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5 Important Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Learn

5 Important Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Learn

A lot of people aspire to be successful entrepreneurs. When startups like Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Instagram go from rags to riches overnight; entrepreneurship seems exciting. Beginning their own startup offers creative millennials the chance to get out from under their bosses, break free and enjoy independence and success. Remember that if something looks too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.

The giddy heights of success are rarely reached without hard work, tough decisions and overcoming obstacles along the way. Being an entrepreneur means learning how to handle the bad days, overcome problems and keep your sanity (and cash flow) as you rise to the top. Check out these 5 important lessons every entrepreneur should learn.

Great Companies Can Grow from Failure

Many a great company has risen from the ashes of a previous failure. Failure, in fact, is sometimes more important than success when starting a new project. Learning from your mistakes gives you a better understanding of your company’s position in the market and a chance to tailor your product to your audience.

Just think about Instagram. Creator Kevin Systrom was among the first contenders on the Forbes 30-Under-30 list. But Instagram didn’t start out as a photo editing tool. Instagram was originally planned to be a geolocation app. What happened? Nobody used it.

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Faced with a do-or-die situation on his hands, Systrom decided to focus on what his customers wanted instead, which was filtering and sharing photos. Instead of collapsing at the prospect of failure, he turned things around to become a 32-year old billionaire today.

No one can learn everything just from reading books and business journals. Personal experience is key, and this generally means both setbacks and progress. Many successful entrepreneurs have failed on their first attempt and used their experiences to improve and grow stronger.

Be Sure to Listen to Your Customers

Building a long-term customer relationship is essential for any company, whether you work directly with consumers or with other businesses in the supply chain. Luckily, in a world dominated by social media, it’s easy to continue a permanent dialog between your brand and your customers.

Entrepreneurs now have access to updated information about their target audience and can use it to continuously improve their products. The most successful entrepreneurs are good listeners and follow feedback to understand their customers’ consumption habits. They then use this information to help grow their businesses.

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Knowing how your customers are thinking and what they want or need allows staying one step ahead of the competitors. When you have the right data to anticipate your buyers’ future needs, you can tailor your product or service accordingly.

Work with The Right People

No one can build a strong company on their own, at least not a multi-million-dollar concern. So one of the most important lessons an entrepreneur should learn is to surround themselves with intelligent people. Networking is the order of the day, and entrepreneurs of today are finding strength in numbers. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is one of the best ways to learn and grow your business.

Many new entrepreneurs spend long hours worrying about every last detail and getting sucked into managing day-to-day tasks. But when you spend too long working in your business, answering phones and wearing every hat; you can end up losing sight of the bigger picture. Apart from relying on a network of support and interchanging ideas; hiring the right staff to help you grow is essential.

Being the smartest person on your team is not the right strategy if you want to succeed. You should always think about hiring people who know more than you do in certain areas, who will challenge you and help take your startup and make it stronger.

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Social Proof is Vital

How times have changed from the one-way advertising mediums of the past. We no longer accept a bright-toothed smile starting down at us from a billboard, or a door-to-door salesman spouting the advantages of his product. The internet and amount of time young consumers spend on it has brought with it transparency in business interactions.

Stephen May, creator of Memory Foam Doctor, a site dedicated to helping consumers find the right mattress, understands the power of peer reviews. His entire portal, in fact, is dedicated to transparent product reviews, expert opinions, and consumer experience. May has over 50,000 individual consumer reviews on his site. No money is taken for reviewing a product, so customers can trust that the information they’re reading is unbiased and transparent.

Over 70% of consumers confirm that positive customer reviews can cause them to trust a business more. Smart entrepreneurs then, need to understand how powerful harnessing social proof can be for propelling their businesses forward. If you don’t include customer reviews on your website, you can guarantee the information will be online elsewhere.

Whether it comes from an expert, celebrity or a regular user, social proof is an excellent tactic when it comes to gaining trust among new customers. You can get support by finding a website building guide and checking its resources and advice.

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Outsourcing Makes a Company More Competitive

Trying to do everything in-house requires a lot of time, money and resources. All of which could be better invested by outsourcing certain tasks. If your expertise doesn’t lie in cyber security, accounting, online marketing, or any other area, you’ll be more able to stay focused on your core business by getting it done out of the house.

Outsourcing gives your company access to skilled teams, often with lower cost and increased efficiency. Some business owners are afraid to outsource and lose control, but smart entrepreneurs know that taking risks is part of the daily routine. Finding trustworthy partners to work with is vital for a company’s competitiveness.

Every day provides us with a chance to learn something new. Most entrepreneurs learn these lessons in hard ways, after trying several paths to make their companies more successful. But if you ever feel deflated or defeated, take heart; you’re not the only one. If you’ve failed at least once, been turned down or rejected, then raise a glass to Oprah, Branson, and Gates. Just a small number of ridiculously successful entrepreneurs who learned valuable lessons the hard way.

Featured photo credit: elcapatrimonial via elcapatrimonial.com.br

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Erick Clifford

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More About Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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