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One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is not believing in themselves. I’ve seen this time and time again in the field, where self-doubt creeps in, and the entrepreneur makes decisions out of fear, not confidence.
Typically, when this happens, an entrepreneur might decide to preserve capital, rather than explore ways to proactively use that capital. Or they might try to do everything themselves, rather than enlist resources that could perform the tasks more efficiently. This mentality also arises with entrepreneurs who need capital to expand but opt instead to sit on the sidelines.
The last scenario I want to address is the would-be entrepreneur who never even starts his or her business. These individuals are near and dear to my heart. I have probably encountered thousands of them during my five decades as an entrepreneur. Typically, they lack the belief in themselves to take the first steps to gather information, devise a business plan and seek capital. They procrastinate, hoping money will someday fall into their lap. It almost never happens.
When I have encountered such individuals, I have asked them some important questions that suggest to me whether they have what it takes to believe in themselves and take a risk. If the person answers “yes” to these questions listed below, they should absolutely bet on themselves and take the chance.
Do you have experience in the field?
Subject matter expertise is invaluable to an entrepreneur. I have a friend whose dad was a newspaper publisher. My friend did everything from selling newspapers on the street corner as a kid to writing articles as a teenager. When it came time to start his own business 25 years ago, he started a newsletter business. His experience in journalism was instrumental to his success.
Do you have the stomach to handle a few setbacks?
You will make mistakes. All entrepreneurs do. It is inevitable. My friend started his first subscription-based newsletter in the early 1990s. It failed. He didn’t give up on the idea. Instead, he took a full-time job with a newsletter publisher in order to learn how to correct the mistakes he made in the first attempt. Ten years later, he was ready again. This time, he charged too much, or $795 a year for subscriptions to his newsletter. He only sold a few subscriptions, hardly enough to justify all the energy and time it would take to write all those articles. But rather than refund the money and abandon his venture, he stuck with it. He lowered the price. Ultimately, he created a business that many journalists would love to have.
Are you willing to delegate?
It’s hard to watch money go out the door. Instead, some entrepreneurs might be tempted to manage every aspect of the business, including the technology. My friend recognized what he did well, and what he didn’t do well. He identified a team that could free his mind from the technology challenges and allow him to do what he did best — be a publisher. He also recognized the value of subscription services, which could get hundreds of libraries to subscribe in exchange for a small commission.
Will you go the extra mile for your clients or customers?
My friend was loyal to his initial customers, and then as his business grew, he was loyal to those customers, who brought in the most revenue. He also gave them other perks, like free reprints that they could use for their marketing initiatives. Pay it forward with your best customers, and it will pay off when it comes to their loyalty and referrals to other customers.
Are you willing to bet on yourself?
My friend knew what he had and was ready to put his own financial security on the chopping block. In the early years, he built up his credit score. Then when he needed capital, he didn’t hesitate. He took the low-interest credit card checks and invested in his business, sponsoring key conferences attended by prospective subscribers. It worked, as new subscribers jumped on board, and he erased the debt. To be sure, credit card debt is not for everyone. If you can get cheap money from a bank, go for it. But if you can’t, believe in yourself, and do whatever it takes to find success as an entrepreneur.
These qualities will not guarantee success. But if you have them or ultimately embrace them, then your chances will be greatly enhanced. As Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”