I co-founded Scholarix e-Learning Solutions over 3 years ago, and it has undoubtedly been the single most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.
Along my journey I’ve learned dozens, if not hundreds, of real world lessons that no university lecture or business text book would ever dare touch upon at the risk of scaring budding, entrepreneurial hopefuls.
And while everything I’ve learned has had its value and usefulness in certain situations, there are 5 particular lessons that stand out as business lessons to live by regardless of what business or industry one’s in.
Many of these lessons I learned the hard way. Others initially shocked me as they seemed to fly blatantly in the face of conventional business wisdom but surprisingly made perfect sense later on.
Here are the 5 proven lessons I follow that have made me more successful by abiding by them.
1. Ideas don’t make you successful. Execution does.
Ideas don’t matter. Execution does.
Actually, I should clarify by saying ideas don’t matter anywhere scarring as much as execution does. It’s just that’s not as sexy of an opener.
Whether you’re brainstorming your business concept or are already established and working on your next product or service idea, having a brilliant idea on its own won’t make you successful automatically.
In fact, you don’t need brilliant idea in order to be successful at all. What you need is a solid idea but with brilliant execution!
Apple wasn’t the first to do video calling with its iDevices by a long shot. Hell, I remember making video calls with my trusty old computer and webcam on MSN messenger like 15 years ago.
But what Apple did do is make video calling easier and more accessible while promoting and explaining the benefits in a much clearer way – of course I’m talking about Face Time.
The take home point here is to spend 20% of your time coming up with, good but not perfect ideas and to spend the remaining 80% of your time literally obsessing over executing as that will be the thing that makes or breaks you.
2. People like people who create solutions and not excuses.
Sometimes you have to write a check with your mouth your ass can’t cash yet.
In the years that I’ve been running my business, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had my back against the wall and had to scramble to solve a pressing issue or hit a particular deadline.
Many of these challenges were things we didn’t know how to handle or implement at that very given moment. However, on many of these occasions I still promised my clients that we would get it done and we somehow found a way to deliver. We were confident in our abilities and knew that we could reasonably find the right solutions, even though we didn’t have one at the time.
In truth, some of the things I promised were along the borders or even a bit outside of our comfort zone, but I chose to take them head on as that is what my clients wanted and who was I not to offer solutions that my audience was asking for? If anything, this was the perfect way to decide what direction to take my company in and plan our next micro-pivots.
So if you’re ever faced with a task that you’re unsure about, before making a knee jerk rejection decision out of fear, scour all your resources, and be vigilant in seeking out new delivery avenues as the opportunity in front of you may be a an educated gamble worth taking.
3. Check your ego at the door and focus on the things that you’re good at while getting help for the rest from experts.
We all have talents in some areas and struggle in others. As an entrepreneur, having relevant skills to your industry and business will go a long way in cutting costs and making you successful.
I’ve always been a computer guy growing up. I got my degree in and worked in digital marketing and also worked at an e-Learning firm prior to my entrepreneurial stint. So it wasn’t luck dumb that I had a lot of transferable experiences and skills that I could bring to the table when I started Scholarix.
It also helped that my business partner, Adam, had some similar skills and complimentary experiences that filled some other essential voids.
Between the two of us, we knew we could execute certain things at a professional level and we played to our advantages.
As an example, and at the risk of sounding cocky, even though we were just starting out, at the time the quality of our website and online marketing was amazing. It portrayed us as a well-established company even though we hadn’t even made our first sale yet.
What’s remarkable is that we did all this and barely spent anything in the process as we already had the skills and resourcefulness necessary to effectively execute these tasks.
So while we were good at these and other business tasks, there were other sets of duties that we would struggle with as we were constantly learning the ropes while doing the work.
Now in the start I could forgive us as we didn’t actually have the resources to dedicate to hiring even contract personnel. But as my business grew and the sales came in, there were many occasions where I chose to do something myself and took the entire day to do it when the smarter (and less egotistical) move would have been to spend a short time hiring someone qualified for the gig and then spending the remainder of the day on the tasks that I knew I was most proficient in.
In short, just do the things you are the best at and delegate or outsource the tasks someone else is better at than you, because that is how you get the best quality execution on every task; and, as I said earlier, execution is everything!
4. In business, you can only get so far without bringing in the right people and giving them the authority to do what they need to.
When it comes to running a service business, your people literally create the things you “sell.”
Before we jump to any conclusions, the problem here goes beyond just hiring unqualified or unmotivated personnel, as it’s always popular and easy for some management groups to quickly “blame the employee” for everything that goes off the rails.
No, the truth is its equally about the trust and ownership you place in your people as it is getting the right people to begin with.
When it comes to the way we run Scholarix, Adam and I don’t believe in micro-management, limiting authority, or hierarchal decision structures. Rather, we spend the time to find and work with the best and most dedicated talent who are experts in their respective areas. We then give these people the authority to make decisions in their respective field of expertise as who would know better than them for those specific tasks?
Learning to value your people’s input and ideas and recognizing that you can’t do it all on your own is another essential part of the entrepreneurial puzzle. I don’t care how smart, capable, or hardworking you are you’re still only one person and you don’t know everything.
5. People buy you as much as they buy your product or service.
Think of business in terms of people, not contracts and transactions. Simply put, people buy products and services from people not “companies.” I learned early on that a company is just an intangible structure, and it’s people that use what you sell, and people who ultimately make the decision to do business with you.
The harsh reality is that, in today’s market, practically every service or product offered has dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of competing providers and, to the consumer, the perceived differences between these offerings are marginal on average.
So unless your company has some cutting edge competitive advantage or clear differentiating feature, often, the difference between who gets a particular consumer’s business will come down to a personal connection between the customer and you the seller.
In fact, this is how we got our crack at some of our first big contracts. In the start we didn’t have the track record that some of our competitors did, but we worked our hardest to consistently over deliver in every area we could — a tradition we still strive to uphold today.
We treated people like people, got to know them personally, responded when they needed us, and moved heaven and earth to make them happy — and boy did it pay off.