Entrepreneurship is the ultimate roller coaster. Having been through building a business twice now, I can attest to the fact that some days I'm high as a kite and other days I'm filled with fear. To ride out those wild swings, and to end up on top, it takes a lot of help.
It can help to talk to other entrepreneurs. I recently spoke about this with Justin Beegel, the 28-year-old founder of Infographic World, an information graphics company based in New York City. The company, which launched in 2009, is experiencing triple-digit annual revenue growth, and Beegel has learned a lot along the way. Here are his seven tips for entrepreneurs ready to launch their first business:
- Have an amazing support system: If you don't, go find one. I don't mean just your parents. Make sure that you have a few people in your life that you can go to, who know what you're going through, that you can bounce ideas off of, have point out things you're doing wrong, and just talk to in general. Without the support of my father and my best friend who started a company a few years before me, I probably wouldn't have made it out of my first year in business alive.
- Expect utter hell, and you'll be just fine: Any glamour you see in movies about entrepreneurial success, just do yourself a favor and pretend you never saw it. Taking the leap to start a company sets you up for the most indescribable ride you can possibly imagine. When it's your company, you live it and breathe it, every day, all day. The day has no beginning, and it has no end. It's just always there, as it will likely consume your thoughts all the time. When things go wrong, you will feel like you are a failure and that the world is crashing down. I know this because I've experienced that feeling about a dozen times in the five years I've run Infographic World. Half of those times came in the first 18 months, as the beginning is the most turbulent period. So, though nothing can prepare you for this journey, just expect a rocky ride, and you'll be ahead of the game.
- Make sure you have passion and perseverance: Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, famously said: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day of your life." This maxim has tremendous significance in the startup world. To succeed, entrepreneurs must find a business they are passionate about because it will consume their entire life. Confucius knew what he was talking about. Though there have been trying times since I started my company, I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. Nothing in the work world is more fulfilling than owning a company.
- Bring the best people together: This may be the most important part of expanding a business. Seek out the most talented and hard-working people possible, and keep them happy. At some point, you will not be able to do everything yourself, nor should you, and your business will be only as good as its people.
- Set realistic goals and timelines: Most New Year's resolutions are forgotten by March or sooner. Typically, they were great ideas at conception, so it is critical to regroup quarterly and make sure your business goals are on track. Set goals that are realistic and measurable. This may be the difference between success and failure.
- Make time to read a little each day: I've made a point of taking some time to read the news every day the past six months or so. I get The New York Times delivered daily. On my way out, I'll grab just the business section and read it over the course of a day. Reading can help spark ideas that you can apply to your business and keep in mind things that caused others to fail.
- Just jump: The time will never feel quite right to start a business. There will always be reasons, real and imagined, as to why you should wait. The problem is that waiting gives the devil time. If you have a good idea, believe in yourself, and are prepared, you should take the leap. Make 2014 the year you change your life.