A Student’s Guide to the Essential Dos & Dont’s of Entrepreneurship
By Tyler Mehigh, Business Development and Finance Intern, MSU Hatch & Spartan Innovations
Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve learned a wide array of valuable lessons. Here’s one that sticks out:
The road is ever-changing, through both failure and success.
And as someone who had to navigate their way along this ever-changing road, learning on-the-go what’s right and what’s wrong, I’ve withstood many “failures,” as well as enjoyed several successes.
So, using my hands-on experience as a launching point, I wanted to outline a few essential Dos and Don’ts of Entrepreneurship.
Someone who wishes they would’ve known these a long time ago.
DO: Get Ready to Work
Although all entrepreneurs talk about how much work is required to start a business — and it’s kind of cliché — this is no joke.
The amount of hours you will put in during a normal work week are outstanding. (Sometimes, you may even be working subconsciously.)
For example, I can reminisce on times when I’d have to set an alarm for midnight just to talk to suppliers that were based in China. I could only get ahold of them during obscure hours due to the significant time change, so from midnight until 4 a.m. I’d be skyping and ironing out details. Combine this with school, work, athletics, and my (mostly non-existent) social life, and you have a recipe for plenty of long days.
Key Takeaway: Don’t be intimated and be prepared to grind.
DON’T: Waste Money on Worthless Advertising
Although it may be easy to pay $20 and have your ad seen on Facebook by 1,000 people, it won’t do much for your business in the long run.
Instead, spend some time to develop a greater understanding of your audience and teach yourself how to effectively target your ads: $10 spent toward a targeted demographic will prove much more beneficial than $100 to a random crowd. Furthermore, startup settings typically don’t involve a whole lot of extra money laying around, which means that every dollar you spend needs to be tracked to an ROI.
Key Takeaway: Do your homework and develop an idea of how your spending can actually help grow your business.
Networking is popular in all fields, and entrepreneurship is no different. Customers, vendors, potential investors, fellow entrepreneurs, future partners, and others can make themselves available to you through one simple tactic: networking.
Once you own a company and are in charge of landing customers, you need to find resources, collaborate, and secure all the assistance you can get. It always amazes me how willing certain people are to aid growing companies. In my own experience, I’ve been put in direct contact with customers and credible vendors after creating a viable connection.
Key Takeaway: Build your network and utilize it to gain as much as possible.
DON’T: Stay Up Until 4 a.m. Every Morning to Work
Contrary to my previous story about communicating with suppliers in China, it is possible to be successful and still get a healthy amount of sleep — most of the time. Although there will always remain a large amount of work yet to be done, you can find a way to make daily tasks manageable.
Instead of working on and off for 12 hours (only to waste time scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram), devote and schedule six hours to do ONLY work. By blocking out time slots and working much smarter, you can greatly improve your productivity. (Not to mention that you can spend the other six hours doing whatever it is that puts your mind at ease.)
Personally, I struggle with always wanting to work. Whether I’m taking a shower, driving to class, trying to fall asleep, etc., my mind frequently wanders and I find myself thinking about business.
To keep your sanity, all entrepreneurs need to learn to find time to spend on personal development and relaxation. If you’re constantly thinking about your next big move, you will undoubtedly drive yourself crazy and, at its worst, maybe even come to hate whatever it is you’re working on.
Key Takeaway: You don’t need to be up all night, every night. Find a work-life balance and make sure you keep to it.
Bootstrapping is a must. This behavior revolves around the idea of utilizing resources to their full extent and stretching every dollar as far as it can go, while assuming little to no debt in the process.
I struggle to understand entrepreneurs that believe it’s necessary to acquire hundreds of thousands in startup capital to launch. There are plenty of businesses that can be started and grown with a small personal investment and smart money management.
One key aspect of money management is reinvestment. While it takes some serious discipline, it’s important to not focus too heavily on pocketing profits in an attempt to get rich. The important thing is to grow your company, not your bank account.
Key Takeaway: Immediate resources can help bring ideas to life.
DON’T: Let Failure Bring You Down
This is one of the weirder parts about entrepreneurship: Failure is invited, almost even appreciated.
Failure means that you’ve learned a way not to do something, and with this knowledge comes a greater chance for future success. By learning from your mistakes and stockpiling these lessons, you’ll be prepared to funnel that insight into a positive outcome — and ultimately a success.
I remember my very first venture attempt: I wanted to create a phone case with built-in memory storage that was compatible with iPhones. After spending months on research, business plan creation, prototyping, and other various details, I found my idea to be largely infeasible due to sky-high manufacturing costs.
I was devastated. And, at the time, it seemed that months and months of work suddenly became worthless.
However, I slowly began to appreciate the ways in which this process drastically improved my overall set of entrepreneurial knowledge and realized that this apparent defeat actually symbolized progress and success.
Key Takeaway: Success can come in many different forms.
DO: Have Fun
I can’t begin to tell you about the entrepreneurs I’ve met who constantly get caught up in their business and forget to enjoy the fact that they’re working for themselves — something many people strive to do.
People claim that entrepreneurs should be working all hours of the day to grow their company, but that’s simply not true. By working smarter — not harder — and staying eager throughout, you can take full advantage of the amazing opportunity that is being an entrepreneur, while enjoying all of the wonderful experiences that come along with it.
Key Takeaway: Having fun, appreciating the little things, and soaking up the process are all key parts of building a successful company.
Tyler Mehigh is a senior at Michigan State University studying Business Management. To read more from Voices of The MSU Hatch, click here.
Edited by Gerard Smith