Ten Survival Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Going to work for yourself is a huge step, and a sometimes scary one at that. Here are ten strategies that can help you survive and succeed in starting a business.

Sixteen years ago, I left the administrative career I had built for twenty-three years, and started my own business. Why? For some of the same reasons that attract other pioneers.

You want to be your own boss.

You want to unleash your creativity, which your current job stifles. You expect to double or triple your income. You are eager to implement your lifelong fantasy. You lost a previous job, and you don’t want to face being downsized again.

Yet, whether you have taken that step or merely intend to, you’re afraid. You know former business colleagues whose new businesses failed.

Fear no more. I offer these guidelines for success.

One: Involve Your Family
Entrepreneurship will bring family changes, for sure. Your home office takes away the guest bedroom, and startup expenses strain the family budget.

From the outset, let every family member know what you are doing, why, and how it will impact them. Then listen. Solicit, and respond to, their advice. Welcome their objectivity, which you’re lacking in your euphoria.

Talk candidly about these changes before they happen, and you’ll gain valuable teammates.

Two: Network, and Keep On Networking 

In Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, Harvey Mackay wrote: “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.”

Mistakenly, during the first six months, I tried going it alone. The results were dismal.

Then I sought advisors, who helped me immensely, giving constructive feedback about my Web site, company name, motto, logo—practically every significant step. I still meet monthly with a group of my peers. We share marketing strategies, and even a few leads.

I encourage you to join civic groups, your professional associations (I joined the National Speakers Association), and start your own informal group.

Three: Master the Clock and the Calendar
Time will become your most valuable commodity. Treasure it, protect it, use it wisely. Decline politely when your Thursday afternoon golf buddy calls on a warm, sunny day.

Use time-savers like these:

  • Organize your work area, so you can find information quickly
  • Rely on a contact management program, such as ACT, to keep track of prospects/clients
  • Start each day with a to-do list, arranged in priority order
  • Limit the length of phone calls and meal breaks
  • Outsource work that others will perform well at a reasonable price

Four: Get Physical
To endure your long work hours, you must remain in top physical shape. Exercise regularly, eat nutritious foods, reserve adequate sleep time, take short stretch breaks, and schedule your annual physician’s exam.

I start each day with a one-hour workout at a fitness center. Rather than tiring me, the session ignites me.

Establish your own health-supporting routines. Stick with them five or six days a week, and you will enjoy feeling better, thinking more clearly, and having more energy.

Five: Nurture Your Spiritual and Emotional Needs
Remember to nourish the needs that go beyond the physical realm. Daily, you will need exceptional motivation, reinforcement, rededication, resilience, and sheer courage. Many successful entrepreneurs rely on sources not seen and touched.

For me, memorizing and repeating inspirational passages boosts my morale. Select whatever method brings you inspiration—meditation, reading, attending religious services, walking down a nature trail, or others.

Six: Get Technical
Most entrepreneurs don’t start out with administrative assistants. We are SOHOs—single owners, home offices. Then who does the correspondence, records, research, and filing? You do.

So if you are technologically impaired, or you’re somewhat competent but lack proficiency in Power Point, social media, blogging, digital photography, and even video production, enroll in a nearby course.

Seven: Become—and Remain—an Expert
Will prospects return your calls? Will appointments turn into contracts? They will when you demonstrate that you have mastered your field.

Expertise doesn’t happen by accident. Successful entrepreneurs read voraciously, attend conferences, interview leading authorities, explore their topic on the Internet, pursue advanced degrees, earn special accreditation.

And we don’t stop learning. “Continuing education” is a redundant phrase. To be educated means that we keep learning the latest advancements in our profession.

Eight: Hire a Coach
Presidents, top athletes, actors, authors, speakers, politicians, and industry leaders rely on coaches.

Ten years ago, I hired a coach to improve my marketing efforts. We worked together for three intensive months. With his help, I revolutionized the way I seek business. I consider his fee one of my wisest professional investments.

Nine: Spend Wisely
Friends told me the writer’s conference in Maui was one I must attend. I considered the cost, and went to a regional conference instead, where I learned plenty and kept my creditors happy.

Spending wisely becomes especially essential when we understand that an entrepreneur’s income, typically, is cyclical. We can’t let a highly lucrative month or quarter lull us into lavish life styles. Soon we’ll face months with less income—possibly even no income. Save cash reserves for those non-revenue periods.

Ten: Reject Rejection
Yes, turndowns will happen, when you just knew your proposal was powerful, and your presentation flawless. How could they choose someone else?

In the words of Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The more you are rejected, the more you question your ability. Your confidence drops.

I suggest that you reject rejection. Realize that losing a contract doesn’t mean that you or your work are inferior. Somehow, there wasn’t a fit between you and the organization. Really, the company paid you a high compliment by selecting you for an on-site interview. That alone affirmed your credentials, programs, and product.

Think of the rejection as a rehearsal for your next potential client. Learn what you can from it, then go find someone who embraces the value your services will bring.

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