Startup Advice

How to Get in the Start-Up State of Mind

Most people, normal people, value things like security, stability, the comfort of a familiar routine. They’re happy to have a good job, with a nice benefits package. They want to know what’s expected of them each day. They want to know that their paycheck will be deposited on time. It gives them peace of mind.

But entrepreneurs are a different breed.

We don’t want to be comfortable; we want to be creative. We don’t want stability and security; we want freedom. We want to be challenged. Entrepreneurs are driven by a certain hunger – some might even call it madness. We can’t settle for a life of boring routine; we have to go our own way and do our own thing, no matter the risk.

Although many may dream of starting their own business and stepping out on the entrepreneurial path, not everyone has the guts to follow through with it. And still fewer have what it takes to be successful. Those precious few who face the risks and challenges involved in running a business, and actually come out on top, almost always possess certain rare qualities. They think a little differently than most. They are successful because they have the right mindset.

For those of you crazy enough to want to ride the demanding and rewarding roller-coaster that is the life of an entrepreneur, I give you these 7 keys to getting in the “start-up state of mind.”

1. Be Driven

When you’re running your own business, you don’t have a boss or manager breathing down your neck, cracking the whip to keep you on task – unless you count emails and phone calls from angry clients, demanding to know why the haven’t received their order. You have to rely on your own passion, your own drive to succeed. You’ve got to be a self-motivated go-getter that can stay “in the zone” and get things done.

2. Be Organized

Even the most driven and passionate person can run a business into the ground if they fail to stay organized. Success requires discipline and strategy. You have to have a well thought out business plan and be able to communicate that plan to everyone on your team. It’s also important to keep meticulous track of income and expenditures, meetings and schedules, documents and receipts, etc. If you can’t organize your time and your paperwork, you’d better hire someone who can.

3. Be Focused

Every business owner has more work to do than there is time to do it in. And with so many tedious daily tasks such as accounting, scheduling, record keeping, managing emails and social media accounts… it’s all too easy to get lost in the minutiae. Successful entrepreneurs must be able to set priorities, and stay focused on what’s essential. You have to look at the overwhelming list of things to do, zero in on what’s most important, and get it done without getting distracted.

4. Be Flexible

An entrepreneur must wear a lot of different hats, especially in the early days when the workload exceeds the size of your team (and your budget). You might be a talented and passionate designer or engineer, but from day to day you’ll also need to be a manager, a secretary, a marketer, a fundraiser, etc. Being able to shift smoothly between these different roles can make the difference between running a successful business, or winding up in a psyche ward with a nervous breakdown.

5. Be Creative

Your business is based on a brilliant idea, right? Of course it is – you’re a freakin’ genius. But that first creative spark is just the beginning. The success of your idea depends on your ability to stay creative, to think outside the box. You have to find new ways to approach common problems, and offer innovative solutions. You have to distinguish yourself from the competition in the quality of your products and services, as well as your branding and online presence. You have to continue to offer the world something truly unique and valuable, or be lost in the sea of struggling small businesses, and sink into failure and obscurity.

6. Be Connected

Business is all about relationship, and building your business depends on your ability to cultivate strong relationships. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but ultimately your company is built and run by people – your partners and investors, your employees, clients and customers. You have to put together a team that has chemistry, that works well together. You’ve got to communicate your goals and expectations, and be open to feedback and creative input – you never know where a great idea will come from. You’ve got to be make smart use of social media to engage your potential customers and build a devoted fan base. And most importantly, you have to treat every client with the respect and attention that turns them into a repeat customer, a die-hard fan, and a source of future referrals.

7. Be Willing to Make Mistakes

We’ve all heard of “Murphy’s Law” – what can go wrong, will go wrong. No matter what your line of work, unforeseen circumstances are going to bring up unexpected challenges. Even the most carefully laid plan will occasionally derail, and blow up in your face. Starting your own business is a risk, after all – if it were easy, everyone would do it. So you’ve got to be willing to make mistakes, to look like a fool, to fail spectacularly. And when the unthinkable happens, and you fall flat on your face, you’ve got get right back up, dust yourself, and get back to work.

Your going to screw up once in a while, everybody does. It’s how you handle your failures that defines you. Will you let it get the best of you? Will you quit and walk away, hanging your head in shame? Or will you shake it off and keep moving forward? Will you make excuses and point fingers? Or will you take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and let them make you tougher and smarter?

The choice is yours.

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