6 Surprising Entrepreneurial Lessons You Won’t Learn In Business School

Posted in: Innovation

It is no secret that the road of entrepreneurship is full of twists, turns, ups, downs and tunnels where you’re straining to see the light at the other end.

This journey is truly made to weed out those who do not have what it takes to cut it in this cutthroat world, as it will lead you through some of the most thrilling, exciting, difficult and trying moments of your life. Thankfully, these are also the moments that make it all the more worthwhile when you come out successfully on the other side.

For further reassurance, there are many entrepreneurs out there that you can look to as proven examples that it’s possible to make it out of your entrepreneurial journey alive, successful and better for the challenges you’ve overcome. And luckily, many of these entrepreneurs are more than willing to share their tried and true tips (and warnings against some of their own failures) to help budding entrepreneurs start their journey on the right path and, hopefully, make less mistakes of their own.

Here are a few of our favorite important (and often surprising) lessons from successful entrepreneurs that you may not have learned in business school:

1. Keep tabs on what the leaders in your industry are doing

When you are first beginning your entrepreneurial journey, it helps to totally immerse yourself in everything about the industry. What the key players in that industry are doing (and finding success with), what trends are coming and going, and generally keeping track of the heartbeat of the business world you are trying to break into. Mark Cuban was a big believer of this when he founded his first company, Micro Solutions, in 1982.

“I was a PC consultant, and I sold software and did training and configured computers,” he told Forbes. “I wrote my own programs. I immersed myself in the PC industry and studied Microsoft and Lotus and watched what the smartest people did to make things work.” Luckily, this research and trend-tracking paid. Off. When Cuban sold Micro Solutions to CompuServe for $6 million in 1990, it had revenues of $30 million and 85 total employees.

2. Know that there is no such thing as genius

When many people see entrepreneurs doing successful things, they often write them off as “genius.” In fact, many often label successful, outstanding projects and ideas as simply a strike of genius, a once-in-a-lifetime idea, or even an project that was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. However, each of these notions takes away from all of the hard work, time and passion and that entrepreneurs put into their projects. It also prohibits budding entrepreneurs from thinking that they too can easily achieve this level of “genius” if they follow the right path.

Donny Deutsch, known for his work on CNBC and his successful past in the advertising industry, found that he was much better off in the business world when he dismissed the idea of genius altogether. "I have yet to meet a genius in my business,” he told Inc. “Actually, I've yet to meet a genius in anything. Once you realize there are no geniuses out there, you can think, I can do that. One reason I've succeeded is I have that naïve sense of entitlement."

3. Be able to adjust on the fly

It’s easy to fall in love with your first business idea and stay true to it at whatever cost. However, sticking headfast to your first, second or even third plan, without the willingness to alter or improve on your original ideas, can doom you to failure. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, instead suggests that you never get too attached to what you are working on and be willing to adjust your plans.

“The plan you start out with is never the plan that actually works,” he told Huffington Post. “I believe if more entrepreneurs went in with that attitude they would be more successful. Startups tend to fall in love with their product, when they should be more focused on building a loyal audience, listening, and adjusting the offering on the fly until it takes.”

4. Progress often happen when things fall off course

Many entrepreneurs often work endlessly to keep their projects and ideas on the right track, fearing that they will lose their vision if they go too outside of the box. However, sometimes projects need to be thrown off course in order for progress to happen, or even to uncover the true nature of what your calling may be.

Michael Bloomberg did this in a big way when he left Bloomberg LP, the financial media empire he created, in 2001. When discussing his decision to walk away from his company, that same year he told Inc., "Things are going great now, and that's the time to leave. If you want to walk out rather than being carried out, you have to go when everybody says, 'How could you possibly leave? Things are so good.' Every time I hear that, I think, Damn it, I have to go. I don't have any choice."

5. The easy route will be tempting, but don’t give in

Many people often repeat the familiar saying, “no one ever won by taking the easy way out.” And while most people know this idea to be true, when an easy path presents itself to you after you have been beaten, bruised and kicked down by your idea, you have to find the willpower to say no.

“The biggest failure I ever had was when I invested in a $2000 program that promised if I simply followed their suggestions I would make a ton of money,” Michael A. Stelzner, CEO and founder of Social Media Examiner, told Huffington Post. “I did precisely what they suggested and it was a huge failure. And ethically I felt disgusting. The return rate was off the charts and it was dismal experience. I used all those negative experiences to regroup and figured out a way to launch events that fit within my comfort zone.”

6. Invest in good ideas, even if they are outside of your industry

Once you begin finding nuggets of success during your entrepreneurial journey, reinvest in projects, people and ideas that you believe in – even if those projects may be in a totally different lane than where you have traveled before.  For example, while many people know Steve Jobs for his life-changing work with technology and computers, many do not realize that he actually first became a billionaire due to the investments he made early on in Pixar Animation Studios, which he eventually sold to Disney in a deal worth $7.4 billion.

“Shortly after leaving Apple, Jobs made what would turn out to be the most profitable investment of his life,” according to Fortune.com. “For $5 million he picked up the collection of computer graphics experts assembled by George Lucas into his Industrial Light and Magic Computer Division and which was renamed Pixar.” This sale of Pixar to Disney left Jobs with a seat on the Disney board and the single largest share of Disney stock (7%, worth more than $3 billion); all because he saw a great idea created by smart, passionate people, and decided to get on board.

If you are an entrepreneur, which surprising business or entrepreneurial lesson do you with you could share with your younger self when you were first starting out? Let us know in the comments and we may share your idea in an upcoming blog post!


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