Starting, running, and growing a business isn’t easy. About half of small businesses fail within five years. That’s a scary statistic.
Want to up the odds of your company being among the 50% that survive? One way to lessen your learning curve is to study successful entrepreneurs. Reading interviews with big-time business leaders is a free way to get priceless advice.
I’ve been doing a lot of this type of reading lately, and I want to share the best tips I’ve picked up. Here are 10 lessons about business I’ve gleaned from a handful of Q&As with Marie Forleo.
For those of you who don’t know, Marie Forleo a business coach, speaker, bestselling author, and host of a web TV show called MarieTV. She’s also the founder of B-School, an 8-week program designed to help creatives build meaningful, profitable online businesses.
1. Start Now
How many of us wait way longer than we should to launch a business or program? Or never do it at all? Very often, we think we can’t put our creation out into the world until it’s perfect. The truth is, though, perfect is unattainable. Done is better than perfect.
Waiting to implement is not only doing a disservice to ourselves and our dreams, it may be hurting others. If you have something special and helpful to share, not doing so is depriving someone else of that gift.
Stop waiting, start doing.
2. Trust Your Gut
A lot of newer entrepreneurs want “the rules” for success. While there are always best practices to consider, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for business.
You may see others killing it by following a certain approach, but that doesn’t mean you can copy-and-paste your way to similar results. Rather than doing things the way you think you’re supposed to, do them in a way that feels authentic to you and your business.
I heard once that your instincts are a muscle; if you don’t use them (ie listen to them), they stop working. So the next time your gut says to do something—even if it seems contrary to what you’re “supposed to do”—listen to it, trust it, and do it.
3. Be Yourself
It can be tempting to act the part of the successful business owner, particularly before you get your footing. While “fake it ‘til you make it” can be beneficial in many ways, it’s not a good idea to pretend to be something you’re not.
People can sniff out a fraud from miles away. I’ve learned first-hand that people respect and admire authenticity. They’d rather see the real you—flaws and all—than feel like you’re selling them a bill of goods.
Putting myself out there 100% was scary, but my business has boomed (and my happiness has increased) since I stopped worrying about “looking professional” and started being me in all ways at all times.
4. Watch Your Attitude
It’s easy to play the victim. It’s easy to blame your problems or failures on circumstances beyond your control. It’s easy to never accept responsibility for how your own thoughts and actions affect your life.
It’s hard to own your shortcomings. It’s hard to acknowledge that you always have a choice about how to respond in any situation. It’s hard to really dig deep, do the work, and start having personal accountability for your life and business.
But boy oh boy, that hard work pays off! When I shifted my own mindset from “I’m just a freelancer” to “I’m a badass CEO,” my business took off. Learning to own my authority (and stop coming up with excuses for why I couldn’t) has allowed me to really start crushing my goals.
5. Stop Overthinking
It would be a giant lie if I said I have everything figured out, or that I have reached some higher state of consciousness. Far from it. I still need to do a ton of mindset work, and this quote from Marie really speaks to one of my weak spots.
I’m a terrible overthinker. And I’m sure that has a negative effect on my business. That’s because done is better than perfect. Action matters more than a great idea. But how often do we fail to implement something because we worry it’s not good enough (raising my hand!).
So, let’s agree to stop analyzing every tiny detail to the point of killing our ideas. Instead, let’s start taking action and sharing our gifts with the world!
6. Just Say No
“You’re in control of how you spend your time, not anyone else. So stop over-committing and start saying no. Clear the decks and break the addiction to busyness…The world is a huge digital distraction mecca if you allow it to be. But remember that every device has an off button. Use it.”
When someone says they’re busy, very often the truth is just that they have done a lousy job of prioritizing and scheduling. We may hate to admit it, but most of us could easily carve an extra hour or two out of each day if only we turned off the TV or quit checking Facebook every 10 minutes.
If you find yourself in a constant state of overwhelm, maybe it’s time to analyze how you’re actually spending your time. An honest assessment may help you reallocate time to what matters most.
(If you want help with this time audit, consider reading “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think” by Laura Vanderkam, who walks you through a detailed analysis of how you’re actually using your days.)
7. Failure Isn’t Fatal
We tend to give too much weight to every single thing we do in our business (or lives). That leads to overthinking and worry. When we analyze each action as if it is the most important thing we’ll do this year, we are less likely to take risks. And risks are what bring the biggest rewards.
It’s important to get a little perspective. In the grand scheme of your business, how much does one photo on Instagram really matter? Will anyone really remember that launch that bombed in 5 years? Does losing a handful of email subscribers really mean the death of your business?
My mantra is, “failure isn’t fatal.” I try to remind myself of that frequently because I have a tendency to let fear of failure stop me from taking chances. But when I do take a risk? I’m almost always pleasantly surprised at the results.
8. Learn From Mistakes
While failure isn’t fatal, it does happen. I’ve had my fair share of missteps—big and small—in my business over the years. There were the bridges I burned when I dropped balls after a death in my family, the pivot toward mentoring that didn’t work out, the emails with typos, and more.
In the past, I’d let each problem serve as validation of my fears and use it as an excuse to not take more risks. More recently, however, I’ve shifted my mindset and now try to take a more positive approach.
Rather than “failing,” I’m “learning.” Each time something goes wrong, I figure out what I can learn from the experience, and then use that to help me improve the next time.
9. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
As I said, I have shifted my mindset to look at failure as an opportunity, not a problem. It’s possible to make similar mindset shifts about everything in our businesses. It all boils down to whether you have a positive or negative outlook.
Positive people are more successful, according to many studies. One found that a positive attitude leads to greater job satisfaction, better job performance, and even a longer lifespan.
You have a choice in how you interpret everything that happens in your business. You can waste energy focusing on the “bad” stuff, or you can flip the switch and decide to view everything as a gift.
Is a client a pain in the butt? Be grateful you’re learning how to improve your communication skills. Is your internet failing left and right? Use the breaks to do something to improve your health (drink water, go for a walk). Has your income dipped this month? Be thankful for the push to work even harder next month.
10. Stick With It
It’s natural to get frustrated when things don’t go our way, and even to want to throw in the towel. The best leaders, however, know patience pays off.
That’s not to say it’s a bad idea to make swift decisions and take immediate action on great ideas. Do that! But it’s important to realize change takes time—and very often, the bigger the change, the more time it takes.
Don’t give up on your dream just because it doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient, stay focused, keep working, and you’ll likely get results for all that hard effort.