If you want to succeed in running your own company but don't have all the answers, a serial entrepreneur is one of the best people to ask for advice. One such fount of knowledge you might consider is Mitch Berk, CEO of the upscale matchmaking service Selective Search, who has more than 35 years' experience launching and developing businesses, as well as working on marketing campaigns involving the likes of the Rolling Stones, Kenny Rogers, and Tim McGraw.
Here's his advice for succeeding as an entrepreneur.
1. Have a clear vision.
When you launch your business, you must be crystal clear about what you're trying to accomplish. How is what you're offering the world unique? How does it stack up compared with the competition? What will you do to implement your vision?
2. Believe in yourself.
If you don't, no one else will. In fact, your conviction must be unflappable in the face of the inevitable testing of your spirit. "Positive energy breeds positive outcomes," Berk says. "You can never show weakness or a lack of commitment to what you're trying to do."
3. Cultivate resiliency.
This may be the most critical trait of any successful entrepreneur, considering that getting beaten up is one thing you can count on more than anything else. "Get used to it," Berk says. "You [have to] forget about the pains of yesterday and bring all of your positive energy."
4. Hire smart and committed people.
Hire for character as much as for qualifications. Then, when your company hits bumps in the road, you can rest assured that the very best people are on your side. "Look into their souls to assess whether they're committed, quality people," he says.
5. Seek to develop innovation.
Innovation--particularly anything that can be patented or protected--will separate your company from the competition, increase demand for your products or services, and increase your equity when it comes to thinking about your exit strategy. "There's no place in any business for me-too products or services. There's no barrier to entry. They get knocked off too easily," he says.
6. Develop an advisory board.
You don't know everything. Smart people surround themselves with wise, trustworthy, and experienced mentors who can lend their advice when it comes to short- and long-term strategy and financial decisions. "You can give this board real authority to have oversight or you can just ask them to serve as advisers, but either way, the kind of information and perspective that you'll gain from these kinds of smart people will be motivating, stimulating, and very helpful," he says.
7. Strive to build operating profits and equity value.
While you may be focused on making money and maximizing profits, it's equally important to properly manage your cash flow. "As an entrepreneur, you'll make your decisions differently and you'll operate the company differently if equity value is a parallel objective to profit-taking from the start," he says.
8. Don't take any shortcuts.
You'll never have enough budget to do everything you want, therefore you must prioritize what's really important and execute it at the highest level possible. "This will prevent the entrepreneur from having to spend more time and more money redoing items that were developed as a Band-Aid approach," he says. "There's never enough time to do it, but there's always enough time to redo it."
9. Understand that cash is king.
Your cash flow is what keeps you alive, and the lack of it results in shortcuts, bad decision-making, and taking on too much debt. "All these things can be disastrous in terms of the longevity and livelihood of your business," he says.
10. Make your good ideas scalable.
Make every decision as if your company will someday be 100 times larger than it is. "There's a unique value to a scalable business model from day one," he says. "At some point, that scalability will provide equity...[that] will make you feel gratified for all the long hours of hard work and all the pressure and sacrifices you make to build your business."
11. Stay true to your culture.
In other words, do things that are consistent with your integrity, personality, and brand. In fact, your internal culture is the same thing as your brand. "As businesses grow, they tend to get away from the root of why they were founded," he says. "By having a strong integral culture, you tend to be able to maintain the intensity of the origin of your idea longer."