However, if you’ve just started out in the world of business — or haven’t even put your foot through the door yet — some of this advice can be quite perplexing.
Often in short, vague sentences, it can be tough to decipher exactly what these pieces of advice mean and how you can apply them to your business model. In this article, we do exactly that.
Where to Start
A titan of industry, Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying: “If you can improve people’s lives, you have a business”.
It’s a quote that has made its way around the internet countless times, but it is important to take it with a pinch of salt.
The business magnet has a point; to build a successful business, you need to offer something people need or want. But, just because you have a business idea that will improve how people live their lives, it doesn’t mean people will actually use your business.
An idea, one that is unique and can improve how people live, does not guarantee a successful business.
It is a good place to start, of course. If you cannot see how your business will improve people’s lives, you don’t have a business idea at all. However, Branson’s words have to be considered while also acknowledging the following statement:
Ideas Alone Have Little Value
You’ll see plenty of articles covering this topic in great depth online, but we just want to touch up the notion of a simple statement. In business, it isn’t just about the idea. It is also about the execution.
Investors are more interested in betting on smart minds than smart ideas. Why?
Because an idea, even for the most innovative business, can crumble to nothing if not executed correctly. Business acumen is just as important as the business proposition.
If you want your business to succeed, you need to seriously take heed of this advice and understand the implications for your business. It means you cannot expect people to be attracted to your business purely because it’s a good idea.
You need to use all the best business practices available — marketing, networking, investment, development, strategy, etc — in order to succeed.
Never be tricked into the fantasy that your business will be different.
Finding the ‘Business Mentality’
A popular topic for discussion among entrepreneurs is the ‘business mindset’. But, what is it?
The business mindset isn’t something you have to learn or train in. It isn’t something you either have or you don’t. There is only one aspect of mentality you must have if you want to succeed in business: dedication.
GoPro founder Nick Woodman once said: “I moved back in with my parents and went to work seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I wrote off my personal life to make headway on it”.
If you want your business to work, you need to have the mentality to make it happen. This can mean making sacrifices, or missing out on events or experiences to follow your dream. When people talk about how you must have the right mindset — the perfect business mentality — they mean you need the dedication and tenacity to see it through.
Billionaire business giant Mark Cuban has the perfect way of ensuring you have the right mentality: “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession”.
If your business isn’t your obsession, you don’t have the mentality you need.
Developing Your Business
Facebook legend Mark Zuckerberg once made an interesting statement: “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough”.
It certainly sounds insightful, but what does it actually mean?
Caution is something built into business. Business owners tend to take actions at every step to minimise the potential for damage. They plan rigorously, they consider every variable, they test and they test and they test.
The problem is that this can waste a lot of time. While you are performing practice runs and getting things absolutely perfect, your business is stagnant. And, even after tests and plans, you might find yourself facing challenges you didn’t foresee.
The point of Zuckerberg’s statement is that you can’t be afraid of things going wrong; you can’t let fear stop your business developing. You can never prepare for every eventuality. Sometimes, things do go wrong.
Balance progression with planning. Prepare, but don’t let it damper progress. Plan for major pitfalls, not everything. Test your product sufficiently, not obsessively.
The Taboo Word: Money
“Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective: ‘What’s the best way to make money?” – Elon Musk
The idea of focusing on business development, not on profits, is one you are most likely familiar with. Many of the business elite offer the same advice, albeit in a less altruistic way than Elon Musk.
But there is a danger with this piece of advice, because it is easy to take far too literally.
Successful business owners, like Bill Gates, will tell you that they started their business in the pursuit of making a difference, not billions of dollars. It’s a great code to live by, if you understand what it means.
If you set out with a primary goal of making billions, you’ll most likely fail — not only because it’s a near impossible feat, but without the drive and dedication to see your business succeed, you’ll probably jump ship and look for the next money-making idea before the business can develop.
However, the reverse can be far more dangerous. If you set out with a dream, an idea that can change the world, and focus on developing it without ever considering profits, you run the risk of serious financial problems.
Success in business isn’t millions in profit. It is producing enough money to live on, allowing you to push your business further.
Listen to the advice of Musk and others. Don’t go into business expecting to be the next Bill Gates, and maybe one day you will. However, don’t go into business focusing on ideas, assuming money will turn up one day, because it probably won’t.
Originally an accountant in Leeds, Russell Smith now runs a nationwide accountancy firm with offices in Leeds, York, Harrogate, London and more. A business expert with over twelve years of experience, Russell knows how to decipher cryptic entrepreneurial advice.