Working for yourself as an entrepreneur is a dream shared by the majority of people who have worked for someone else and I know because I was one of them.

I was working in a windowless office in a dead-end job working for an organisation that cared little for me. I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve managed to build a career as a Leadership Coach, working for my own company and travelling to different countries meeting fascinating people and enjoying every minute of it. I have no illusion that I’m living the dream and it’s a dream that I would love for other people to pursue, but the road is not easy. Based on my own personal experiences I’ve highlighted a few tips for any prospective entrepreneur to be aware of.

Tip One: Be prepared to fight.

The cold hard fact of any new business is that there is a 90% chance that you are going to fail. The majority of businesses do not exist within five years of inception. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint hearted, it’s for warriors. If you are entering a scenario where there’s a 90% chance of failure then you must be prepared to fight harder than your competitors in order to become one of those pervious 10% of survivors. Most people give up without knowing just how close they were from succeeding. The truth is that people who quit end up working for those who didn’t.

Tip Two: Follow your passion.

The road to being your own boss is difficult and without doubt you will face days that you will think about quitting and those around you will agree that you should quit. The days will be long and you will work way harder than you will ever work for anyone else. There’s only one way to get through these days and that is if your business is also your passion. If you are entering a field that you are not passionate about then your slim odds of succeeding have just become shorter. You need to be in love with your business because it’s only love that’s going to get you out of bed when you are sick, and keep you working at night when you need sleep.

Tip Three: Be prepared to be a student again.

When I see fellow entrepreneurs fail it’s usually because they are very skilled in one area but very poor in others. When you are working for someone else your job requires a narrow range of skills yet if you work for someone else you have to be prepared to do everything. I’ve seen great salespeople who fail because they are poor at finance and people who are good at finance fail because they have poor website building skills. Successful entrepreneurs succeed because they are prepared to learn new skills. The advantage we have today is that there’s so much information available on the Internet. Immerse yourself in this information and be prepared to study harder than you ever did at school.

Tip Four: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Having your own business may seem a lonely business but it doesn’t have to be. There’s many people out there such as mentors and coaches who are willing to help with advice and guidance. Don’t make a mistake and assume that guidance can only come from someone in the same industry as you. Some of the best advice can come from people who don’t know a thing about your business, they have the advantage of looking at your situation with fresh eyes. I recall my last visit to Fiji when I was asked to meet a young entrepreneur who wanted some advice and the meeting was only twenty minutes long and even though I didn’t know anything about her field I knew about what makes people successful. She was so passionate about her business that she made a common mistake of assuming that everyone else shared her passion for her business, and how did I know? I knew because I made the same mistake. I’m so passionate about leadership that I thought that everyone else would share my passion so would instantly hire me to help their organisation. I soon realised that I had to build sound business cases to justify my services. Entrepreneurs have a vision to start their own business but it is not always a vision that’s shared by others. Seek help from others in order to bounce ideas from and improve your chances of success.

You may be getting to the end of this article with a little less enthusiasm than when you started. The dream to have your own business is not easy. If it was then everyone would be doing it. It’s a difficult and long road but it can be achieved and for the final tip I will leave you with a quote from Chris Gardner. If you haven’t heard of him then you may have heard of the movie based on his life. The Pursuit of Happiness is a movie starring Will Smith which documented Chris Gardener’s one-year struggle with homelessness before he became successful.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you, you can’t do it. You want something go get it period.” – Chris Gardner

Mark Wager designs leadership development programmes for teams and individuals across the Asia Pacific region. 

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