Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | March 22, 2011

5 steps to being a better entrepreneur

A few months ago, I wrote a post about some of the startup things I’m better at now that I’m (a little) older and wiser. Lately it’s occurred to me how much more I understand about the startup business in general these days. Not just that I’m a better salesperson or that I’m more willing to talk on the phone than I used to be, but that I actually feel like I’ve learned a thing or two about running a startup and being a good entrepreneur. (Just one or two things, mind you. Give me a few more years to figure the rest out.)

Now, I’m certainly not claiming that these are the only things you need to build a successful startup or even that these pertain to every single entrepreneur out there. These are simply some of the lessons I’ve learned that have helped us over the past few years. I’m sure there are plenty of other things you should be doing. In fact, I’d encourage you to share some of those things here if you have other ideas.

1. Be helpful. Help other people when you can. They’ll remember it. This goes for everyone – be nice to customers, co-workers, other entrepreneurs, neighbors, whoever. It’s a simple southern rule, but it’s a good one. Be helpful and courteous to everyone. It’s worth the time it takes. Plus, no one likes a self-absorbed asshole.

2. Make friends. Networking sucks; this is a scientifically demonstrated fact (really, it is). But you still need to do it. Build relationships, even if you don’t see the strategic value of a particular relationship right this second. The more people you know, the better positioned you’ll be later. Building a large, strong network takes years, so start now. Relationships I started 10 or more years ago are still incredibly valuable to me today. (PS – I wrote up some small talk tips if you need something to get started.)

3. Learn about and then get over your competitors. You obviously need to know what others in your space are doing. But don’t spend all day stressing over what they’re working on, how much they tweet about being in the office on weekends, how much money they’re spending on marketing, and everything else you could possibly worry about. Stay aware of them, but don’t let them freak you out. There’s always going to be someone else doing what you’re doing. So just keep doing your best work and try not to get bogged down in anxiety.

4. Know what you’re good at (and what you’re not). Work to your strengths when you can. It’ll keep you happier and more productive if you’re doing things you’re good at. This means that you need to delegate the tasks you’re not good at. One, you can’t possibly do everything. And two, someone else might be able to do some of those things better. As a wise Appozite advisor once said, successful businesses don’t build their cultures around founders’ weaknesses. Know what you can do and more importantly, what you can’t.

5. Keep going. If I had only one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur – or really anyone struggling with anything – it would be to just keep going. Do not quit. Perseverance is an incredibly useful trait for running a successful startup. Overnight successes really don’t exist; it almost always takes years and years for that awesome startup you just heard about to become an “overnight success.” This is true for most of us. So stick it out. Of course, simply sticking it out won’t guarantee success, but quitting definitely won’t get you there.

Lately, I’ve realized just how important these five simple things are. We wouldn’t be where we are with TweetReach if it wasn’t for the relationships Hayes and I have built over the years. And if we’d thrown in the towel any of the million times we might have wanted to, we definitely wouldn’t be here now. We still have a long way to go before we’re where we want to be with our startup, but over the past few months I’ve seen how incredibly crucial the above five things really are.

Got any to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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