Want to Be an Entrepreneur? Then Be a Risk-Taker

Want to Be an Entrepreneur? Then Be a Risk-Taker

As Mark Zuckerberg says, the biggest risk is not taking any risks. It may sound cliche, but it’s true. Bill Gates would have never created Microsoft if he didn’t drop out of college and commit to his vision. Tony Hsieh flirted with bankruptcy, even selling his apartment at one point, to keep Zappos afloat.

While the internet – even this very site – is filled with pieces declaring that entrepreneurship is not for everyone, I’m here to offer some advice for those of you who have already done that soul searching and decided that you are an entrepreneur. This is less “wisdom” and more “I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, so maybe you don’t have to … or, at least, you can make different ones so we can compare notes.”

1. Forget the haters in the early stages.

Even before the internet, everyone had haters. But now it can be harder than ever to distance yourself from the vocal minority of self-proclaimed experts who are sure you will fail. Focus on your vision and your goals instead of what others are saying. The path of entrepreneurship and starting your own company is challenging but rewarding.

The obstacles along the way are opportunities for growth and improvement, but there will also be times when you falter. Just remember to stay true to yourself, and only take advice from people who inspire you or who you trust. Everyone’s got an opinion, so you can take some with a grain of salt.

2. Listen to your customers.

Your business is up and running, and that’s great! But now comes the tricky part – figuring out what’s best for your company, including the next steps to expand, grow and be profitable. It might seem like the smart thing to do is check out what your competitors are doing or what experts recommend, but you’d be mistaken. It doesn’t matter what your competitors are doing or what you think your customers need; it’s all about what your customers are telling you.

If your target audience skews toward the younger side, what sets them apart from older customers? If people are complaining about your customer service representatives, what can you do to fix that? Your customers’ opinions are important, and while you might not be able to cover everything from day one, it’s important to still put the customer first. Be active in your community, such as by generating feedback and running focus groups to help you design future products or focus on growth.

Listening is key. It allows you to take on something that your competitors might not be doing. It might sound like a big risk to put your company’s future in the hands of your customers, but it’s the only way to step forward.

3. Take the risk and make mistakes.

Don’t be afraid to fail, but if you do, continue to make mistakes until you’re satisfied with where you are. Vera Wang started out as a figure skater, but she failed to make the Olympic team and turned to designing bridal gowns. Walt Disney was once fired by a news editor who said he lacked imagination and went bankrupt several times before building Disneyland. Your vision might not always be as bright and clear to others as it is to you. And even if it is, there may still be obstacles in your way, like those aforementioned haters.

It’s important to take these chances and make your mistakes. Taking risks is not only about making additions but also knowing when to take things away from your product line or offerings and potentially set yourself up for negative feedback. Your industry might not be ready for the innovation you’re trying to set forth, but continue anyway. It can only improve your brand if you’re prepared to handle the backlash.

Being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s even harder when you’re afraid to take risks or are always listening to others. But don’t give up – things can and will get better.

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