In the last six months I’ve become an devote fan of Mixergy.com, a video interview blog where the website’s founder (Andrew Warner) posts an interview with a different entrepreneur each weekday. Each interview is approximately one hour long and goes into great detail about how each entrepreneur attained success. It also details the mistakes they made along the way. Most interviews are high quality and very inspiring. After listening to about 70 (about 100 hours total) of these interviews thus far, I’ve begun notice a common pattern among most of the success stories. Some of the commonalities may seem obvious, but for those businesses that have failed, chances are they did not possess one or more of these traits. Here are the key points:
- Get focused. – Are you currently running more than one business? Do you have numerous side projects? If so, stop. Pick one business or project to focus on. When started a business you have limited time and finite resources. You business will never be as great unless you learn to how to focus like a laser on it.
- Be passionate. – Don’t just chase money. In the long run, you’re more likely to enjoy your job and less likely to burn out if you have a personal passion for what you’re working on.
- Solve a problem. – People buy products and services because they become convinced that it can solve a a real problem for them. For example, for a patient who has diabetes and needs to monitor his insulin levels, having a discrete, mobile device to do that solves a problem. Another example, say I want to stay in touch with friends, fans, and clients with an email newsletter. Web-based email marketing software solves that problem for me.
- Act now. – Align your thoughts and words with your actions. Stop thinking or planning or dreaming so much and get out there and do it! Life is short and one day will be your last, so get started now.
- Charge more than it costs. – Fundamentally, you have to generate a profit to stay in business and continue to exist. Turn a profit sooner rather than later, otherwise it’s game over.
- Hire great people (carefully). – Bad hires cost a lot in the long run. They hurt profits, culture, and morale, and getting rid of them can be a further distraction. Fire quickly. Hire slowly. This goes for finding co-founders too.
- Test constantly. – This is true for web-based businesses as well as offline business. In order to improve a business, planning will only go so far. You have to be willing to experiment with different product ideas or marketing ideas if you ever want to achieve something truly great. Test early and often.
- Make sales. – Cold calls can be scary at first, but if you’re passionate about your product people are more willing to give you a chance. It also gets easier with practice.
- Talk to customers. – To improve your sales, ask your customers questions about what they like or don’t like about your product or service. Many times they will give you invaluable ideas for where you can improve, and often they appreciate hearing from you.