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8 Lessons to Get Your Business Off the Ground

Michael Feuer October 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Entrepreneurial success isn’t rocket science; it requires a great idea, the chutzpah to pull the trigger, and the determination and discipline to create and stack the building blocks needed to get from point A to point B—and from point B all the way to Z. You’ll need to rule your start-up like a benevolent dictator, being focused on doing the right things for the right reasons for all stakeholders, and recognizing when debate, conversation and analysis can’t take you any farther. Being a benevolent dictator provides the critical leadership necessary to take an idea and transform it into reality as fast as possible. Following are eight tips for getting a start-up business off the ground.

1. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Whether you’re asking an employee to go the extra mile or asking a vendor for a discounted price, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Though most entrepreneurs don’t like asking others for help, they must learn to live with the process, because it’s a stark reality of growing a company.

2. “No” means “maybe.” Hearing “no” may simply mean that you haven’t effectively or passionately explained what you need—or adequately expressed how your success will translate to their success—whether it be a client, an employee or a vendor.

3. Always look at a new idea through your clients’ eyes. Today, clients have the power. No longer do they have to accept inferior products and dismal service. It’s imperative to listen to what your customers are really saying when they tell you what they want from your business.

4. The journey better be as much fun as the destination. Burnout commonly boils down to too much focus on the final outcome and an inability to enjoy the day-to-day elements of being an entrepreneur. In short, you have to enjoy the journey as much as you enjoy reaching the destination. If you don’t, you might make it there, but you won’t last long once you get there.

5. Let mother do the hiring. Bad hires are not only disruptive to businesses—they’re also expensive. If there is a voice in your head that sounds like your mother’s, and it’s advising you not to hire a certain candidate, the voice is probably just your entrepreneurial instinct telling you to proceed with caution.

6. Don’t make past mistakes. If something didn’t work and no one remembers why, you’re usually destined to repeat that mistake. It’s imperative to remember one thing: If you don’t remain hungry to achieve continued success, you’ll soon find yourself believing that you are as great as your last success.

7. Know when it’s time to pull the plug. One of the biggest dilemmas for any entrepreneur or business owner is to know when enough is enough. The trick for an owner is to know when it’s time to sell. The key to fulfillment and continued success is knowing how and when to reinvent your business and even your personal life.

8. Know how to put lightning back in the bottle again and again. It is absolutely possible to be a repeat entrepreneurial success. Most successful second-act players have honed their instincts and skills, and created a series of methodical steps that they follow. They understand how to get from A to Z while minimizing pain and wasted motions, and maximizing available capital.

Navigating a start-up venture is about as close as you can get to a 24/7 ride on the world’s scariest roller coaster. If that sounds like an exhilarating life to you—and if you’re prepared to lead and to put the interests of your clients and employees ahead of your own—why not go for it? It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the economy; if you’re feeling that fire in the belly, there will never be a better time than now.

Michael Feuer is author of The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition and co-founded OfficeMax and grew it to more than 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales topping $5 billion. He is also CEO of Max-Ventures, a venture capital and retail consulting firm, and founder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a comprehensive health and wellness retail chain that launched in 2010.

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