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What I’ve Learnt From 19 Years Of Entrepreneurship

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I’ve been an entrepreneur for quite a while, but I didn’t eagerly and authentically enter the ranks. In the beginning, as my income increased, I thouhght I needed to have a place to write off things so I could save on my taxes, so I followed the advice of an accountant and created a business. Yep, that’s the whole truth!

Years ago, when that 1st business, Strictly Kids Decorating, failed, it was because I was a great technician (talented as all get out) but didn’t know a thing about being a CEO. I painted tromp l’oiel murals on walls in homes and businesses and I enjoyed seeing the delight in people’s eyes when I transformed a wall from bland to vavoom!  I learned what I think is my most valuable lesson: 80% of business success is found in becoming a strategic, creative and intuitive CEO.
Then my 2nd business folded because I thought friendship would protect us.  Lesson learned: never enter business with friendship terms of agreement.  Create specific and clear partnership terms that include how a dissolution agreement.
Now for my third business, which I’ve been the CEO of for 9 years, I remembered the many lessons I learned over the years and decided I would treat my business like I wanted to and knew how to succeed and I started with respecting my values and my mission to serve and support others to create meaningful change and achieve their dreams. I did what I continue to do to this day, I studied, learned and implemented best practices and I continue to reeap the fruits of my labor.
Here are my top 20 lessons learned from 19 years as an entrepreneur:
  • Mindset is everything. What you believe and how you think will determine whether or not you succeed.
  • 80% of business success is found in becoming a strategic, creative and intuitive CEO.
  • You don’t get paid for your time, you’re paid for your expertise and the quality of experience you help your client consistently achieve.
  • It’s not about the money your gift is present to benefit others.
  • Before you gain momentum, you have to experience the moment. Success is comprised of every little thing you do added together over time. Be strategic. Keep going.
  • loving what you do causes everything that happens on your journey to have value
  • You start with talent then combine talent with focused training in the craft which leads to mastery.  Mastery has many levels. As your mastery grows, your confidence grows and thus, your business achieves ever evolving success.
  • There are 3 essential keys to growing your business: 1. mindset 2. knowledge 3. execution.  Tend to each area with focus and commitment and you can’t help but succeed!
  • Trust your gut – let your intuition sit in the head chair at all of your meetings and brainstorming sessions.
  • Whatever you don’t know and need to know, learn it. Everything else delegate to someone smarter than you.
  • Plan like the tortoise that knows when to run like the hare
  • Play with Fear on the Field – move forward especially when you’re afraid.  The benefits will BLOW your mind
  • Put an end point on the timeline for your dream. Assess where you are and whether or not you want to keep going in that direction. You can alway stop if you want to.
  • There is no shame in making money as you serve other. Money is a tool for good.
  • Invest to become the best.  Hire a coach, get a mentor who is 10 steps ahead of you.
  • Think creativity and compliment not competition and copy.
  • Be a laser beam and not a floodlight – get clear, make a plan and stay focused as you master one thing at a time.
  • The best expert knows how and when to be a great student.
  • Know what value you bring to the room.  Never apologize for how you’ve grown.
  • Serve with S.O.U.L. Serve Others with Unlimited Love.
  • BONUS – make paying yourself a priority!

If you’re in the first 5 years of your entrepreneurial journey, I used to be right where you are.  I share these lessons learned to encourage you and inspire you to keep going!  Along the way, I made quite a few mistakes, but hey, that’s part of what gives me the cahoones to help and support others to achieve their entrepreneur dreams!

What’s your success story?  Share your lessons learned below.

Remember, life is precious.  Do your happy dance. Enjoy Life!

Denise J. Hart is an entrepreneur, author and now coach. 

Entrepreneurship

What Kills A Startup

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1 – Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback

Ignoring your users is a tried and true way to fail. Yes that sounds obvious but this was the #1 reason given for failure amongst the 32 startup failure post-mortems we analyzed. Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups. For instance, ecrowds, a web content management system company, said that “ We spent way too much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision. I’d recommend not going more than two or three months from the initial start to getting in the hands of prospects that are truly objective.”

2 – Building a solution looking for a problem, i.e., not targeting a “market need”

Choosing to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was often cited as a reason for failure. Sure, you can build an app and see if it will stick, but knowing there is a market need upfront is a good thing. “Companies should tackle market problems not technical problems” according to the BricaBox founder. One of the main reasons BricaBox failed was because it was solving a technical problem. The founder states that, “While it’s good to scratch itches, it’s best to scratch those you share with the greater market. If you want to solve a technical problem, get a group together and do it as open source.”

3 – Not the right team

A diverse team with different skill sets was often cited as being critical to the success of a starti[ company. Failure post-mortems often lamented that “I wish we had a CTO from the start, or wished that the startup had “a founder that loved the business aspect of things”. In some cases, the founding team wished they had more checks and balances. As Nouncers founder stated, “This brings me back to the underlying problem I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made.” Wesabe founder also stated that he was the sole and quite stubborn decision maker for much of the enterprises life, and therefore he can blame no one but himself for the failures of Wesabe. Team deficiencies were given as a reason for startup failure almost 1/3 of the time.

4 – Poor Marketing

Knowing your target audience and knowing how to get their attention and convert them to leads and ultimately customers is one of the most important skills of a successful business. Yet, in almost 30% of failures, ineffective marketing was a primary cause of failure. Oftentimes, the inability to market was a function of founders who liked to code or build product but who didn’t relish the idea of promoting the product. The folks at Devver highlighted the need to find someone who enjoys creating and finding distribution channels and developing business relationship for the company as a key need that startups should ensure they fill.

5 – Ran out of cash

Money and time are finite and need to be allocated judiciously. The question of how should you spend your money was a frequent conundrum and reason for failure cited by failed startups. The decision on whether to spend significantly upfront to get the product off the group or develop gradually over time is a tough act to balance. The team at YouCastr cited money problems as the reason for failure but went on to highlight other reasons for shutting down vs. trying to raise more money writing:

The single biggest reason we are closing down (a common one) is running out of cash. Despite putting the company in an EXTREMELY lean position, generating revenue, and holding out as long as we could, we didn’t have the cash to keep going. The next few reasons shed more light as to why we chose to shut down instead of finding more cash.

The old saw was that more companies were killed by poor cashflow than anything else, but factors 1, 2 and 4 probably are the main contributing factors to that problem. No cash, no flow. The issue No 3 – the team – is interesting, as if I take that comment ” I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made” and think about some of the founders and startup CEOs I know, I can safely say that the main way that any decision was made was by agreeing with them – it was “my way or the highway”. I don’t therefore “buy” the team argument, I more buy the willingness of the key decision makers to change when things are not working (aka “pivoting” – point 9).

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About the Author

This article was produced by Broadsight. Broadsight is an attempt to build a business not just to consult to the emerging Broadband Media / Quadruple Play / Web 2.0 world, but to be structured according to its open principles. see more.

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Callum Connects

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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