Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to build a new career or a veteran employee intent on changing one, becoming a successful entrepreneur requires a lot more than you might think. If you’ve got a start-up in mind, here’s a fun list of “must-haves” to make the entrepreneurial way of life a little easier to predict—and embrace.
1. A Love of Learning
With few (if any) other people to rely on, today’s successful entrepreneur must wear all kinds of hats. Get ready to take on everything from business administration and taxes to marketing and tech. You’re going to spend a lot of time doing stuff that’s outside of your core set of skills, talents and interests. Your best bet? Find great business mentors and ask them to coach you!
2. A Zen-like Attitude
Deals fizzle out. Suppliers mess up. Clients demand too much. The modern entrepreneur must contend with a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, sometimes in the same day! Try to maintain a calm, patient and hopeful mindset focused on what you can do in the moment and accepting what (and who) you cannot control. You may even want to try meditation.
3. A Ferocious Work Ethic
A great work ethic is the one thing all successful business people share in common. Talent and a brilliant vision will take you places, but only if you’re prepared to put in the hours. Start your days early (before the emails and phone calls start to come in) and you’ll see a boost in productivity and open up more time for networking, marketing and other strategic activities.
4. A Modern Tech Mix
At Microsoft, we firmly believe that technology should work for you (not the other way around), and that it can make or break a business. A modern tech mix—such a Surface tablet running Office 365—allows you to create, communicate and collaborate from almost anywhere, securely. And the best part is that new software and hardware have never been more affordable!
5. A Network of Allies
No matter how multi-talented or smart, you’re going to need help with some areas of your business. To help you stay efficient and avoid problems, ask your mentors (see #1) to refer great service-providers. A faithful bookkeeper, for example, will keep your finances in order. A business lawyer will help you vet contracts. Don’t do it alone: Build a network of useful allies who you can count on.
6. A Schmoozing Capacity
Business is all about building and maintaining relationships with people. Attending industry events, joining associations and doing lunches and dinners may not come to you naturally, but they’re hugely valuable opportunities to make contacts and strengthen bonds. Fortune favours the bold—so get out there, talk to people, promote your business and have some fun in the process!
7. A Belief in Marketing
Does the best product or service win? Not without the help of marketing! Consistently spreading the word about your business through marketing and PR will help you win new clients, make current clients more loyal and attract great people and partnerships. A communications consultant or a small agency will be able to help you advertise your company, even on a shoestring budget. Shop around!
8. A Polished Look
Appearances matter a lot in business, so make sure that you dress the part and have polished materials—such as a website, business cards, a credentials presentation and email signatures—to help you look more credible. You can create your own or take advantage of preexisting templates, such as the ones available with Office 365, to help you achieve professional-looking results.
9. An Appetite for News
Successful entrepreneurs stay on top of trends, developments and announcements in their industry—and those of their clients. Read magazines and blogs. Follow groups and people in social networks. Subscribe to e-newsletters. Use the news as a good excuse to reach out to people and make new contacts. Being in the know helps you make better decisions and looks impressive, too.
10. A Positive Mindset
Come what may, a successful entrepreneur must find the determination to stay inspired and believe in a positive outcome. So feed your soul with whatever inspires you—things like music, films, books, quotations, sports or games—and try to manage stress by making time for fun. Above all, feel good and embrace the experience: You’re pursuing your dream and that’s what life is about!