At a time when more than half of all new businesses fail within their first few years, here are five things you can do to future proof your entrepreneurial journey.
Everyone knows how much work it takes to start your own business and become an entrepreneur. What many don’t realize, is just how much work it takes to get to the next level.
There are a lot of people jumping into entrepreneurship today—largely because it’s easier than ever to start your own business. One report from FreshBooks indicates that in the United States, there could be as many as 27 million self-employed people by 2020. That includes everyone from a construction worker who owns their own truck and tools, to the owner of a multinational company.
It’s just as true that new businesses are more likely to fail, though. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. And one of the biggest reasons is that they didn’t plan for the future. A business is like a shark—if it’s not continually moving forward, it dies. Lack of planning is a plan to fail.
Recently, I had the chance to talk with Dr. Kristofer Chaffin, a doctor, consultant and entrepreneur who shared some interesting ideas about how to minimize that failure rate and make your future more profitable.
Based on our conversation, I put together a list of five things you can do to help future proof your entrepreneurial journey.
1. Write Down (And Stick To) A Simple Business Plan
If you’re going to be successful in any venture, the first big thing you need is a vision and a plan. If you don’t have that plan, you’re going to be in limbo, rowing in circles, and eventually the money is going to run out or your revenue streams will dry up.
“In my line of work as a consultant, I’ve seen a lot of great ideas for businesses that never really get off the ground. Big ideas are great, but without a way to accomplish them, people are never going to make it. You need to have a plan. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up to fail within the first three years or sooner,” says Chaffin.
Stick to a single page if you can. The shorter it is, and the more clearly stated your vision, the more likely it is you’ll stick to it and actually use it as a touchstone whenever you have important decisions to make.
2. Stop Thinking And Get To Work
I know, this kind of advice has been repeated ad infinitum. But so many people with good ideas for businesses are never able to grow their future profits for the simple reason that they keep putting off the actual work.
If you have an idea for a business, start now. If you have something you need to work on that you know will help your business in the future, get it done today. As noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Done is better than perfect.”
Get your plan down on paper and your vision in the center of your mind. Do your research, sure. But make sure you’re doing, or none of it matters.
3. Use The Time Available To You
In Dr. Chaffin’s career, one of the main groups of people he’s worked with is athletes.
“Athletes are unique because their main earning potential usually comes from a few short years of their lives,” Chaffin shares. “They have to plan for the future, or they’ll wind up broke. I’ve been able to work with several, and they’re concerned first with maximizing their playing career and then with having a career afterwards. The ones who have a successful career after are usually working on it and thinking about it while they’re still in the league.”
NFL journeyman running back Justin Forsett is an example of someone who’s done this well—he’s had a great second career as the CEO of Shower Pill, and it all revolves around taking maximum advantage of the time & unique opportunities he had at his disposal.
Careers in the NFL are particularly short. According to the NFL Player’s Association, the average career length is about 3.3 years.
When I had Forsett on my podcast, he talked about how hard he had to work to stay in the league, but notes, “There were a lot of gaps in the itinerary where we were able to get stuff done working on our idea for Shower Pill. I’m more busy now than I ever was as a professional athlete.”
4. Be Persistent
If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, there’s one word you’re going to have to get used to hearing a lot of—no.
If you just take no for an answer, you’ll never be able to build a profitable business over the long term. “You’re gonna hear a lot of no’s, but you can’t let that deter you from your dream,” explains Forsett.
Persistence is the key theme Forsett brings out during our interview. Day in and day out you’ll hear no’s constantly—from investors, manufacturers, distributors. At the end of the day, you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and advocate for what you believe needs to get done.
5. Be Prepared (And Willing) To Make Sacrifices
Both Forsett and Chaffin noted this difficult point when talking with me.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to juggle everything, something will have to give (especially if you’re growing your business on the side of your day job). Usually that means cutting out a chunk of leisure time. For some that means less time with family. For others, it might be sacrificing hard-earned money, especially in the early years.
No matter what you do, you’re going to have to sacrifice something in the short-term, in order to achieve long-term success.
What’s most important to you? Refer back to that. If you really want to build a profitable long-term business, you’ll make the sacrifices it takes.
Remember that whatever success you’ve achieved in business today, it’s never guaranteed to stay the same—or grow. To keep a business moving in the right direction, you need to plan for and consistently work towards a more successful future.
Whether you’re just starting out, or a well-established entrepreneur already, follow these guiding principles and you’ll be able to set yourself up for longer-term profitability and success.