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5 Critical Characteristics You Need to Have to Make It as an Entrepreneur

Only 1/3 of businesses make it to year 10. Here are five traits for long-term success.

Julia McCoy / Sea and Sage Photography

80% of new businesses survive past their first year of operation. 

50% of businesses make it to five years. 

And only 33% of businesses make it to ten years. (Stats from Motley Fool)

Will your entrepreneurial efforts grow into a thriving brand or company ten years from now?

…Or will your business idea be completely underwater?

Today, I don’t see enough entrepreneurs testing the longevity of their business idea. Maybe you’ve launched a product, ran a webinar and raised $100k in a month. What are you going to do ten years from now?

For the past seven years, my agency, Express Writers, has survived. In year seven, we’re doing the best we ever have, hitting growth numbers I could only dream of before this year. 

In 2012, at 19 years old, I’d failed nursing school. I was a penniless young adult at the time, living in an abusive family environment. But I still followed my inner curiosity and had the courage to follow my dreams. I came up with a business idea back then, taught myself everything the hard way, re-surfaced after a couple tremendous failures, and pushed through. Today, my agency has 95 people on payroll, and is serving thousands of clients around the world.

I survived the common statistic: 50% of all businesses fail by year five.

It’s year seven, and we’re thriving and growing more than we ever have before.

So, how did I get here? How did I grow an idea into a long-term, flourishing company brand? My methods may not always be conventional, and I certainly don’t follow “best practices.” With that warning, here are my top 5 lessons in growing a business that flourishes over time.

#1 Work hard and learn as you go 

As crazy as this sounds, take this as your motto. 

If you throw yourself in, 100%, and commit to your business idea without fear (or despite your fear), work hard, and set aside ego to learn as you go, the risk of failure is going to drop to a very slim margin.

After watching a lot of entrepreneurs and new agency owners I knew six years ago completely disappear by the wayside, I noticed a pattern: none of them remained committed to their idea. They stopped working and applying themselves. As simple as it sounds, staying committed to working on your idea can be half the battle or more. Buckle up and get ready for some long work weeks, especially in the early years. 

#2 Trust is earned, and time = trust

For a demographic, market or audience to trust you completely, time is required.

You’re not going to win the trust of thousands in a niche overnight. It’s going to take twelve months minimum of consistent content that positions you as an expert, published consistently in an exciting, authoritative style (read: you know your s*&%, and it shows). Get consistent at putting out content that positions you as an expert, and get help writing the content if you need to

#3 Get in the brains of your ideal target audience members

Nowadays, all my new business or product ideas are tested with in-depth market research. I get to know my audience like I’m their best friend. I’m able to achieve much faster product success and sales this way.

I find one, two, or sometimes fifty people interested in my product (depending on how many I can get), and I send them a list of 9-10 questions. I ask them what their pain points are on the topic I’m building a product on, their biggest questions, needs, etc. We either get on a Skype call, or they write down their answers. By now, the people on my list trust me enough to write me a book of research answers. To get to this point, you need to build a long-term presence in your industry and create the right products. If you’re approaching this right, you won’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing to sell thousands of dollars in product sales.

(Want further reading? I recommend Ryan Holiday’s book and his Product Market Fit concept for in-depth, actionable advice on this subject.)

#4 Build the right team

If your business idea is a big one, more than likely you’ll need to build a team. 

I had two choices seven years ago, when I started accumulating lots of work: I could continue going at it alone, as one freelancer: or, I could build a team.

I chose to build a team. It was the right direction, but it also almost capsized me. That’s why this says “build the right team.”

Not just anyone will suit when you’re adding people to your payroll. Before I built a sustainable hiring process, we had a lot of people join our team who were at best a decent fit, and at worst, interested in scamming us. 

Today, we have a hiring process that includes more than four steps before someone can even join us in a new role: first, I write an extremely detailed job post that is long and in-depth, and in the job post, ask the candidate to send us three pieces of specific information. Those three pieces of information verify that they’ve read the whole job listing, which means they’re detail-oriented. Next, we give them a test. Usually it’s building a cart or writing out an email for a client. If they do a great job on the test, they proceed to a phone interview. If my managers and I agree they’re a good fit, they are finally hired. 

Don’t let just anyone join your team. Make sure they’re the right fit, and this will be one way you’ll lock in success for a much longer period of time. Don’t shortcut this. It’ll turn out to be critical in the long run.

#5 Make time for yourself

Building a business can get crazy, fast, and you can end up treating yourself less kindly than everyone around you. I know, because I’ve been there.

Schedule in time off. I’m serious! Set a monthly date for a massage, take a bike ride every Monday morning, a walk every afternoon at 2 p.m. In other words, do something for you on a regular basis. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll burn out quickly. And a burnt-out entrepreneur never equals a successful entrepreneur.

It’s Not Too Late

Take these tips, and fly.

The world is your oyster!

It’s never too late to start your own journey as a successful entrepreneur. It’s not an easy one, but any means, but it’s one of the most rewarding career choices you could ever pick. 

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