As 2016 becomes less like a shiny penny and more like the ones you find in your couch, you might still be kicking around some resolutions to change your eating habits or drop a few pounds, or perhaps finally figure out your 401(k). You might also want to start a new career path and venture out on your own, become your own boss, and start a business for that passion of yours you’ve been cultivating over the years.
If 2016 is the year you’ve decided to pull the trigger and become a full-fledged entrepreneur, you’re not alone. According to The Kauffman Index: Startup Activity, 2015 was the first year since 2010 when the number of startups grew – reversing a downward trend that had been evident for five years. New entrepreneurs in the United States numbered 310 people out of 100,000 adults, an increase of 10% compared to 2014. According to the index, that means about 530,000 became new business owners each month in 2015.
That growth is promising, especially if you’re looking for confirmation that other people are also starting to take calculated risks and set up businesses of their own. Economic conditions are improving, but starting a business from the ground up will always be a challenge, no matter how favorable the economy or your particular industry might be.
With that in mind, it’s important to learn and remember some best practices for becoming an entrepreneur. For that we turn to the advice of Carol Roth, an entrepreneur and author. Roth bases her tips on the observed practices of Levi King, a seven-time entrepreneur who is putting most of his energy into his most recent job role as the founder of Nav, a company that helps business owners manage their company credit scores. Whether you’re dabbling in a side gig or quitting your day job to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality, take a look at these tips for a successful 2016.
1. Put in the extra effort
Going the extra mile is always a good thing, and starting a business will require endurance. In all things, be prepared to do what others can’t, or won’t do for the sake of their business. You’re likely to spend most of your waking hours devoted to your startup, especially at the beginning, but what you do with that time can make or break your plans for success.
For King, that meant making an exorbitant number of cold calls in a former manufacturing business. It was the best way to add new customers, so all of his downtime went toward those calls, despite the fact that cold calls to drum up business are the bane of anyone’s existence. Whatever your equivalent to drumming up business is, pursue that with all the energy you can spare, Roth suggests. “If you want to be successful, you have to get out of your comfort zone and relentlessly pursue the types of activities that lead to growth,” she writes.
2. Don’t be easily discouraged
Until you’ve established a name for yourself, you’re likely to be rejected by a potential client more than once. Many times, Roth writes, that’s simply because those people have their own agendas, too. If you avoid taking things too personally, you have a greater chance of winning people over in the long run.
During his cold calling days, there was one client King called 92 times. Each time he’d leave a voicemail, saying which number message it was. When King eventually met the potential client, he learned he wasn’t be ignored on principle, but because the potential client was waiting on a budget decision. Keep a positive attitude and be persistent until you get a firm “no,” – and keep trying even then, if you think you’d be able to win them over.
3. Do the grunt work yourself at first
Chances are that when you’re starting your own business, there will be tasks that get you out of your comfort zone (like those cold calls) or just jobs you’d prefer to immediately hand off to someone else. While you’ll eventually be able to do that, King lives by a “feel the pain, then train” mentality. In other words, experience those grunt work jobs yourself first, so you’ll know exactly what you’re asking of your employees. Not only will you be able to give better advice about how to succeed in those roles, but you’ll have firsthand knowledge you can pass on to those people working for you.
4. Hire the right people
When you’re at the point when you can afford to hire others, there’s a few things to keep in mind, King told Roth. For one, don’t write off an applicant just because they don’t list a premier college or have an impressive resume. Underdogs can be great assets because “they have something to prove,” King said.
Great interviewers could make great employees, but applicants who are obviously nervous in an interview might also be a great fit for your company. If you think that might be the case, give them the benefit of a second interview, or a tour around the office when you can ask questions during a time when they might be more relaxed.
5. Learn to delegate
Sure, the fantastic employee you just hired might not solve a problem in the exact 10 steps you would. But chances are, they’re still going to come up with a solution that’s a good fit for your company. Giving the reins to other people might be tough, even when it’s just for a small project, but learning to delegate effectively is central to your success. An unwillingness to delegate leads to capping your growth potential, since you can’t possibly micromanage everything that goes on.
“Levi says that you have to embrace that there are ‘at least 20 right ways to do something and around three wrong ways.’ If someone is not actually doing it one of the three wrong ways, then it’s right; it’s just a different method than you would have picked,” Roth advises.
6. Provide avenues for honest feedback
Sooner or later, you’re going to be managing a group of employees for your business. In order to make sure the business is operating at its highest capacity, you’re going to need to be able to get honest feedback from clients and employees – without getting defensive.
“Other people’s reality is reality in business,” Roth wrote, meaning how you are perceived is what will influence your business the most, not your intentions. Creating avenues for open communication, and asking questions about your leadership will help to make sure that you’re portraying the values and goals you want, and that your intentions aren’t getting lost in translation. You’ll probably need to show a bit of humility to do so, but knowing how you’re perceived is incredibly valuable to making sure you, and your company, are on the right track.