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31 Things You Can Do To Build A $1 Million Dollar Business In 3 Years.

31 Things You Can Do To Build A $1 Million Dollar Business In 3 Years.

It’s been almost three years since my wife Irene and I quit our day jobs to pursue the dream of building a business.

We were both at a stage in our lives where merely working to make a dollar was not rewarding enough. We wanted to create something.

And we did, in a way. Today, Arielle has a team of 5 staff and in 2015, our revenue will reach $1 million. All without taking a single dollar of debt or investment.

Although the numbers look promising, the journey of building the business has been an unpredictable one, often hair-raisingly confronting and far from smooth.

Here I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned on this path.

1. Realize That You Are The Problem.

The business you’re about to build will be a direct extension of you. Its DNA will mirror your own beliefs, motivations, worldviews, strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re experiencing a problem in your business, it’s because you haven’t yet developed a capacity for something that the world requires you to learn in order to move forward on your path.

2. Address Issues At Their Core.

One of the main challenges for a new business, for example, is to get enough clients. If there’s not enough of them, you might be tempted to view it as a marketing problem.

While that is true, there’s more to it than that. At a deeper level, it’s also probably an empathy and generosity problem on behalf of the person in charge of marketing.

If this person is not wired to solve other people’s problems and doesn’t experience joy from a pure act of giving, teaching them about USPs and SEO will be a poor investment of time.

3. Embrace Personal Growth.

Your business is a giant classroom in which you’ll get an opportunity to learn about your own barriers and – if you’re willing – to move past them.

The aim is to use your role as a business founder as an opportunity to grow as a human being (which will, in turn, bring about happiness and fulfillment; not to use your business as a vehicle to build fame and fortune in order to bring about happiness (it won’t).

4. Believe That Final Destination Is A Myth.

When I was starting out, I watched too many YouTube videos in which business founders talked about raising millions of dollars and being bought by Google in the space of 6 months.

This led me to be distracted by the promise of a magic, fictitious destination – one where I have “made it”, there are no struggles, no threats and little stress.

5. Enjoy The Process Of Building A Business.

The reality of achieving business goals is that every time one is reached, a new set of challenges present themselves, some of which were not relevant or visible at earlier stages.

It means that the very process of building a mature business has the effect of moving goal posts back hardwired into it.

A business that’s struggling to define its value proposition, for example, has little concern for refining processes and writing manuals. However, one that’s trying to scale will view those as a priority.

The lesson here is to cease aiming for a future where life is effortless and learn to enjoy the day-to-day challenge of solving new problems.

6. Don’t Let Your Time Be Easily Wasted.

Results are a product of your effort multiplied by traction.

The problem is that when you’re starting out, you don’t really know what you’re doing, so you don’t have much traction.

It means that a lot of your effort, and possibly money, is wasted on spinning your wheels in the mud. You simply haven’t yet figured out which of your actions create the most value – and that’s totally normal.

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7. Believe That Woody Allen Was Right – “80% Of Success Is Showing Up” – Woody Allen.

This leaves you with just one other variable which leads to results – the amount of effort you put in.

If you’re juggling your business commitments with a desire to maintain a healthy social life, attend yoga classes, be a great parent, look fashionable, cook nutritious meals, read Charles Bukowski and take regular holidays, you might find that you’re a startup founder more in theory than in practice.

8. Sacrifice Three Things.

For someone who decided to build a business, learning to consciously pick battles which you want to fight (and win) is critical.

If you’re not saying “No” to most of the requests for your time and money (from yourself and others), you’re probably sabotaging your success as an entrepreneur.

Chances are, your current life is not set up in a way that is helpful for building a business. Decide which 3 significant demands on your time and money you’re willing to give up in order to make room for your startup.

Be honest with yourself. Are you prepared to abandon hobbies, let go of friendships and/or move to a cheaper area to chase your entrepreneurial dream?

9. Don’t Be A Hipster.

Building a business is quite the trend these days. You see fashionable-looking people with Macs at cafes and think that’s what your life would look like if you were an entrepreneur.

Don’t be fooled. Most of those people do not have a real business. Even if they do hand you a business card with a fancy title. I’ll get to that shortly.

Take an honest, hard look at your motivations. If you are drawn to entrepreneurship mainly because of perceived glamour of it all, you won’t survive. Most of it is very, very non-glamorous.

A good test for examining your true motivations is the amount of sacrifice you’re prepared to make (see the point above).

10. Understand Why Business Isn’t Glamorous.

The idea of starting a business like Uber or AirBnB might seem cool – until you consider that you’re simply in the business of selling cheap transportation or accommodation – and being hated by a lot of people in the process.

Most successful companies in the world sell very boring products – e.g., toothpaste, consumer goods, gadgets, clothes, cars, etc.

Arielle sells job search tools. It’s not glamorous at all, however what’s important to me as one of the founders of the business is not the perceived glamour value of our products, but the quality of the problem that our business has been built to solve.

11. Find A Problem Worth Fixing.

I’m passionate about Arielle’s mission because I know that the recruitment industry is rapidly changing, which means more and more talented people are getting overlooked by employers.

To me that is a problem worth fixing – and our job search tools are one of the ways we help people get noticed.

Always start with a problem that you want to fix and work back to product.

Don’t be surprised if most people think your product is boring. The people who you’re building the product for won’t.

12. Utilize Every Single Minute.

I’m a little extreme in how I operate, but let me make a few examples just to give you context for how I chase higher levels of productivity.

I typically work in hyper-focused mode for 10 hours a day. Most mornings I’m at my desk by 7:15 am, having already been to the gym.

I also keep an iPad in the toilet to leverage my time there. Before my bathroom call is up, I typically flick through a few articles on my Feedly reader in order to get up to speed with the latest SEO/SEM/PPC news and schedule in a few tweets via Sprout Social.

Maybe someone has figured out a way to build a business whilst living a well-balanced life. I have not yet met such a person and it’s certainly not been me.

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(I personally don’t think that it’s possible for one simple reason – business is a competition and your competitors are running forward, not strolling along).

13. Know That Cash Flow Is King.

Irene and I had no savings to fall back upon on, so we had to find a way to generate a profit quickly.

To be specific, when we started we had less than 1 month worth of wages in the bank. If we did’t get some clients during that period, we’d have to abandon our startup idea and get jobs.

Having our backs to the wall like that was not comfortable, but it taught us a valuable lesson – lack of cash can be a great catalyst for creating results fast. Being comfortable typically leads to sloppy thinking and wastefulness.

14. Accept That You Are Selfish.

I got into entrepreneurship primarily because of my own selfish reasons.

Specifically, I wanted to experience fulfilment from getting to build something every day and I didn’t like the idea of just swapping my life for money.

I don’t use the word “selfish” in a negative sense here. Everyone becomes an entrepreneur for selfish reasons. For most people, building a business is a path to having more personal power, fulfilment and/or freedom.

15. Become Expert At Creating Win-Win Situations.

However, being selfish creates an interesting problem as soon as you decide that you’re “officially” in business, as I mentioned earlier.

The first few years for a startup founder is essentially a marketing and leadership game. And winning at it means learning the skill of giving more thought to other people’s problems than those of your own.

The trick, at least how I’ve approached it, has been to connect other peoples’ problems with mine in a way that benefits everyone.

16. Come To Terms With The Fact That You Do Not Work Here.

When you’re starting your business you wear all kinds of hats – marketing, customer service, accounting, blogging, etc.

It’s easy to slip into the mindset of “I must get through all this work” and begin to think yourself as a CDO – a “Chief Doing Officer”.

Incorrect! As a founder of a young business, you might choose to work in it, however your focus is different. You do not identify with the part of you that attends to enquiries, writes blog posts, settles accounts, etc.

17. Remember That You Are Building The Business.

You are – primarily – the custodian of your vision for the company.

As Michael Gerber famously said, your product is not whatever you sell, but the business itself.

What’s the vision you have for your business in six months time? 12 months? Three years? Five years? You must be wrestling with those questions on a regular basis.

18. Learn To Be A CEO.

Your projections will be wildly inaccurate and probably overly optimistic, if you’re like me, and that’s OK.

The point is not to get them 100 % right every time, but to train yourself as a strategist. Create the vision, make a plan which will bring it to reality, execute on it, then measure results. Repeat.

Always be working with a clear understanding of how each action you take fulfils on the bigger picture.

19. Get Ready To Suck At Being Present.

The flip side of being hyper-focussed on your business is the impact on other areas of your life.

Spending so much time in your head means that it’s difficult to be present – with your partner, friends and the world around around you.

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Switching off at the end of the day is difficult. There’s always an inbox of unread emails, always a number of projects which need to be moved forward, a client who is waiting, a problem that needs attention and a number of social media feeds that require input.

20. Accept That “Long Hours” Will Take On A New Meaning.

Irene and I have done a number of stints during which we’ve worked from 5 am until 10 pm, seven days per week, for weeks at a time.

During those stints, we paused only to sleep, eat and go for a walk around the block as a form of exercise.

21. Build A Team.

“I can do it all myself” is a common sentiment among startup founders. It was certainly mine.

I thought that we can learn to become jacks of all trades and that way, cover most of the vital business functions.

In a way, it’s true. However, it depends on your end goals. If you want to build something great or to lead the way in a niche, you’ll need other people to help you.

I think 5-10 people is an excellent size for a team because it’s big enough to pack a punch, yet small enough to be agile and not plagued with politics.

22. Consider Profit vs. Wages.

Separating profit and wages is a challenge in early stages of bootstrapping, because at the beginning they tend to be one and the same thing.

In fact, there’s usually not enough profit to pay your bills, which means you’re likely to view 100 % of your profit as wages. And probably make up the balance from savings or other income sources.

If you hold on to that habit as your business grows, however, you’ll rob it of the money it desperately needs.

23. Pay Yourself Below Poverty Line.

Your wages will be one of largest expenses the business will carry in its first few years and figuring out how much to pay yourself with them will be one of the most critical business decisions you’ll have to make.

If in doubt, give yourself less and the business more. Aim to take as little as you can personally tolerate whilst remaining productive, reasonably healthy and relatively sane.

When times get tough, and they will, the stress of an overhead in the form of an expensive rent or car repayment will significantly outweigh any comfort that such an item may provide.

24. Don’t Spend Money On Looking Good.

Learning to spend money well in your business is an art.

Most businesses fail because founders spend money away in a way that makes them look impressive in front of their friends, rather than yielding returns.

You probably don’t need a $2000 logo and a $5000 website. At least not until you have a steady stream of customers, anyway,

Arielle, as I write this, still has a logo that Irene designed in Microsoft Word two years ago and a WordPress template which we bought for $99 (redesign in coming in the next few weeks).

25. Know That Business Cards Are (Mostly) Useless.

I honestly think most business cards are created to satisfy ego trips.

Unless your business model relies heavily on networking or making face-to-face pitches to clients, you can spend your money more wisely during the early days. Namely, on whatever gets clients through the door in your business.

26. Obsess Over Data.

If cash flow is king, data is queen.

Begin to measure and track everything. At minimum, install website analytics which include goal conversion data.

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As the business grows, use a combination of simple spreadsheets and reporting tools. However, watch your spending on cloud-based solutions to measure enquiries, sales, expenses, hours worked, items sold, etc. Paying $25/month for each one of them doesn’t seem like much, but adds up quickly.

Track it all, even if you don’t use all of the data in a meaningful way now. It will provide you with a valuable context for your growth in the future.

27. Reinvest In Your Business.

Remember that as your business grows its expenses will grow exponentially.

If your revenue is $1K per week, then it will probably seem like you could take 80 % of it as profit. You do some math and dream of the day when your revenue hits $5K/week, because that will mean you’ll keep $4K per week in profit, right?

The thing is, to generate $5K/week you have to spend a lot more of your revenue on wages as well as tools and consultants to help you with legal compliance, accounting, analytics, recruitment, IT, marketing strategy, PPC, content, training and all those other things you didn’t think were relevant.

Remember that your priority in the first few years is to grow your business, not your personal bank account.

28. Reject Bad Business Advice.

Every day you’ll come across people who will offer you business tips (including me).

Often, their advice will conflict with your own viewpoints. It will also come from people who seem to have a lot more business and life experience than you do. How do you decide who to listen to?

My definition of bad advice is – it comes from a person who is not living a life that I want to live.

I look for mentors who have have a similar definition of success and have produced real results that I want to produce. Look out for know-it-alls who seem to be able to talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk.

29. Learn From The Greats.

Read Predictable Success by Les McKeown.

It was probably the single most valuable book I’ve read in the last 12 months, because it helped me understand how all the pieces of the business puzzle fit into the overall strategy.

The second most valuable book has probably been the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson because it taught me the power of focus.

30. Hire Positive People.

Job interviews are generally a waste of time because answers to standardized questions such as, “So, tell me about a time you’ve dealt with an upset customer” can be learned.

And just because I don’t have an answer doesn’t mean I can’t be effective at customer service.

What a job interview does, however, is provide an opportunity to catch a glimpse into the bigger picture faculties that are present in a person’s life.

Where does the person you’re thinking of hiring operate from – Acceptance? Trust? Reason? Or do you sense scorn, craving and anxiety?

31. Avoid Time-Wasters.

If you hang out around other entrepreneurs (e.g., at co-working spaces), you’ll regularly come across people who are always more than willing to chat endlessly when you bump into them and keep suggesting that you “should have a coffee”.

Networking and exchange of ideas are great.

However it’s easy to mistake talking about business with building a business. Before you know it, half of your day is gone and you still haven’t created any value.

If you agree to having a coffee, set boundaries at the onset – clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting and set a 15 minute limit. Don’t be afraid to skip the small talk and cut straight to the chase.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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