Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Trenches

This article is from  Suzanne Duret on September 17, 2013

We’ve all said this at some point in our lives: “If only I knew then what I know now!” You’ve no idea how many times I’ve uttered the above words myself. As a serial entrepreneur, over the years I have started seven different businesses in seven different industries — and what a crazy ride it’s been.

For most people, forging an entrepreneurial path typically occurs out of need and desire. The need for freedom. The desire to work for Entrepreneur-Lessonsyourself. The need to replace income. The desire to launch your big idea. The need to prove something. And for those who get out there and take action, the path is always littered with unforeseen lessons.

I’m going to share some of my first-hand lessons with the hope that it will help you maneuver away from a few of the battle wounds that I had to endure.

1.  Ask The Most Important Question.  You don’t know what you don’t know. Dumb questions are only dumb if they aren’t asked. We often perceive in our minds that a question may cause us embarrassment if asked, so we don’t ask… and that’s the beginning of a potential problem. When an issue or obstacle is challenging you, ask every question you can think of. And the most important question to ask is this: “What haven’t I asked you that I SHOULD have asked you?” Looking back, if I knew the importance of asking EVERY question that crossed my mind, I would have found my successes happening much more quickly.

2.  Learn To Bootstrap Effectively.  Most start-ups, and growing small businesses, often don’t have the funds required to move ahead effectively. However… when you become bold and get creative, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. For example, with my first venture we needed to have our actual product in order to go into the marketplace and prove to our prospective venture capitalists (VCs) that hospitals would purchase our device. But without their funding we couldn’t manufacture it, and our homemade prototype wasn’t helping us. So I got busy and negotiated a deal with a manufacturer. I provided our business plan and Letter of Intent from our VCs. We struck a deal whereby the manufacturer created the molds and initial inventory on their nickel… with their payback built into our ongoing cost of future inventory until they recouped their initial investment. Problem solved!

3.  Expect To Shift Gears Often.  Being a successful entrepreneur absolutely requires the mindset and follow-through on changing tactics quickly. It is crucial to fail fast and make changes as you go. What sounds great in theory often doesn’t play out as planned in reality. Be willing to shift – and sometimes shift in big ways – in order to find success. Those who hold their ground and are unwilling to shift gears when things aren’t going to plan will ultimately suffer a downward spiral of painful lessons. Change is scary but good… just don’t wait too long to take action on it.

4.  Hire On Attitude First And Experience Second.  Oh how I wish I’d known this a long time ago… it would have saved me a lawsuit in my first venture, and a lot of money in ongoing ventures. Experience is only as good as the attitude that comes with it. Make absolutely certain that you have created your company culture and know that the people you hire or contract with have attitudes that match well. The wrong attitude can begin a domino effect that will cost you bundles in lost time and money. Make it a priority to understand the personality and overall attitude of people first. I’ll take a less experienced person with a non-stop “can do” positive attitude any day over a rotten apple with a glowing resume.

5.  Always Assume NOTHING Is Impossible.  I had never run a business, raised capital, or gone to college… but that didn’t stop me from starting a medical products company and raising over $1 million in venture capital. I didn’t know Tony Robbins or anyone else who knew him, but that didn’t stop me from finding a way to reach him and entice him to write the Foreword to my book… which he agreed to do. I didn’t know anything about the hotel industry or commercial real estate, but that didn’t stop me from negotiating the land purchase for the development of a Four Seasons hotel. Assuming that nothing is impossible has allowed me to achieve things that others couldn’t believe I even attempted to try. It’s a choice. What’s the worst that can happen? …NOTHING.

Here’s a great infographic about The Spirit Of Entrepreneurs. See if you share any of the top three reasons for becoming an entrepreneur, and how much you may have in common with other women entrepreneurs who have forged ahead.

Life in the entrepreneurial trenches CAN be a whole lot of E’s… exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, emotional, and energizing. Life in the entrepreneurial trenches can proceed much more smoothly when you make time to learn from the lessons of other entrepreneurs.

Take it from me, sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down. Here’s to your continued success!

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“This article is reprinted with permission by ShowcasingWomen.com, the Premier Resource For 30+ Million Women Entrepreneurs. Visit them for free instant access to their Success Tools.”


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