In the early days as the founder of my language learning tech startup Smigin, there always seemed to be something to learn, a new skill to acquire or a myriad of things I urgently needed to become better, faster or more adept at doing. Every hard lesson learned reinforced the value of time and information and each bump in the road was chalked up to experience.
We all know that we need to learn from mistakes and apply the lessons learned to future behaviors in an attempt to avoid a recurrence of the same fate. What most of us don’t realize is that there is a name for that process: behaviorism or behavioral psychology.
Behaviorism assumes that our behaviors are either in response to certain environmental stimuli or are based on our history. Behaviorism, in that case, fits perfectly with the notion that lessons learned can, and will, condition us to forming positive habits for future behavior. The following seven behaviors are among the most impactful for entrepreneurs and adopting and adapting to them will help navigate the road ahead with greater ease.
Be afraid of minutiae. It can suck the life from you and the hours from your day. As you set tasks for yourself daily ask yourself the question “Can anyone else do this?” If so, send it their way. As an entrepreneur everything you touch needs to be directly related to growing revenue, growing your brand or growing your business. You need to be the driver of that big vision, so delegate to team members or outsource to others. By doing so you’ll maintain your sanity and allow space for the critical issues that will help get you closer to your goals.
Most people shudder when they think of networking and many would consider a visit to the dentist less painful than an obligatory networking event! However, there is a different way to think about the concept of networking in today’s digital age. Networking expert and author of “Build Your Dream Network” J. Kelly Hoey suggests that “cultivating both deep and broad networks creates opportunity” and that we should change how we think about networking in general. Her new book on the subject “reshapes your perception of networking as something we're all doing anyway (social media for example), and that by doing it consistently and courteously in the areas of our genuine professional interests we can advance our careers.”
3. Know your numbers
Regardless of your background or level of education, knowing your numbers as an entrepreneur is critical. You need to be able to confidently discuss revenue, growth numbers, financial projections, cash flow and funding requirements as if it were all second nature to you. If you aim to raise venture capital this is an even more requisite skill as it’s the language of choice of investors everywhere.
4. Get your pitch down
You need to be able to describe your business in one sentence. Beyond that you need an elevator pitch – typically a one-minute pitch where you can succinctly communicate the concept, offering and benefits in everyday language to a stranger. The old adage goes that if your granny can understand it, then your pitch works.
5. Overcome your fear of public speaking
If you are not talking about your business then don’t expect anyone else to do so either. Public speaking conjures up images of on-stage presentations in front of a room full of people. In reality, public speaking is any conversation you have with multiple people at one time about your business. Renowned experts share all kinds of tips and tricks (Google them) for reducing nerves and delivering a great presentation, but the one element that trumps them all is practice. The more practiced you are, the less nervous you will feel, and the more confident you will sound –even if that is not the case! Public speaking won’t get easier with time, but it will get easier with practice.
6. Ask the direct questions
Every successful salesperson will tell you to “ask for the business”. If you don’t ask the direct question, then how can you hope to be successful in sales? The same is true in other areas – ask for help, ask advice, ask for an introduction, ask for an investment, ask for a second chance. It’s much harder to say no to a direct ask so leverage that to your advantage.
7. Play to your strengths
You’re not great at everything. You may not even be good at most things, but there are some things that you excel at. Make them your priority as no one else will be as efficient or as effective as you are when it comes to those areas. There are certain things that you can learn, others that you can improve upon, but there will always be those that you will never master – nor should you waste your time trying. Accept what those are and delegate them elsewhere. You’ve more important things to do.