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A few words and tips to succeed as an entrepreneur

I love entrepreneurship and couldn't imagine life as an employee. It has gone so far that I even encourage my children, one eight year old boy and a ten year old girl, to try becoming a business owner themselves. Every summer, the kids usually buy loads of candy at a retail store before we go to our summer house. There, they set up up their own business, market and sell the candy (they need something to talk to their therapists about as adults, right?). They like it though, and why wouldn't they?  Business and entrepreneurship offers a lot of what we adults lost somewhere between childhood and our youth - curiosity, excitement and the ability to manage strong emotions, to get up even though your knees are bloody from falling off your bike and still go looking for the next high point in life.

Don't despise the difficulties when you start your business. You will sometimes have to work both evenings and weekends to make it work. You can't have too many more hobbies than your business and you must have an environment that enjoy what you do as much as you do. Entrepreneurship can wear on your relationships with your friends and family. If business is good, then there's nothing to talk about. Then you have enough strength left to spend time with your family and friends. If business isn't so good, you have to work harder. That's just the way it is – in the end it will probably be worth all your efforts.

Here are 40 ideas that will help you in your business:
• Try to get orders before you start. It gives you both security and confidence. Get your business up and running even now if you can.

• Grow organically. Ensure that the company's business is greater than the administration. Start by obtaining business and solve the problem of delivering after each order instead of vice versa.

• Chase down the fixed costs. All costs that are equally high regardless of your sales are fixed costs. Examples of fixed costs are rent, wages, leasing and loan costs.

• Never work too long with someone or something that gives you a headache or stomach ache. This also applies to customers. A customer who will only give you trouble for no reason is not worth having. It must be fun to work, otherwise it makes no sense.

• Learn to say ”now we’ll close the shop for today”. Turn off your mind and forget about job stuff when you're at home.

• Create a plan for if the worst happens - if you lose your biggest client, you get sick or if something else happens that affects your business. Make the plan and store it. By having such a plan ready, you'll be more relaxed because you know what to do if something goes wrong. The mere thought of the plan creates a better life for you.

• Take time off when you can and do something you enjoy that doesn't have anything to do with the company. Don't wait too long before you make that break. When you feel that problems are everywhere, it has already gone too far.

• When things are going well financially, keep it to yourself or your family. Your friends may turn into someone you don't know and you don't want to see. People who are not self-employed sometimes think the $10 000 order that you just received and proudly talk about at the Saturday dinner is the same thing as $10 000 straight into your own pocket. They don't understand the business conditions and you can't blame them either.

• Always keep your eyes open to what's happening in the industry and what the competition is doing. A healthy paranoia, or intelligence, is good for your business, it'll give you fewer negative surprises.

• Avoid drowning in administration work by just handling any document only once and – take care of it - archive or discard it.

• Create a reward system for yourself to motivate you to get started with your marketing and sales. What is it you want the most? Is it a weekend with your partner at some nice resort?
Is it a golf trip? It can be many things. Set up your personal goals and decide what kind of reward you will get when you reach that goal.

• Think properly on what differentiates your business from others. Why should customers buy from you? No mumbo-jumbo here. Avoid clichés like;”We are service-oriented, trustworthy, nice and pleasant.”Be concrete. What do your customers get from your business that they can't get from others?

• Get rid of negative people in your life. It can be difficult if you are married to them, but generally you should surround yourself with people who are supportive and warm. Negative people poison your world, they tear down its buildings, they never contribute to anything new and good. They can pull you down faster than you can lift them up.

• Send out 25 sales letters every week, no matter what you have going on. Make it a habit to do so, for example, every Friday. It creates new business opportunities, but also gives you the feeling that things are always on the move.

• Think big. Just because you happen to have a small business that you run by yourself doesn't mean that you can't think big and win big.

• Learn to always evaluate all events. Positive and negative. What can be done better? What went wrong? Why?

• Stop ”trying” to do things. Either you do things or you don't. Don't fool yourself.

• Think long term. Keep focus on keeping your customers for twenty years.

• Have confidence in your idea. If you do, others will too.

• Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself. If you only find 5, work until the list is full.

• Set a goal for this year. Write it down on the back of your business card and keep it in your pocket.

• Be your customer's best friend. Be honest. Don't try to hide your weak points, you may just bitterly regret that later on.

• Make it easy for customers to leave feedback on your business.

• Work hard to achieve your goals every day, every week and every month until you reach them. When you reach a milestone, make the goal a little bigger next time. Setting goals is incredibly important to your success, it makes you motivated.

• Don't be someone that your customers can trample on whenever they want. Set limits. Get rid of difficult customers that give you a stomach ache.
   • Refuse to give up. It's only the one who gives up that inevitably lose.

• Take good care of your customer database. It's the most valuable thing you have.

• Invest in yourself. Read the best books, attend lectures and seminars.

• Be a person that your kids would like to hang out with.

• Focus on the journey and not the destination itself. It's all about getting results in the end, but if you don't like what you do, then what's the point?

• Work hard, but play even harder. Take the opportunity to take time off sometimes. Take a weekend at a mansion, get a massage. Think of it as an investment and as a reward for the sacrifices you make to keep your business running. When the money starts coming in, buy an awesome car that you can enjoy. Travel and rejuvenate. Think of your play time as an investment in your mental health, it's both more fun and cheaper than going to a therapist.

• Have a reward system that will take effect when you accomplish things. Also have a system to take care of yourself when life/work is hard.

• Practice looking beyond things that aren't relevant right now. Ask yourself: “Can I do something about this problem right now?”If the answer is no, don't waste time thinking about it, use your time and energy on something else instead. Maybe it's not always easy, but for me it helps a lot to often ask myself that question.

• Stop. When did you kiss your wife/husband last? When did you spend a whole day with your children? Your business is important, but in the long term it's equally important that you take care of yourself.

• Get yourself a mantra. When I did my military service, we repeated the following every morning: “Well trained soldiers struggle with greater courage because the consciousness of strength and skill bestows a sense of superiority and dispels fear”.
Scary words, but they do their job. My company's mantra is: “If you just give your customers what they want the most, you will also end up getting what you want in the end.” What is your mantra to use you when you want to get the job done?

• Network. You can't keep to yourself. Get in touch with the three businesses that complement yours - and do it today. Tell them what you do and invite them to cooperate with you.

• Be a knowledge resource on the Internet. Add information to help your visitors to become better at your field. If it's good information, they will tell their friends and the result will make your cash register go “ka-ching”.

• As a small business owner, you always have a million things to do and you only have a certain number of hours a day to your disposal. When you get ideas about what you'd like to try out - write them down on a piece of paper, put them in a jar and pick a note when life is quiet at work and take care of the activity written on the note.

• Try to have a little fun, too. In September last year when I just had finished the book”1 000 ideas for you to sell more in your store”, I was dangerously close to being burnt out. I had been working since May to finish the book in the summer. There are a lot of things to get right before you can finish a book and relax. When my work is done, there's a sudden emptiness and to fill it, I usually watch episodes of “Friends”, “Spin City” and “Frasier”. I need to laugh, it's my very best drug and energy provider.
What would make you laugh to relax? If you don't know, find out now.      

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
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