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Published on April 29, 2020

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur

It’s no surprise that many people fantasize about a life where they are their own boss. Being an entrepreneur means living independently without the need to follow orders. Furthermore, entrepreneurship may lead to flexible work hours with no limit on your income and owning your own business empire.

However, building a business from the ground up is no easy feat. Only 40% of small businesses are profitable, while the other 60% either break even or lose money continuously.[1]

So how exactly does one master business in this harsh economy? Though there is no fixed formula, but here are some tips on learning how to help you learn business and get started as an entrepreneur.

1. Start Small

Starting small is underrated. Most aspiring entrepreneurs try to hit the ground running immediately, before even learning the basics and pitfalls to avoid. My advice is to take things slowly in the beginning and start small. Going big from day one isn’t always the best approach.

My partner and I just got on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia’s list of honorees[2]. However, we most definitely did not get there in a day. It took us 7 years to really get the hang of how to run our business, and it’s not something we were able to do from day one.

The first presentation I ever did was for a cheesecake shop in the United Kingdom for a few hundred dollars. It was not much, but it gave me the confidence to do bigger things and a happy customer is always good to have at the beginning.

Start off by trying to sell cheaper goods or services like selling old clothing pieces you no longer need online or offering graphic design services. These activities may seem trivial, but the opportunities they teach you cost management, basic marketing and how to deliver real value to your consumers (and dealing with challenges along the way)

Trying to fast-track your progress and by diving in immediately could lead to a rude awakening, potentially even business failure. 7 out of 10 small businesses are impacted by business failure , and statistics show they end up failing before their 10-year mark. Be it due to poor expense control or a lack of a proper business system, business failure can be minimized once you master the basics early.

2. Model After Success

Reading up founder stories online through feature articles, podcasts, and websites can give you the insights to how these outstanding individuals succeeded in their journey and the pitfalls to avoid on your own.

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Business leaders tend to leave patterns of success. Modeling after them, learning more about their world views, and vicariously going down the same path they took will give you a powerful head start, possibly clarifying difficult and similar decisions you’ll have to make.

Do ensure you pick the right person to model after. Choose someone who has reached the level you aspire to reach. Read up about his or her mottos and visions, their drawbacks and successes, including how they got to where they are now. To quote the old adage: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself!””

When I first started our business, I reached out personally to entrepreneurs I looked up to, like Ana Foureaux Frazao, who was a keynote designer at Apple at the time. Fortunately, they generously shared their experienced advice and encouragement that really got me through some tight spots.

Now, you’re lucky enough to be starting a business in a time where podcasts are all the rage[3] and experts share advice for free on Linkedin.

Every success story belies a road laden with challenges and pitfalls waiting to creep up on you. Discover more about these founders’ failures, how they picked themselves up, and apply these lessons you have learned to your own personal ventures. Not only do you get to avoid the mistakes they made, but you are also one step closer to your goal.

3. Enroll in a Course to Learn New Skills

Being an entrepreneur requires you to wear many hats, which often means that you have to take on more roles than you would be comfortable with. In a big company, there are a few essential roles that make the company tick, helmed by various people — HR, marketing, accounts, administrative, etc. Starting your own business means you’ll need to take on all of them.

Consistently acquiring new skill sets and experiences is the hallmark habit of a great entrepreneur.

Take some time to attend classes to improve your skills in areas that need work. Explore in-depth areas that you’re already adept at. By taking a crash course to explore different topics of business, you can hone all your business skills, especially those which you particularly avoided in school.

For example, apart from learning hard skills, like programming and design, you’ll also want to pick up soft skills, like negotiation, sales, and presentation skills.

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Being an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean you need to be good at everything, but it does mean that you need to be willing to try everything and become a jack-of-all-trades. Take the first step to better equip yourself with the most comprehensive duffel bag of skill sets for the long journey ahead because in the beginning, you’ll likely have to do it all by yourself.

4. Master Marketing

Our world is changing. We have children making millions filming reviews about toys[4] and teenage influencers earning more on good months than entry-level bankers. Attention is becoming scarcer, and if you know how to command it, you’ll be in a good position to profit massively.

As a starting point, you’ll want to master a few key elements and skill sets to begin learning marketing:

Platforms and Social Media

Get intimate with various new social platforms like TikTok, tackle professional audiences on LinkedIn, and get familiar with the old-but-gold Facebook channel for advertising. These will be your bread-and-butter channels that you’ll own apart from your own websites and will be crucial in getting the word out about your business.

Blogging and Publishing

Whether you’re using WordPress or Medium, the ethos is the same. Share valuable content for free that your audience will love and develop a community and expert identity. In turn, they’ll potentially purchase what you sell and spread your message.

Years back, SlideShare was the go-to platform for our niche before they got acquired by LinkedIn. I regularly put up PDFs there, which, in turn, got us hundreds of inquiries and leads. After a year or two, we had millions of people viewing our content. Now that it’s almost defunct, we’ve had to find new channels like LinkedIn to market.

Audience Personas

All the marketing tactics and strategies available will be for naught if you do not have a clear idea of who you’re targeting, what they want, and the best ways to reach them. Take time to first understand your audience inside-out — understand their desires, fears, and aspirations.

Pricing Strategies

Marketing should lead to you getting noticed. It should also lead to you getting paid. The latter is more difficult to accomplish effectively. Setting the right prices that will resonate with your audience is crucial to developing a successful marketing strategy and business.

5. Meet Other Entrepreneurs

Nothing beats surrounding yourself with smart, like-minded, and driven individuals who are also facing the same struggles as you are. You are not alone in this journey; there are others that can help you along the way!

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The road to being a successful entrepreneur can be rough and, most of all, lonely. There is a 100% chance that you’ll face challenges and hardship along the way, and having a strong mental game mindset is essential to persisting and staying optimistic.

Having an inner circle of entrepreneurs can offer you contextual advice on making difficult decisions and navigating your next steps. Exposing yourself to this new group of individuals is the best opportunity to pick up something new.

Using apps like Meetup, joining groups on LinkedIn, or attending business events on platforms like Eventbrite can set you up to meet your future inner circle of entrepreneurs.

You never know, you may just learn a little something that can ultimately bring you to greater heights and accomplish even more of the unknown.

Aside from that, you can potentially find business partners or collaborators that don’t compete directly but serve a similar customer group amongst your target audience .

6. Identify a Product Niche You Know Well

It’s easier to sell a product that you are familiar with intimately. You understand the pain points[5] that drive you to make a decision, and your potential customers will go through the same journey of decision-making. Understanding the pain points of the product, you know exactly the change you want to bring to it.

In the best-case scenario, what you’re selling could be what you’re passionate about.

Your interest may be in working out, for instance. As such, starting a business in that space can prove to be more interesting, and due to your intimate understanding of it, likely more successful, too.

We started our presentation consultancy, HighSpark, stemming from interest and expertise. Our existing skills in the area made it easier to get our first few clients versus selling a service or offering what we truly didn’t understand at all. We were also able to clearly articulate the pain points based on previous clients we helped on a freelance basis before starting the business.

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Good business ideas hardly just “come to you” by magic. However, that shouldn’t stop you from starting. Start with a passion, pick a pain point, and begin there. Your ideas and business model might evolve over time, but you’ll thank yourself for starting early.

7. Become an Intern

Before you start building your own empire, consider getting some first-hand experience in the real world to have a good kickstart. Without knowing how the gears work behind the scenes, you increase the chances of yourself making mistakes that could have been avoided.

Interning at a successful small company can be a good start. It can give you deep insights into the company’s inner workings and how its founders developed their business first-hand.

A well-selected internship can expand your horizons, provide an opportunity to work directly with and learn from the founders of the small company. In a larger corporation setting, you might not get the same level of responsibility.

You’ll also have the license to make a few mistakes in a safer environment. People are generally more forgiving towards interns, who are usually less experienced than full-time hires.

This opportunity will let you capitalize on your strengths and apply lessons learned to your business ventures with greater ease. Best of all, you get a free ticket to be mentored by a professional, so there is no need to feel your way in the dark when in doubt. You are not on your own!

Final Thoughts

These tips should be sufficient to get you started, but undertaking the responsibilities to nourish and grow your company takes a lot of courage.

With great resolve and continuous learning, you are only a few more steps away from becoming a successful entrepreneur!

More Tips on Becoming an Entrepreneur

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them) Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin 12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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