The first year of entrepreneurship is always the hardest.
You’re scared silly. You’re a nervous wreck. You’re pulsing with adrenaline. You’re running on caffeine. You’re making life-changing decisions every other minute. You’re lonely.
And you’re kicking ass.
Entrepreneurship is a form of self-punishment that few people dare to engage in, and in which few succeed.
Is it possible to emerge from the first-year gauntlet of entrepreneurship unscathed?
Sadly, no. You’ll emerge battered and bruised, so expect it. But at the same time, you can emerge victorious. Battle scarred, yes, but successful nonetheless.
Here are some life-changing lessons that I learned during my first year of entrepreneurship. I hope they help you.
1. Set short-term goals.
Among the many great qualities of entrepreneurs is their ability to look at things long term. It’s called vision, and it’s a powerful thing.
You also need to crush your short-term objectives.
I recommend using the scrum methodology to help you manage your work. A more simple approach is to set seven-day goals. As quickly as possible, knock out all the short-term goals that lead you to your long-term vision.
2. Recruit cheerleaders.
If you don’t have a group of people cheering you on, you’re going to burn out. One of the only reasons that I recovered from a major burnout when I was 21 was because I absolutely loved my people. I knew that when I walked in that office in the morning, I was going to be energized and encouraged by the people on my team.
It’s so important.
If you’re driving at this entrepreneurship thing on your own, you’re going to hit rock bottom at some point. Find people — friends, family, teammates, colleagues, beer buddies, classmates, church friends, whoever — and ask them for encouragement.
You’re going to need it.
3. Get organized.
One common malady of the entrepreneur is the chaos syndrome. The business is hurtling along so fast, things are breaking, people are complaining, and you can’t find your dang login information for that software!
You need to get organized!
Here are three tips for getting organized as quickly as possible.
- Spend time up front to learn and implement organized systems. It will save you thousands of hours in the long term.
- Find a system and stick with it. There are plenty of productivity and organization systems to choose from. Don’t obsess over which one to choose. Simply pick it and run.
- Hire someone to help you with organization. If organization is not your strength, don’t worry. Hire someone who loves organization (and does it well) to help you out.
4. Get help before you need it.
At some point you must hire help. You may be the most capable DIY-er on the planet, but you can’t build a thriving business without some form of assistance.
You need to hire help before you need to hire help.
Here’s what I mean. If you can anticipate a future need for someone to do something, build something, design something, etc., hire that person as soon as possible.
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You’ll be surprised by how long it takes to find the right person for your startup. The process of posting jobs, recruiting candidates, and onboarding the new team member is costly and time-consuming.
The sooner you begin the process of hiring help, the faster and better you will be able to maintain your business’s momentum.
5. Make decisions fast.
You don’t have the time or mental energy to waste on long, drawn-out decision making.
Make decisions —even big ones — as quickly as possible. You’re going to make some dumb decisions. But a dumb decision is better than indecision.
Remember what George Patton said:
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.
Generally speaking, quick decisions are right decisions. If your decision-making is swift and efficient, you will accelerate your path to growth.
Indecision will stall your business and drive you into the ground. If you make the occasional stupid decision, you’ll at least learn a lesson and keep trucking on.
6. Get the critics behind you.
If you listen to your naysayers, you will not be able to succeed.
There are going to be haters. Guaranteed.
These are people who, for some reason, don’t have a life and simply want to make someone else’s life as miserable as possible.
These people don’t matter.
If you listen to them, respond to them, deal with them, or otherwise allow yourself to be consumed by them, you’re going to go down in flames.
Let the haters spend their time and energy hating you, but you have better things to do.
7. Pivot, pivot, pivot.
Entrepreneurs like to talk about pivoting, so here I go, using one of those entrepreneurial buzzwords.
What kind of things need to pivot?
- Your vision
- Your business model
- Your marketing
- Your strategy
- Your product
- Your target customer
Your business is going to change drastically in its first year. Think about how quickly a baby changes during its first twelve months.
Apart from the dirty diapers, your business is kind of the same. Lots of crying. Lots of sleepless nights. And lots of changes!
You might not recognize your year-old business, and that’s because you’re pivoting fast and pivoting often.
Entrepreneurship is tough. There’s no way around it.
Most entrepreneurs won’t make it. They’ll bail early.
However, if you have the right knowledge, stamina, and chutzpah, you’ll be different. You’re going to nail this thing.
Make it through your first year using the tips I’ve outlined above, and it’s a sure thing.