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3 lessons I learned about entrepreneurship and leadership

Reflecting on my own entrepreneurial journey, there are many things I wish I knew and understood before I started. There are far too many to count, but perhaps these stuck with me the most.

Expect a rollercoaster ride

Being an entrepreneur (or even a leader) is like riding a rollercoaster. I experienced just about every emotion there is. One day I would be excited about our prospects and the next I would be terrified that we will completely fail. If there is emotion, I probably had it and perhaps even on the same day. This emotional rollercoaster can be very tasking, which is especially true when entrepreneurs don’t have co-founders or leaders don’t have peers. As an entrepreneur, while you can sometimes bounce ideas off your senior executives, much of the weight is still on your shoulders. This weight is not the same as being an employee. Even if employees have equity, they are often much less invested than the founder of the business. Entrepreneurs rarely have the luxury of just giving up and shutting down a business is rarely a decision that founders take lightly.

Don’t be like everyone else

I think it’s important to pay attention to other peoples’ ideas — whether they are employees, customers or even competitors. If something is a good idea, don’t worry about where it came from. Besides, it’s all well and good to have great ideas, but where it really matters is in the implementation. Ask yourself. Is your product or service an order of magnitude better than the alternative? Does it stand out? If not, it’s very likely that customers who already use the alternative (even if slightly inferior) would have high switching costs and too much inertia to switch to you. That’s why your product needs to be an order of magnitude better than the alternative. If you’re not there yet, then sell on the compelling vision that shows how much better your product or service will be compared to the alternative. Show your potential customers the future and ask them to come on the journey with you. Those who are innovators and early adopters just might do it. One way to differentiate from the alternatives is to do things others are not doing. Many businesses often behave a certain way simply because that’s how they or the industry have done things in the past. Instead, entrepreneurs and leaders in general should question status quo and try to be where others are not.

Customer is NOT the king

While it’s important to have an amazing product or service and deeply care about your customers, some customers have a tendency to throw their weight around and act like kings. While there may be an imbalance of power between you and your customer, they are not kings. Resist the urge to make compromises especially when it comes to your values. Don’t give away your business just because you may be small or starting out and have little leverage. If you provide a great product or service, stand your ground and expect the value you deserve. You don’t need to give away all the value and be marginalized just because there is a perceived imbalance of power. In fact, you may be surprised that many of your customers or prospects will be willing to negotiate.

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Vladimir Collak

Vladimir Collak

Technology entrepreneur who loves both technology and startups. You can find me at www.collak.net

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