourself as a leader and an entrepreneur can be a daunting prospect and one of the biggest challenges you can face. Still many entrepreneurs fail to ask for business advice from experienced entrepreneurs or experts. Although this strategy is brave, its ultimately fool hardy as although many things you have to experience to learn there are many more things you can learn by listening to the those who’ve been there before, saving yourself a lot of time, headaches and money in the process.
So why not put yourself ahead of the rest and find take a look at the 102 most important pieces of business advice you’ll ever get, covering starting a business, growing a business and developing yourself as a leader and an entrepreneur.
1. Build on the functionality of your ideas
Primarily, to start a business, you need to have a unique and functional idea or concept for the product or service that you plan to offer. Observe your environment and assess in what sectors you may be of help to bridge the gap and fulfil consumer requirements. Identify the consumer needs and inspire yourself to devise and offer viable solutions.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and list down all the consumer needs and requirements. It is probable that you might be able to identify a section of the market which remained unexplored and you might bank on the opportunity to fill the gap.
2. Try your business first
Before you start your own business, look for a way of getting some hands-on experience. This may be easier in some professions than it is in others, and there may be a different approach needed for some of them.
For example, if you are passionate about good food, it can be quite easy to get a job as an assistant cook, but if you want to set up your own recording company, things start to get a little complicated. If you are going to get involved in a business which has a slightly complicated entry process, then the way to go is to offer your services for free. Small and medium-sized enterprises often use interns and volunteers to help them cut costs, so it is worth researching them and getting in touch with a manager or the person responsible for hiring staff.
3. Ask for feedback from friends and family
Tell people close to you about your business idea and ambitions and ask them for feedback. Choose carefully whom you approach though, the people who are supportive of your personal life will be more willing to listen and give you a realistic opinion. A proper technique is to prepare a short informal presentation for your friends where you will ask them to try out your product or service. If you want an unbiased opinion, try approaching individuals or small organisations in your local community and offering them a free trial.
4. Be mentally prepared to start a business
Now assess your ability and willingness to deal with all individual aspects of the business. Some of the tasks will be more challenging than others, and not everything will work out well the first time.
If you want to start a business, it is essential to be mentally prepared for the highs and lows that may come. If someone only focuses on the easy and enjoyable aspects of the business, he or she will usually underestimate the situation and encounter many more difficulties on his or her journey. You are much more likely to achieve success if you have a realistic idea and treat the easy and challenging tasks with equal enthusiasm and effort.
5. Test your business idea
It happens to everyone. You are walking down a proverbial street and see someone struggling with a mundane everyday task. Channelling your inner telemarketer, you think to yourself: ‘there must be an easier way to do that.’
A few hours later, an obligatory ‘Aha!’ moment ensues. You think you found the perfect solution, come up with the perfect idea, but being the serious entrepreneur that you are (go you), you are not yet sure if the market will agree. So now there you are, facing a business dilemma of your own. You may be onto something, but don’t feel like wasting a year’s worth of salary to develop a product and thoroughly test demand fully. Once again, there is, in fact, an easier way. Do it.
6. Carry out market research
If you have ever seen an episode of Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den, you already know why you should always test your business idea first. Too many budding entrepreneurs spend a small fortune building a product nobody wants to use. You might think selfie sticks for dogs are the next Uber. However, until you get market confirmation, you are just a guy saying ‘selfie sticks for dogs are the next Uber’.
Of course, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly of doing market research. Having your family and friends entirely on board with your idea is far from a reliable proof of concept. Most people think correctly validating your concept takes too much time, effort and resources before getting relevant insights. Most successful founders disagree. Let’s assume you have already covered the basics. You have identified your target audience. You have analysed their pain points and come up with a unique value proposition. It is then time to get some much-needed feedback.
7. Pitch your idea to professionals
Once you have a concept that is well-thought out, the ultimate test of its worth is trying and selling it to someone. Creating a successful pitch requires effective brainstorming and strategy, so ensure you take all the necessary steps to do so. A pitch can have various forms; you can write a donor letter, do a presentation or fill in an application for a business grant.
8. Find out opinions on similar products
Online discussions and user forums can give you a good insight into what consumers honestly think about a product or service, to identify their needs and expectations, and find out what upsets them. For example, large online retailers such as Amazon or eBay use a 1-5 star grading system which enables you to learn the average feeling about a product including views from all sides of the customer base: satisfied, neutral and dissatisfied customers.
9. Organise a focus group
The idea of a focus group is to assemble a small group of people and ask them about their opinions, perceptions, or beliefs about your concept. It is a good way of gaining some insight on what people think of your product, service, concept, advertisement, idea or packaging. Some useful tips on how to run a focus group are offered here.
10. Know your market
Once you have an idea about what you want to do, explore what’s going on in the particular industry you are interested in. Read news related to your chosen area and look for information about which products are currently popular, what the latest innovative ideas are, development in other areas that influence the industry. The information on market trends can be accessed most easily in the specialized sections of publications such as ‘business’, ‘tech’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘environment’, ‘travel’ etc.. However, you can get more specific and valuable information if you invest in an industry journal, website or newsletter from a professional body.
11. Understand your industry
Learn the ins and outs of your chosen sector and focus primarily on the things you find most difficult. Sometimes the perceptions of how a professional life in the industry looks entirely different than it is. Every road to success has its challenges, and as you learn more about your industry, it will be easier to envision what kind of issues you may come across and what it might take to overcome them.
12. Have a good idea of what needs to be done
Write down a list of the main tasks you will need to handle when operating your own business. The basic list could include activities such as: attracting clients, managing customers’ inquiries and complaints, writing proposals to potential sponsors, researching suitable premises, looking for reliable suppliers, paying business taxes, complying with legal requirements in your chosen business sectors, educating yourself about the industry, obtaining necessary certifications and more.
13. You do not need to be a first mover
It has been well established that first-mover advantage is highly overrated, and history is littered with successful second or later movers. Google was not the first search engine, and Microsoft was not the first GUI/Windows-based software. See this article on Last-Mover Advantage for more detail.
So if it is not your idea, then your execution is going to be the critical factor in whether you become the number one or an also-ran. So what do we mean by ‘good execution’?
14. Jump in and get started
It seems like most aspiring entrepreneurs delay acting on an idea until all of the stars aligned. I am no astronomy major, but it seems like that rarely, if ever, actually ends up happening. Moreover, even when it does, feeling the initial market pulse should not require expending massive resources and creating a comprehensive overview of the playing field. Think big. Start small.
15. Execute correctly
Looking at the execution hurdle, whether you will ever achieve a product-market fit and if your market is big enough are calls you have to make, but many good ideas languish through poor execution. First mover advantage is highly overrated. Take Facebook as an example; it was not the first social network, but often success is about being a few percents better across hundreds of activities rather than the big idea.
If you want your startup to succeed, a good product and ambition are not always enough. Crisp execution, rather than a bright idea, is vital to the success of a startup. Starting a successful business is never easy, but with the right attitude and the right approach then it is entirely possible. When you do make mistakes- learn from them. They are nothing wrong with experiencing failure so long as you learn from it.
16. Consider working from home
This may significantly reduce your capital requirements. A significant portion of your capital, when starting a business, is allotted to the rent or purchase of office space. Hence, working from home, you may be better able to meet your financial requirements when laying down the foundation for a start-up. You may transform one of your spare rooms into your workspace or use a secluded space in your home as your office.
Adorn the space with rented or purchased office furniture- whatever fits your bill- to fulfil the requirements of your workspace.
17. Make sure to create a website
Starting a business in the present age without launching a website can be suicidal for your business. Online presence plays a significant role in the success and survival of a start-up business and to increase the chances of your success, you may pay sufficient attention towards making your website appear professional and appealing to your consumers.
A website launch is not as costly, and it offers broader reach to the target consumers. Also, you may make your website SEO friendly and choose a suitable URL to increase its functionality.
18. Create a brand
Once you have got a product, you want people to be able to remember it and speak about it as early as possible that why you need to create a brand: find a name and hire a designer to create a brand identity. Communicate about the product and the mission on relevant websites, so you develop awareness and get feedback. Provide all the information they need to your first visitors; they are your future advocates.
19. Register with the HMRC
Make sure that you register with HMRC, as soon as you establish your business, to avoid any possibilities of getting penalised. Its an easy thing to postpone and forget about but this can cost you dearly later on, so make sure to get your financial ducks in a row from the beginning!
Bootstrap, find a friend/parent/family/partner to provide some capital. Failing this, look for advances from distributors, vendors or even government grants. You do not always need £50k in the bank to start a business. ‘Go in’ with a web developer or offer a key supplier an equity share in return for 60 days credit. Some of the most impressive pitches I have seen are people that say “this is what I have done with £500, so imagine what I could do with some serious investment!”
21. Engage with your community
Entrepreneurs do this ALL the time. With about a £50 investment, anyone can run an initial market test and get immediate feedback. Playing with paid advertising might seem daunting, but Google and Facebook have gone to great lengths to keep it simple. Especially if you are only using two or three of its most fundamental features.
If you already know where your target audience gathers, feel free to go even leaner. Engaging directly with a community is a powerful way of collecting quality insight, when and if you can get away with it. Sometimes, all you need to do to is ask. A fellow Redditor recently created a website that complements Twitch, a massively popular video-game streaming service, and asked a relevant subreddit for feedback. Most of the 200 comments came within the first 48 hours of him starting a thread.
People shared their thoughts, proposed tweaks and even offered small strategic partnerships. Obviously, this should not be the be-all and end-all of his market analysis, but it sure looks like a good start. The cost? Virtually nothing.
22. Delay charging a price or give a free trial
All those years of training in business have taught you that profit maximisation is the crucial goal of a business. Hearing us say that you should not charge for your services may sound stupid, but it worked for Craig Newmark. The creator of Craigslist designed a free website, and despite its roaring success, the site continues to be free except for specific ad categories. The company now has a net worth of $400 million. That is your proof that this peculiar strategy works. It gives the owner time to build an audience for the business and engage customers.
You can also explore giving a free trial; people are always looking for freebies, so offering your products or services free of charge will provide you with an excellent opportunity to gain some honest opinions. If you want to sell food, you can contact organisers of various community events in a local community centre and offer them free catering. If you are going to open a consulting business, post a classified ad providing your services for free to a specified number of people on a first come first serve basis. The options are endless; however, you need to ensure that the freebies on offer have active promotion via traditional advertising or social media channels.
23. Keep your costs low
You may also consider the employment of various strategies to reduce your costs and capital requirements. For instance, you may think to work from home to save the cost of renting or purchasing an office space. You may convert a spare room into your workspace, adorning it with suitable furniture or you may find a secluded space in your home to work without any distraction.
Another way to reduce costs is to hireable candidates who may agree to work on a salary that you may find affordable. Also, consider hiring part-timers, and by saving costs, you may be able to meet your other financial requirements.
24. Put systems and procedures in place
HMRC requires that all businesses keep clear and logical financial records, so put technology to good use and simplify all systems and processes.
While on the subject of technology, you might want to consider whether business needs are being met by your current software. If not, have a look at industry-specific management information packages. They will support business growth by providing real-time data that offers agility should your market change.
25. Hire the right people
Ideas themselves are not worth much- it is the people behind them that matter most. So if you have got people onboard who do not share the same vision- change them. You need to hire an ‘A-grade’ team, you need to surround yourself with ‘A-grade’ players.
26. Sell your product in an unfinished state
Believe it or not, there are customers out there who are willing to pay for an unfinished product or service so that they get to use it earlier than others. Online businesses which create software can benefit the most from this strategy. They can release their unfinished software to zealous customers and can get valuable feedback from them. This feedback can help them tweak the final product before the release date arrives.
27. Adapt & reiterate
Build, test, iterate, reiterate, pivot. You know the rest. Frequently the first product that a startup brings to market will not meet market needs. Every startup ever created has changed direction at some point- it is impossible to predict every single step that needs to be taken accurately.
28. Have a long-term focus
Performance metrics should always extend beyond short-term revenue. Too frequently do startup entrepreneurs focus upon instant short-term results rather than building a business. Focus on making a sustainable business model, not a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.
29. Generate revenue
No. Then don’t quit until you are. Yes: great – generate more, a lot more! No idea how? Time to get a clue or get off the field. Not counting social enterprises, a business which isn’t generating revenue is not a business; it is an expensive hobby. Revenue, customers or a clear go-to-market strategy are already more important benchmarks of success in Europe for VC’s. In a more difficult environment, they will become the minimum needed to secure a meeting with a VC.
30. Raise investment while you can (if you need to)
While startups are still sexy and viable (to investors and the general public: crowdfunding) get as much cash in the bank at the most favourable valuation you can get. The money will only get more expensive later on. Make sure as little of it as possible is debt funding. Loan notes which can be converted will be when upstream funding starts to dry out for VC firms.
31. Go into stealth mode (for high-tech)
A stealth startup is defined as a company that avoids public attention, with the intention of hiding from competitors, to conceal information or as part of mysterious marketing strategy. A startup could also be stealth to quietly test and improve its product or service pre a mass launch and for a million other reasons. If you have developed a new technology or innovation that’s going to disrupt a market and could be easily replicated by competition or near enough, stealth should be considered an option. A good situations and reasons below for when you should consider secrecy as an option for your startup:
- Because odds are there are better funded, better known and more developed direct/indirect competitors out there who could merely copy your technology, change it slightly and legally wholly dominate the market you are in before you have the chance to start selling.
- In the worst case scenario, your technology could just be stolen by a foreign or domestic competitor. It is not only significant American giants like Lockheed Martin who are at risk of IP theft, but there are also many businesses now battling Chinese rivals who are alleged to have stolen technology and IP.
- A competitor may have developed or be developing a similar technology/ innovation, and if they go to press, you can guarantee they are going to steal your thunder, potential investors and clients. First to market has a lot going for it.
- You may also be hastily acquired before you hit the market. This is not common, but it does happen, you can get bought out at a fraction of your potential value. It may seem right in the short term, but in the long run, this acquirer may shut down the project and keep it quiet or integrate into their service. There are plenty examples of early acquisitions that made founders rich but incredibly unhappy.
Overall there is no hard and fast on whether you should be stealth but new game-changing technology/IP is an excellent reason to do so. One thing we will say having worked with 1000’s of startups is to consider if what you have developed is that innovative. Many founders get sucked into their hype, and it is something to be avoided because as we will explain in the next section, the benefits of stealth are destroyed by the lost traction from not being loud if it is not right for you.
32. Go easy on the marketing
It is tempting to run paid marketing campaigns. However, it is also pretty expensive, and unless you can implement defined marketing goals that are measurable, then it can become a drain on your capital. You need to define the marketing funnel and determine the relationship between your conversion rate and your customer acquisition cost. Moreover, then monitor it all very carefully.
33. Focus on the product
Spend a lot on your product. Build, test, iterate, reiterate, pivot and get to MVP and beyond. You know the rest. This is where most of your capital should be deployed. Both on product cost and salary costs- good developers do not come cheap (for an institutionally-backed startup you should be looking at spending £40k+/year for decent product talent).
34. Outsource the tasks you can
An excellent way to retrench expenses and boost profits is to outsource a major portion of your business. This can diminish the need to hire people on full-time and save time and money spent on recruitment. Outsourcing tasks to international companies with cheap labour can greatly trim down costs.
35. Be aware of the worst-case scenarios
Imagine the worst-case scenarios that could happen in your business and plan accordingly. If you need funding, give yourself six months to find it. Schedule on your calendar the day when fund seeking needs to begin, put in enough time for a meeting and sufficient time to make a plan. Then let it go and relax. By giving yourself sufficient lead-time and scheduling the necessary amount of time in, you can take that fear off of your mind for the time being.
36. Find a way or make one
I take this very literally. I even have a tattoo on my thigh that says ‘Find a way or make one’ in Latin. Nothing is impossible. You will never succeed in business if you do not feel compelled to work hard for your achievements. Doing anything by half measures will only get you halfway to success.
37. Don’t give up
No one likes seeing a startup fail. So why do most startups fail? Contrary to popular belief, most startups do not fail because they run out of money. Yes, cash flow is often the reason that the business ultimately closes, but the number 1 reason that most startups fail is that the founder quits. Be it a loss of faith, loss of interest, loss of innovation, however you see it; it is the founder’s mentality that almost always fails the startup.
38. Don’t lose interest in the product
Maybe you have seen a better product, or (more likely) because the revenue model is taking longer than you initially predicted. Either way, this is NOT a good sign. A sense of resilience is one of the critical aspects of success. A pivot is needed drastically to turn the idea into something you want. Rarely (if ever) do financial forecasts for startups work; pushing through the negativity can make the difference between success and failure. Stick with it!
This suggests you have lost your passion for the current business model. Maybe it is because you have seen a better product, or (more likely) because the revenue model is taking longer than you initially predicted. Either way, this is NOT a good sign. A sense of resilience is one of the critical aspects of success. A pivot is needed drastically to turn the idea into something you want. Rarely (if ever) do financial forecasts for startups work; pushing through the negativity can make the difference between success and failure. Stick with it!
39. Build a team
This is the biggest lever you can operate in your business so you should be putting your weight behind it. It is exceptionally easy to lose focus the faster you are growing. You have a million and one other things to distract you, your recruitment volumes are increasing, and you have more pressure to ‘fill seats’, not having enough people looks like one of the leading barriers to growth.
- Hire for drive and motivations, not just experience. Some people are driven by the need to succeed; these are the people you want. Make sure their motives are in line with yours.
- Be involved and keep your standards high. Aaron Levie says he likes to imagine if he would employ each person if they were going to be one of the first ten hires.
- Always remember it is a two-way process. The best people will be being wooed by other companies. Still make sure you sell the benefits of working with you and move fast to secure the best people.
- Don’t interview. Use motivational tests and practical exercises as much as possible. Interviews and experience have been shown time and time again to be the worst indicator of future success. Go further than checking a CV.
- Hire people that are taking a step up in their career to join you. Question the motives of people making a sideways move – do they have the drive, and will they be challenged sufficiently to be engaged?
40. Foster good relationships
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
From customers to suppliers, financial advisers to employees, you can develop a competitive advantage by merely fostering good business relationships. Social media allows us to keep in touch with each other 24/7, and it takes no time at all to send an email or Tweet to a business contact or potential lead.
These three strategic questions will help you to focus and start getting your business in shape in 2017:
- What stage are you at now?
- Where do you want to be this time next year?
- How are you going to get there?
Once everything has been analysed and evaluated, it is time to update that business plan and use it as a roadmap for the New Year.
41. Evaluate your marketing
Do you see results? Are you doing any marketing? It is essential to identify which marketing channels work best for your business – maybe that is social media, local advertising, or direct mail – and then focus on the ones that bring results.
Tracking those results is crucial to understanding your target market’s response to various channels, and thanks to the availability of online data, never have it been easier to see where your efforts should be concentrated.
If Pareto’s principle is anything to go by, 80% of sales will have emanated from 20% of your customers. Use this to your advantage by focusing marketing efforts on this lucrative section of the customer base.
42. Retain your talent and team
Most people start with incentives and stock options, which are essential, but not sufficient. The first thing to get right is the three Rs, responsibility, respect, and recognition. People thrive when they set clear (SMART) objectives, trusted to get on with it and recognised (publically and privately) when they do a good job.
- Keep people challenged, but not so challenged they fall apart through stress. A good rule of thumb is that 25% of their job can be a tedious admin, 50% they should be able to do standing on their head, and 25% should stretch them.
- Make sure the workplace is supportive (see culture and communication below.)
- Be accepting of mistakes, but not sloppiness. Good mistakes happen when people push themselves beyond their comfort zone, and you do not develop without making some. Bad mistakes are the small things (not checking their work properly for example.)
- Manage people on outcomes, not processes. Who cares how hard people are working if they do not get results? Process focus stifles innovation and takes responsibility away from people. A pet peeve of mine is worrying about how much time people spend on social media. If they can do the job, why care how much time they spend on Facebook.
Keeping the top performers and removing underperformers is critical. People in the same team know who is doing a good job and who is not. Keeping people that are underperforming reflects poorly on you and is harmful to the people that are working better and harder for the same money.
A good test of how highly you value someone is to imagine how you would feel if they resigned. If it would not bother you, why are you employing them?
43. Hire knowledgeable and experienced individuals
Hiring informed and experienced individuals might be of your particular advantage if you lack sufficient experience and exposure in the industry. It might be of help to hire people who share a similar background, but hiring individuals who are more informed and experienced can be of utmost advantage to ensure that your business flourishes and progress. They have the core competencies that may be required to ensure the success of your business.
Also, take into consideration your skills and shortcomings while hiring your team. If you are familiar with all the technological details but lack in departments like marketing and sales, you may hire individuals who may offer expertise to compensate these shortcomings.
44. Regularly check and manage your businesses finances
Your business plan may be neglected and gathering dust, but by updating it with current and projected figures for 2017, it will help to focus the mind and provides a specific target to aim for. Analyse cash flow and profitability for the year using budgeted and actual figures, as variances can reveal potential problems that may have gone unnoticed in the hectic day-to-day reality of business life.
Being in control of your spending is key to your financial success, revenue too but the cost is as important, you can be making all the money in the world and spending more. Make sure, whether you like it or not, to know where you are at financially, where your going and have it tracked closely by yourself, even if you have a CFO. This is the real crux of most startups burning capital too quickly, often the finance is not carefully managed, the investment seems like a bottomless pit, and within six months you hit the edge of that pit.
Problems such as poor credit control, a creeping inability to pay suppliers on time, or an out-of-date pricing structure, will all reveal themselves if you look closely enough.
45. Prefer hiring individuals you know
Though, it is in no way recommended that you hire relatives and acquaintances who lack the necessary skills to work at your company, but hiring people from a similar background can always be of your advantage. If you are aware of their abilities and capabilities, you will find it easier to show confidence in their competencies, and resultantly, they might prove to be more productive for your business. Also, they might be better able to contribute towards your success, and if they are familiar with the rest of your team, you may expect better cooperation and teamwork.
46. Target the right audience
Plenty of small businesses do not run sufficiently targeted campaigns, though many people know that targeting is one of the primary advantages of online advertising if done well. It is critical to building up a profile of your demographic and potential and past customers, the better your information, the more targeted your campaign will be, and the best results you will achieve. Your messaging also needs to be aimed at specific demos and groups to maximise interest and conversion rate.
47. Communicate with your team
I do not think it is possible to over communicate, however, communication needs to flow in both directions. You need to make sure everyone knows the direction you are headed and has a chance to input (positively and negatively) into achieving it.
If you dismiss someone’s feedback or suggestion, it is highly unlikely they will make another. You do not have to agree with everything, but you have to listen carefully and explain your decision to them appropriately.
48. Build a great company culture
In an interview with this author, David Cohen, founder of TechStars said “team” is the top three of six criteria they use when judging candidates for their accelerator programs. Ben Horowitz talks about the importance of creating a strong culture in his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, which he firmly believes is essential when building a successful business.
These aspects of leadership will make all the difference when things get harder. A strong team of A-players will work to keep a business going, especially if they are invested in the company and want it to succeed.
Founders need to create the best environment for their teams, which once profits are being generated will make the external funding situation mostly irrelevant. So when we all start feeling the cold wind those who saw the signs would be safe and warm inside walls, they built themselves, brick by brick, rather than with the borrowed largesse of investor capital.
49. Remain agile and innovative
If you have hired the right people with clear objectives, proper responsibilities and flexible process, you have created the platform for innovation. However, again, this is something you have to work at. You need to tell people that you value innovative solutions, and you should ask people what are they trying that is new. Let them know that there will be some failures along the way; it is your role to encourage the right mistakes. If you never fall over it will take you a long time to learn to ski. For example, you could have a monthly review of new initiatives and treat failures as valuable lessons learned.
Essential reading on this is Mindset by Carol Dweck. She identifies a growth mindset which means that you understand that personal growth comes not from innate talent but hard work and practice and that purposeful practice where you push yourself outside your comfort zone and start making mistakes are how you learn the fastest (provided you learn from the errors). This book is a must for anyone hiring and managing people or bringing up children.
50. Get in place processes and data
Proper processes are ones that codify lessons learned and best-practice, bad processes are ones that assume people have no initiative and need to be spoon-fed. The line between them is fragile. Proper processes are more like guidelines with clear explanations of why things are done that way. Bad processes are rigid and exist because things have always been done that way.
As you grow, jobs that were once done by one person will then be done by many, and as workflow spreads over several people, make sure the processes work to keep everyone informed. Try not to replicate effort several times and don’t create bottlenecks where one person holds up the workflow from several people. This is why having an operations director is almost always a good idea when you start snowballing. This is a critical but administrative job that the founder should not have on their plate.
As the company grows, it becomes more complicated. In a smaller company where you are heavily involved in all departments, you can have a good instinctive feel for what is working and what isn’t. You also may not have sufficient data to draw sound conclusions. Entrepreneurs thrive in this gut-feeling environment. In the large company, you need data. This is not just about the KPIs that you use to evaluate company success. This is about properly attributing costs and risks to projects to work out profitability. It is very easy to think you are doing well because you are winning loads of clients, revenues are shooting up, and you are hiring lots of people. You are also at a stage where you are not expected to make a profit – but you are supposed to be building a company that will become profitable.
Acquiring unprofitable clients or running costly projects will not scale you into a successful company. This is the stage in your evolution where a good finance director is going to be essential. Remember Drucker is saying “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”.
51. Learn to change direction
Build, test, iterate, reiterate, pivot. You know the rest. Most of the time the first product that a startup brings to market will not meet the market need. Every startup ever created has changed direction at some point- it is impossible to accurately predict every single step that needs to be taken to take a concept from a business plan to an IPO.
52. Get used to growth
Nice problem to have. Scale back and focus on your core areas. Re-evaluate what your strengths are, and then get people around you who can help. Maybe think about pitching for investment (“I am growing too fast” is a pretty impressive opening slide for the investor pitch…..)
If you want your startup to succeed, a good product and ambition are not always enough. Crisp execution, rather than a bright idea, is vital to the success of a startup. Starting a successful business is never easy, but with the right attitude and the right approach then it is entirely possible. When you do make mistakes- learn from them. They are nothing wrong with experiencing failure so long as you learn from it.
53. Help out competitors
Yes, we are talking about your competitors. Competition can surely help you stay at the top of your game, but you can also derive benefits from helping your competitors. This way, you can create friends who are there for you if the need arises. These people can also help you get contacts in the industry and make sure you spot the next opportunity.
54. Don’t hire the wrong contractors
There will be times when suddenly you have been handed some degree of budgetary authority. Founders have enough expenses to micro-manage. Suddenly an advertising budget, video project, SEO or social media campaign will need an outside contractor. This means taking the lead on whom you recommend to your boss.
Too many startups burn through money with vendors who do not adequately “get” them, don’t have a strong enough track record and merely fail to get the job done. Do sufficient due diligence, ask for references and secure a limited trial project so you can test them in a live environment.
55. Create and publish great content
Blogging and creating great content is key to your long-term success online, beyond PPC, content can be far more effective long-term. You can create tip collections, best practices for your industry or a top 10 list. There’s a bunch of creative content marketing ideas you can find online as well as the basic rules of content marketing for small businesses. You also need some great images alongside your content!
56. Track and assess your advertising
Most of the time, small businesses are not aware of the advertising channel they are putting resources into is producing results. Tracking and evaluating the progress and overall effectiveness of your campaign is key to its success. A good advertising campaign as we have said is one that adjusts over time based on data; it is more and more accurate than analysing your campaign data and experimenting with changes will yield excellent results, especially on platforms such as Google Ads.
There are plenty of advertising opportunities out there. The ultimate key is to know who your customers are, how to reach them and what converts good luck!
57. Make marginal gains
An exciting approach is the one taken by David Brailsford (the coach for the British cycling team) who coined the expression “Aggregation of Marginal Gains”. This means you find some areas where you can be better than the competition and the accumulation of all those small advantages tips the balance in your favour. You cannot just hope that you will hit on one big idea that will defeat the competition, you need to be 1%-2% better in many areas: a classic “look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves” approach.
Product innovations are very sexy but high risk: you may think you are acquiring a competitive advantage with some new offering or feature, but you may not be. I am not saying don’t try to innovate. By all means try new things, test if they work and keep them if they do. However, don’t think you can innovate your way to success.
58. Make small improvements to processes
To benefit from the aggregation of marginal gains, look at your company’s processes and look for the areas where you can get these small improvements. Can you provide incentives Can you get people to work a little bit harder, can you introduce more efficient work practices (time and especially email management for example) that gives your staff a little more time to get more done. Can you improve your recruitment – maybe by selling the company vision better in interviews, making the process shorter, sending a gift to people you want to offer a job to stand out from other offers they may be getting. This is just a short list; there will be lots of tiny improvements that will all stack up.
Often these improvements are not sexy and glamorous: they are about digging deep into the detail of how your business works. Bear in mind that the best place to look for ideas may not be your competitors. Look much further afield. The cycling team had the idea for heated shorts to keep athlete’s legs warm between races from F1 tyre warming kits.
59. Allocating correctly
Another area where you can quickly lose focus is your top-level targets. When you are starting out, you are highly unlikely to be profitable from the start, and you and your investors (if you have them) will be looking for proxies for success such as user growth/client acquisition, revenue, or speed of hire. The problem is, as Peter Drucker says, what gets measured get managed. Moreover, that these proxies take on a life of their own and it is hard to break free of their thrall.
It is easy to believe your hype about user growth, headcount increases and even revenue – but the core of a business that is going to be successful long-term and will scale is that you have a profitable product with replicable customer acquisition. Some products, clients, or acquisition strategies can be unprofitable and scale up based on those will mean you grow from being a small, unprofitable company to being a large, unprofitable company and if your cash runs out, you will be in trouble. One of the key factors here is having a deep understanding of your business and what costs need to be allocated to customer acquisition, product lines and clients to get clear visibility of profit. This is what you should be looking for from your Finance Director. If they are producing budgets and cash flow statements, you are probably not getting enough value from them. The reality is that despite the way it is often portrayed in the media, building a profitable business for the long term entails much hard work and there aren’t many shortcuts.
60. Remove yourself from the equation
If yes, is this a skill that could be taught to other people? If the core of the business is centred around your particular ability – making beautiful intricate stained glass windows, for example, or illustrating children’s’ books, then you might be in trouble due to:
- The business will never be able to grow beyond what you physically can do yourself, which in turn is limited by the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and by your stamina.
- When it comes time to value your business and then sell your business, a prospective buyer will only want to buy the business if you come along with it. Prospective buyers try to avoid ‘key man risk’ scenarios, and if the business relies upon the founder, then a sale is made much harder.
61. Make structural changes to increase sales
If you have to write bespoke solutions every time you get a contract from a new customer instead of having pre-written software that you can sell to anyone, for example, then you will need to hire programmers to code each time you get a new contract freshly.
That can become problematic, partly due to labour costs and partially because you will end up having to deal with all sorts of operational issues such as organising a fluid workforce.
62. Automate everything you can (within reason)
Can you get a computer to perform some bits of the job? Estate agents have been particularly ahead of the game in this area. Property finding websites such as rightmove.co.uk and zoopla.co.uk can email you regular updates of properties for sale in your chosen field and at your preferred price, a far more efficient way of finding out what has just come on the market than having to call a dozen estate agents every day.
In summary, even if you are not able to take advantage of your start up’s inherent scalability from day one, the important thing is that the potential is there for you to tap into at some point – so that either you or a future owner of the business, can take advantage of it.
63. Keep travel & coffee expenses down
Now if there’s one thing that you hear a justification for all the time it is travel, and don’t get me wrong, travel is necessary, but luxury hotels and flights are not. Even if you have raised 500K+, you should be taking a coach, and in cheap hotels or hostels until you are solidly generating revenue and can seriously justify this type of expense, from the productivity, you gain from comfort. Take a good hard look at your travel budget.
Another major area is out of pocket expenses for coffees, snacks, food, you name it. Especially if senior team members have company cards, a lot which you cannot arguably justify as a reasonable business expense is spent each year. An excellent way to tackle this is to take away the company cards and have an expenses scheme where team members apply for reimbursement later or set weekly or monthly limits on specific activities. Coffees, especially in London, add up!
64. Know when to scale
I would say that you have to have proved you have a product to market fit and shown that you have a replicable sales and marketing process. If the founder has managed to flex his connections and land some clients, this does not tell you that you are ready for rapid growth.
What should you be focusing on to create the platform for growth? Each of the factors I will be highlighting could make the subject of an entire book, so as I cannot cover everything in that detail, I will try to pick out a few of the key points.
65. Put your business under the spotlight
Only by looking back and analysing what worked and what didn’t, can you honestly understand how to move the business forward? This involves looking at profit levels, sales figures, marketing results – anything that provides valuable insight into how you have attained your current market position.
Thinking about core products or services, it is worth considering which ones deliver the highest profit margins, how you might improve them, and which are not performing well – maybe you could do things differently to lower operational costs?
66. Find a mentor
After getting opinions from your lay people, it is also worth approaching an experienced business person as a mentor or professional counsellor who can evaluate your skills and point you in the right direction. An honest business coach will be able to tell you if you have the right potential to pursue your ambitions and teach you how to organise your time and daily activities to achieve your business goals. Finding the right professional to help you can be a challenge, you can learn some useful tips on how to find a mentor from the personal experience of a mentee who decided to pursue a career in personal development.
67. Join a business networking group
It is advisable when growing a business; you may join a community or a relevant support group to gain adequate assistance and increase your exposure. The acquired support can be of significant help, especially if you lack the experience of working in the industry you plan to start a business in. You may choose a business networking or support group or community that is of relevance to the industry you aspire to serve through business.
Joining these support groups, you will be able to have access to numerous advantages these have to offer, which include free meeting spaces, comfortable and convenient approach to various networking events, discounts for various business and marketing services and solutions and viable legal advice.
68. Time management
Your current approach may appear acceptable but still, heaps of precious time is wasted. Stuffing your schedule will not help, instead of sort out and arrange your tasks priority-wise. Formulate a strategy and devise a contingency plan to scrap off useless stuff from your list.
Writing errands down also helps, it saves mental energy in recalling things that need to be done, and the brain focuses more on getting them done on time. Furthermore getting up early adds time to your daily routine. Award yourself with breaks after small time intervals; refresh your mind my stretching or walking around.
69. Adopt morning rituals
Morning rituals help to get the mind fired up to deal with the pressure that awaits you. Taking out a specific amount of time every day may seem a lot to take in, but it gets the mind warmed up and ready for action. Our brain takes time to cope if we get up in the morning and head to work. Carrying these rituals out may help to get maximum ticks on that to-do list ergo increasing efficiency.
Start with easy rituals. This makes simpler to follow and retain them in the long term. These may include walking or cycling to work, meditation, sitting silently for some time in the morning, having a pleasant breakfast, and exercising. All these help to ensure the physical health and result in getting tasks accomplished.
70. Transform the way you work
It can be unfit if a person sits and does work at his desk all day. This hugely reduces output, so as an alternative you can use a standing counter at which you would have to stand to get the work done. Adaptable desks with built-in treadmill machines take time to get used to but help enhance efficiency levels and revive the body and mind.
Many companies now allow their personnel to work from home. They do this because research has shown that working from home increases output per employee. Since workers do not waste time commuting to and from the office, they can start work with a fresh mind which is free from stress caused by traffic and noise pollution. However, there are some drawbacks from working by staying at home, like distractions and house chores. An alternative can be going to the nearest coffee shop and working from there. Sticking to a permanent schedule will allow you to maintain productivity levels and accomplishing tasks. All in all, if you follow a healthy routine with morning rituals and manage time appropriately, you can achieve a lot in twenty-four hours.
71. Give your tasks a time-frame
By writing your tasks in front of you, you will be able to gauge the amount of time you can spend on each activity and work more diligently to complete quality work in the given time. Next to each task, write down the number of hours that you will spend on that task today. While it may take a while to determine how much time any particular task needs, it does not have to be exact, just relatively realistic. Time-frames are like baby steps. When I know I only have to do my least favourite task from 9-10, it becomes a much less daunting part of my day’s checklist. Moreover, more often than not, I finish each task early, leaving myself some time for breaks!
72. Cater to your creativity
Don’t let the traditional work hours define you. With the more flexible and remote nature of many careers nowadays, you can set your schedule. Those 40 hours no longer have to be nine to five consecutively. My most productive hours are actually in the morning, from six to noon, with a late afternoon boost from four to six. Try a broken schedule like this, and you might realise you have done your exercise during one break, prepped dinner in another, and still have a few hours to spare for relaxation and refreshment before bedtime! This also applies to your location – don’t work from the office just because you feel like you have to, and don’t work from home just because you can. Not every day has to be the same, and changing it up will keep you engaged and help dodge boredom and monotony. When you plan out the tasks of the day, determine which environment will foster the most creativity and efficiency so you can produce your best quality of work.
73. Actually sleep
If you want to sleep more hours than you work, you should make sure you are sleeping at least eight hours. However, just as you can be creative with your work hours, sleeping hours do not have to be amassed in the eight-hour blocks that we think they do. All over the world, siestas, reports and nap-times allow adults to reach their full eight hours of shuteye and wake up feeling refreshed and refocused. Even Google offers nap rooms, recognising it increases techie productivity! If you are more partial to the traditional nighttime slumber, however, try setting a timer rather than an alarm, counting down from an ideally consecutive eight hours at lights out.
After trying these steps, you may find you have more time on your hands than you did before — congratulations, taskmaster! Now, channel your inner Frenchman and resist the temptation to do more. Increasing your productivity does not necessarily mean you should put in more work hours. It says you are now privy to the revered work-life balance. What will you do with your extra third of the day?
74. Eat well, hydrate and meditate
Being focused, efficient, and productive requires being in shape, both mentally and physically. You will need stamina and nourishment to make it through an optimised work day, and mental clarity to tackle each task with conviction. Breakfast is an absolute must, and even chocolate and coffee are recommended in modest quantities. Eating healthy food improves focus, and staving off dehydration is an excellent way to keep energy up (and pee breaks are a good excuse to force yourself away from work momentarily!). Working for a food company, I am lucky to have ample access to healthy snacks that lend themselves well to a “five small meals a day” method. One thing I am working on is to be sure that I step away from my desk when it is meal time so that I can take advantage of yet another break opportunity and genuinely appreciate what I eat. By making a bit of that break time each day to reflect and meditate, you will increase your aptitude for mindfulness – an incredible skill both in and out of the workplace.
75. Set realistic timelines
As new business owners, the amount of work that we could do is limitless. Often we can get caught up in this, and 80 hour weeks become the norm, weekends become “workends”, and family time, social life or exercise become nice to have things that only 9 to 5ers get. Right? Wrong! Yes, we have a lot to do to reach our goals and get those hard-earned dollars coming in. However, this lifestyle is not sustainable, and it is not healthy.
With your project plan giving you the outline, break each project down into small bite-size chunks, so you know what you need to do by when. I have started to adopt a weekly checklist of “actionable”, so I know what I need to focus on for that week. It helps. Before this, I was doing a little bit of everything and therefore, accomplishing nothing. It is time for you to work smarter, not harder.
76. Bursts and breaks
There are many theories out there about the ideal amount of time to focus and reboot. Breaks can be an excellent way to step away from the desk, clear your mind, and come back refreshed. For me, each day is different, and I try to listen to what my body and mind need. If like many people, you require a structure to make this effective, a general ratio of working for 52 minutes and then playing/relaxing for 17, should keep you productive yet relaxed at the same time (these numbers may seem random, but they are not). If you find your focus waning, though, perhaps the Pomodoro Technique will work for you – a cycle of just 25 minutes to focus/work, and 5 minutes to rest. Whichever one works for you, these breaks do not have to be a waste of time or an excuse to procrastinate. Take these precious minutes to relax your eyes, step outside, stretch or maybe call your mum. Get your mind off of work now and then, and it will not fight you when it is time to focus.
77. Know your personality
Find out your personality to better understand who you are and how you can change your work schedule to fit your personality and achieve better productivity.
The E-Type Test is based on the book by Rhonda Abrams, an American small business expert, titled ‘What Business Should I Start?’. The E-Type Test will show you which of nine E-Type personality traits you possess and which working styles suit you best.
The 16 Personalities test uses Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach to personality which classifies people based on their general attitude, the way they perceive things with their senses and how they form opinions. This test provides insight into personal preferences and motivation. Also, it points out the ideal professions for a particular personality type.
The Greater Good Mindfulness Test can give you an idea about your ability to keep focused on the present moment and how well you understand and deal with your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It can give good insight into how you can handle the pressure created in a typical working environment, where you might have to deal with an overflowing inbox, take on several roles at once and hurry to meet your deadlines.
78. Pen, paper and priorities
While technology has provided us with enough multitasking tools and digital calendars to schedule and plan the rest of our lives, it can all be a little overwhelming. The key to productivity is priorities. Put away the iCal and put pen to paper.
Write down the tasks you need to complete today, and then rank them in order of difficulty. Complete the most laborious tasks first (unless something more comfortable must be completed first) when your mind is freshest, and your coffee is still kicking. This list will serve as a focus tool to address only the tasks in front of you, one at a time. Plus, it feels great when you get to cross them off the list physically. By the end of the Friday, my planner looks like one giant Rorschach inkblot, and I interpret that to mean it has been a very successful week.
79. Work to workout
One of the best breaks you can take is an exercise break. Reserve at least 30 minutes in the middle of your work day to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping to the brain. It will stimulate creativity, relieve stress and increase alertness. You can even invite your colleagues to improve workplace relationships. Wednesday, despite it, is horrible hump day reputation, is my favourite day of the week. My boss and I take a long run around the lake nearby, during which we have some of our best brainstorms and take the time to connect on a non-work level. Fitting in exercise is immensely positive in every possible way. After a workout, when you are back in the work chair, you will be less antsy, less distracted, and more productive than when you started.
Treating your body as a business asset may sound strange but it has logic. If you are in poor health, you may not be able to give your business the attention it needs. Keeping track of your diet and exercise can help you to stay fit. Other techniques such as meditation reduce the stress that you are subjected to daily.
80. Flexible priorities
I want to stress one thing. Having a plan, tasks, timelines, and focus are daily practices, but you are not shackled to them. As an entrepreneur in a very fast-paced world, you have to be able to adapt. I have witnessed many entrepreneurs fail because they were so set on a path, they could not see the world around them change from under them. In other words, they were so insulated; they could not see the wood from the trees. Don’t fall into that trap.
What makes a successful business? People who buy from it. Your focus starting out is your customers. Market research is excellent, but actual research is better. Talk to your customers, talk to people you hadn’t considered being customers, play around on social networks to see what people are saying about your industry, engage online (one of the greatest gifts to businesses today is the ability, in real time, to talk to your audience), blog, attend events; basically get out of that great ‘work from home’ space you’ve created. If no one is interested in what you are building, you may have to get used to a 9 to 5 again – and we both know that is not an option.
The world is churning new entrepreneurs by the second; we are the game changers and satisfaction seekers who want to make the world a better place. This is amazing and makes the future incredibly exciting, but also makes the entrepreneur space even more competitive. If you have taken the plunge, congrats, but be ready to be on your toes. Don’t fall into the trap of working 24/7 as this will not give you the competitive edge; this comes from knowing your customers, putting in quality time, with quality work as an output, and being agile to the rapidly changing market, so you stay ahead. Make sure you can always see the wood.
81. Keep your priorities list short
Short enough to answer in two sentences or less a question about what you are working on. It can be very tempting to dive into managing the entire marketing mix. Don’t. Manage a few things, do them very well, and keep accountable to nothing but the metrics.
82. Buy a standing-up desk
Sitting in the same posture at your desk for prolonged time periods can affect physical as well as mental health. By using a standing desk, you can avoid the discomfort of sitting around all day. Alongside burning more calories, you can freely move about. You can enhance output by adopting this technique and also perk up mental vigilance.
83. Forget about “want”, think about “need.”
What do you need to achieve? You might want to accomplish a lot of things – ten million users, some awesome videos like Dollar Shave Club, to do headline speeches at industry conferences – but what’s realistic and what do you need, as a minimum, to gain traction? That is the only question worth answering
84. Keep your focus
Old habits die hard, so start working on good ones. Email, both a blessing and a curse, can creep into our day-to-day tasks and kill off our productivity like the plague, slowly but surely. When you are working on a task, work on that one task. Turn off email alerts, messaging and block social media sites if you do not have that kind of self-control. Don’t even answer the phone – if it is important they will leave a message (unless you know it is an emergency – there are exceptions to every rule). I have adopted a practice I picked up from Timothy Ferris, where I set a timer to 40 minutes and have that time to work on a task. When the 40 minutes is up, I take a 15-minute break (email, social media, snack), and then repeat. I currently have 25 minutes left to finish this piece!
Learn to focus on the present. Give 100% to everything you are doing; it will come out in the quality of your work. You and your clients deserve that kind of attention.
85. Be kind to yourself and have fun
Don’t forget to have fun, learn to lighten up. Stress can be a difficult habit to get rid of. Ensuring that you have enough joy in your life can help to alleviate this.
86. Surround yourself with positive people
Hang out with positive and inspiring like-minded people, such as other entrepreneurs and mentors. These people will enable you to think more positively, connect you to the right people and come up with creative solutions to the issues that you are dealing with.
87. Avoid an information overload
There is a tonne of great information out there, however too much clogs up your thinking and traps you in the ‘I need to be doing X’ syndrome. This is when you convince yourself that you need to do that one thing to make you successful. This leads to an overwhelming to-do list taking your focus off what is important. Limit the amount of information you take into just what is relevant.
Although in many ways, the points raised might seem like common sense, it is surprising just how many entrepreneurs are succumbing to fear unnecessarily because they are unaware of how best to combat it. By following these simple steps, you will be well on your way to a fear-free venture.
88. Clear Space and Get Organised
An organised and clear workspace reflects your overall disposition. The cleaner and organised your workspace is, the more efficient you are. The organisation and a clean working space always help in reducing stress and increasing productivity.
To be more productive at work, keep your office desks clear and organised at all times. Arrange all the documents and files in neat piles and manage your working space through the efficient removal of any unwanted papers or materials.
89. Keep positive
Eustress is positive stress when you feel excited and engaged. Eustress is the fight response in our fight or flight response. Eustress makes you feel good and enhances productivity, but be aware that too much has the same effect as too much stress. It can lead to harmful stress and a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Use the eustress to be productive but ensure you take time out to relax and calm down.
90. Move Around
Sitting for an extended period may lead to undue stress, and you might lose the will to work any further. As stress reduction is considered as one of the ways to increase productivity at the workplace, it is advised that you have a walk through your office and interact with your colleagues for a few minutes, at frequent intervals. Resultantly you will have a fresh mind which ultimately leads to increased focus. You can also request your boss for a standing desk which has been proven to increase productivity and promote a healthier working environment.
91. Take Frequent Breaks
Similarly, as suggested earlier, you may take frequent breaks from work at regular intervals, for a reasonable period. Breaks will refresh your mind and set you back on track. If you think that sitting and staring at that spreadsheet for hours will somehow make you produce results, you are wrong.
Take a break, have a walk and see how it improves your concentration and comprehension. Studies suggest that human brain gets tired after consistent working for two hours, and it is recommended that you take a 10-15 minutes breaks after every two hours. Breaks will help you refocus and concentrate on the task at hand and alleviate that dreaded mental block that hits even the best of us.
92. Remove Distractions
It is very easy to get distracted at work especially nowadays. This happens more frequently if you are tasked to do the same thing over and over again. You may be tempted to surf the internet, check your social media pages like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, chat with your colleagues and take more breaks than what is advised. To fight the urge to do this, jumble up your work and block off social media networks from your work computer. It would also be ideal to put your phone on silent.
Knowing how to keep yourself concentrated and accomplish everything that you planned is not rocket science. All it involves is the art of making a to-do list. Bloomberg Businessweek says, “Hours are wasted transferring information, second guessing what to do next and worrying about what might be forgotten”. With an array of dispersed sticky notes and notepads, it is hard to keep track of tasks. Alongside all this, the constant barrage of emails and maintaining numerous planners and calendars further complicate your task.
Due to all these reasons, you need to have the acumen to make an organised, accurate to-do list. This is vital for keeping track of all your business activities and daily or monthly targets. You can then go about your tasks in a measured way. When you achieve your goals, a sense of reward enhances your self-confidence and helps your mood get better.
If done the wrong way, a to-do list can further confound things and twist your goals into an unattainable mess. By following our tips, you can ensure that the goals are accomplished, and you tick off more on your to-do list each day.
93. Learn the best list-making method
The first step to managing more each day is to create a list. Avoid making errors as an erroneous first step will hamper further progress. After this, think of an option that will help you keep track of your work. This could be Google Drive, DropBox, or you can use your computer, laptop, or a pen and paper to organise. Use whatever you are comfortable with.
Apart from this, know when to make your to-do list. Always try to write it off a night before an important day. Trying to recall your tasks the next day can take time off your schedule. You can use this extra time to do other tasks or just to compose yourself. This also reduces the risk of forgetting any task.
94. Write everything down
Once you are done with the preliminaries, sit down in a comfortable place, relax, and start jotting down your errands. Doing this task in an environment with heaps of distractions can make you forget tasks. Look in your journals and diaries to see if you have missed something. Also, go through the post-its and emails to check and make sure you have got everything on the list.
A long to-do list can be overwhelming, and hence you should make separate to-do lists for daily, weekly and monthly tasks. This way, you can break down larger objectives into small, attainable chunks. Once you realise these goals, you get a sense of accomplishment and a surge of happiness.
96. Motivate people
Leaders are not just people who throw around orders. Leaders also act as mentors, confident and most especially a coach to their team members. You should be able to boost the morale of your team and make them believe in their capabilities individually and as a team. This means you have to use specific tools to bring out the best in each of your team members and the only way to do this is by knowing them and what they are capable of doing more in-depth. Only a great leader will be able to do this because it requires a certain degree of natural touch and management skills to be able to motivate individuals.
97. Have a clear goal
It is important for every leader to have a clear goal and be decisive enough to push through with it. A company’s overall success relies on the teams that comprise it, and the success of those teams lies on a leader who has the capability of looking beyond the implications of the current project. Great leaders always look outside the box and at the bigger picture. A leader’s drive and vision will influence their team members positively, and its impact can be seen in the results and how they perform.
98. Be confident
There is a fine line between being confident in a good way and confident that rubs others as self-righteousness. As a leader, it is vital that you can exude confidence in your ideas and give the impression that you know what you are doing. Otherwise, your team members will lack faith in you and probably even question your judgement. Acknowledging your weaknesses is a sign of a great leader, and that is where your team members fill in.
99. Be accessible to your team members
The communication line between the team members and their leader should always be open to foster a healthy relationship. The only way you would be able to honestly know what your team members are thinking and how they are progressing is by talking to them. You should, therefore, be accessible and available whenever they need to discuss important matters with you. A closed-up leader will be disconnected from his or her team. Communication is understated yet extremely important for the success of any relationship, especially that between a leader and their team members.
A sport teaches you the importance of collaboration. In rowing, that is everyone from the personal trainer to the crew. You must learn how to work together to achieve collective goals. Everyone on the team plays a vital role in your success. You are only as strong as your weakest member. No-one can do it alone. You can try, you may even get quite far, but ultimately it is a team that wins.
At Adapt, the team is our most important asset. We can excel because of the knowledge and technical skills across the entire company. It is essential to respect the ability of different individuals and work to bring out the best in everyone. ‘Succeed together’ is the most critical mantra in our business and is the most important motivational tip I can share with you. The sport has played a vital role in shaping me as a businessman – and it will continue to impact my team and our company positively.
Subscribe for entrepreneurial & small business advice
Subscribe to our newsletter for advice and insights on starting, managing and growing a small business in the UK.
Bonus: Make your goals achievable
Are they achievable with the human, financial and technical assets at your disposal? The key to answering this is honest with yourself. Think about your actual skills and experiences. A startup is all about learning on the fly, but is it worth implementing a half-baked SEO campaign, or should you call in the experts? It all comes down to decisions you make. This is something you need to be comfortable doing. Otherwise, the CMO seat may not be right for you.