If you’ve read entrepreneurial articles long enough, you know that there is about a 90% chance of failure. That’s very daunting but once you put that statistic into context, you realize there’s actually a 50:50 chance. You are only going to fail if you don’t come to terms with the fact that you cannot follow any strict rule, guide or recipe.
The formula to success is abstract and every path is infinitely different. It’s like a maze that’s constantly changing. When making decisions, you have to constantly question the status quo and make educated adjustments. In computer science, this is called machine learning. You try different things and see what has the best chance of working.
Our societies exist in a cobweb. Our behaviors and actions have a cascading effect onto the world. To add on top of that, human behavior is not always rational. I know this because I took psychology classes in the past and worked in market research for a year.
Following are my abstract suggestions to making sure you have the best chance at success.
1. Maintain lean operations.
I’ve asked for investment from family twice to scale my digital agency. The answer has been the same, “I don’t see enough uptick to justify investment.” I am grateful for that response because I think the market is still premature and so is my product offering. Google was not the first search engine and Facebook was not the first social media platform. Those before them were too early and had inferior products. By maintaining a lean operation, you are hedging your bet -- meaning, waiting and trying different things to see what sticks. The timing has to be right. Your offering and market demand has to align.
2. Listen to the market.
When I was in university, we were taught to conduct survey and that’s how most established businesses make informed decisions. In the real world, I base my market research on what prospective customers are saying or seeking. It could be from a Facebook group or direct inquires through calls or email. Keep your eyes and ears open and be perceptive of ongoing trends that may be right in front of you. For example, to supplement my lacking income from my digital agency, I started providing tutoring service to those seeking to enhance their technical skills. Education is and forever will be a growth market and in-demand virtually anywhere.
Many individuals recommend not spreading yourself too thin. Diversification has been key to my existence and I firmly believe it will keep me ready for further pivots in the future.
3. Pursue authenticity.
The bane of my entrepreneurial life has been -- coming to realize how sales oriented businesses are. To me, sales is summed up with the quotation, “Sell me this pen.” To be able to sell anything has its merits when it's done for great products and brands. Selling inferior products can have negative effects. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, equates the forceful sales of products to swindling. Mr. Ma once dismissed a sales trainer for questionable practices. He states in an interview, “The training instructor was speaking about how to sell hair combs to monks. After five minutes, I got extremely angry and expelled the instructor. I thought the instructor was a cheat. Monks do not need combs in the first place.”
I do not have a background in marketing but whenever I try to close a client, I remind them -- all you have to know is to how to sell to yourself. Offer a great product at a reasonable price and it will sell. Communicate your value proposition and buyers will seek you out and offer long-term loyalty.
4. Overcome desperation.
The path to success is arduous and desperation can start to dawn on you. In every aspect of client facing work, I do my due diligence and leave the rest to fate. There is an old saying, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.” I have found this approach to be quite effective.
I get many inbound business queries. I respond to all queries meticulously and maintain a professional rapport. Often times, the client will be aloof or simply brush the conversation to the side. I let the conversation fade and if you have done your job, the client should return. Because our attention spans are constantly shrinking, it’s always important to curate phone numbers, emails and connecting through social platforms. Even if a client never returns, I can send them emails once in a blue moon, I can use their contact information to connect with them on social media and keep showing up on their timeline, or I can simply target them with ads. All of these approaches are minimally intrusive.
Once you know what you are doing, there’s no need for desperation. You can have greater control over your fate. These are things no coach, trainer or book can teach you -- you simply have to experience for yourself.