It’s normal as a first-time entrepreneur to feel overwhelmed by the process of getting started. Unlike a traditional role in an office, you need to build structure for your entire workday. But, with the support of fellow entrepreneurs who understand what it’s like to be in your position, the transition doesn’t have to be intimidating. YouInc recently reached out to our community to ask: What helped you the most to get started and what’s your best advice for new entrepreneurs?
Here’s what three Canadian entrepreneurs want you to know:
Richard Blundell, Managing Director, Cleantech at MaRS Discovery District
Years in business: 35 years of leadership experience
Resist being everything to everyone - the best restaurants are not buffets. Follow your intuition, and don’t let others tell you what to do. It’s important to stay focused on your idea and make it happen. And if they tell you it can’t be done, it’s probably a good idea. You need to be wrong early. So, don’t be afraid to be wrong.
Follow your talent. It will lead you to places you’ve never been. You need to have the courage to follow yourself to new and sometimes dark places. Talent should be your operating system. The best businesses focus on their culture early.
Process over genius wins every time. Stay user-focused on building processes rather than simply surrounding yourself with the smartest people. The process builds repeatable operating systems, which is sometimes called culture.
Accept that it takes time to build a business. You’ll pivot many times as you learn from your customers. So, you need to have a great passion for what you do to persevere through the tough times. There’ll be many more bad days than good, because success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely hard to build a business. Take the time to build your operating systems, talent and culture to deliver impact with purpose.
Caren Carrasco, Senior Partner, Co-founder, Benjamin David Group
Years in business: 4
Track the small but important goals. As an entrepreneur it’s easy to wear multiple hats; I’ve managed human resources, finance, business development, and marketing at the same time. Being everywhere and nowhere is where demotivation and lack of focus can derail you. When I see my list of speaking engagements I secured in the last quarter or the amount of media coverage we’ve secured, these small wins give me the motivation to keep going.
Lean on your co-founder for support. A benefit of having a business partner is motivating and encouraging each other as much as possible. I help my business partner focus and ensure we deliver. When I don’t feel we’re working towards the same goal, my energy drains, so we need to re-align to move forward. We also need to acknowledge and recognize each other - your employees or investors will hardly come and tell you, “hey, you’re doing a great job." It’s important to recognize the effort, support, and dedication each partner brings.
Strategize your goals for the year. Writing your goals and formulating a plan go a long way to be consistent with what you want to accomplish. It sounds like a simple process, but it made a difference for my business partner and I in the past year to keep on track and stay motivated and focused.
Alexandre Leduc, Founder and CEO, Mortgauge
Years in business: 2
Expand your existing network to find the right co-founder. An ideal co-founder is someone who’s willing to take on a lot of risk, wears many hats, and has a skillset that complements yours. I grasped the implications of having a concentrated professional network when I started a fintech company. My network consisted of the “fin” but none of the ”tech”. I founded the company alone and my business evolved out of focusing on the things I knew (the product) into the things I knew less about (engineering, digital marketing, and media). I made mistakes that could have been avoided.
Practice binge learning. Binge learning involves not stressing over being proficient in something until you have an actual need; then you can consume the content like it’s a new Netflix series. When I was evaluating different CRMs, I didn't start learning how to use the system until I bought the license. Then I spent 30 hours over the weekend watching explainer videos and reading through developer materials to start using the software the following week. When I needed the marketing and sales modules, I learned them at the time. You're more likely to retain things you learn and apply immediately anyways, so you free up your time over the long run.
Have a plan and prioritize around your targets. Most people associate being an entrepreneur with having a lot of ideas. But execution requires more discipline and it’s the part of the process that overwhelms people. Map out a plan, establish that your plan is feasible, and then work backward from that plan to lay out the milestones to bring your vision to life. Then, commit to those targets and hold yourself accountable to their delivery. Otherwise, you'll fall into a vicious spiral of saying yes and pursuing projects that don't help bring you closer to your goal, like taking meetings with customers and partners that don’t align with your strategy, prioritizing the wrong ideas, applying for grants and funding that you have no chance of getting, and wasting capital on the activities that aren’t going to earn a return.