At a recent speaking event, an audience member asked me, “When is the safest time to start a business?”
The short answer: There is no safe time … and if you’re asking that question, you might not be an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs look at business differently — they’re out-of-the-box thinkers and blue-sky dreamers who see possibilities where others don’t. It’s this type of mindset that makes their businesses thrive.
That’s not to say that you can’t be an entrepreneur if you’re not a risk taker or innovator. But the long-term success of your business will depend on your ability to adapt your thinking. Here are some tips to rewire your mindset to think more like an entrepreneur (and transform your forecast for success while you’re at it).
1. Do One Thing a Day That Scares You
I’ve always been a bit of a troublemaker. I cut class in high school (and flunked grade 8) and ran a bootleg candy shop out of my dorm room. Obeying authority has never been my strong suit — but it’s made me a better entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are adrenaline junkies who know business ownership is all about risk. There are no rules and there’s no guarantee for success, so if you want to own a business, get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Teach yourself to take risks by doing one thing a day that scares you. And (here’s the key part): don’t worry if you fail. In fact, be willing to fail — the greatest lessons come from our mistakes. As you get used to stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll be able to make the tough calls for your business.
2. Think Fast!
There will be a lot of tough calls ahead if you own your own business. You need to know how to assess and address in the blink of an eye o and trust that it will all work out.
Five years into 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I made one of the toughest business decisions of my life: I fired my entire staff. I realized things weren’t working and that my employees weren’t aligned with my vision for the company. I cleaned house, streamlined our hiring process, and we’re a better company because of it.
I’m an eternal optimist and I’ve always had faith in myself and my decisions. I trust my gut — and (so far) it hasn’t steered me wrong. Try this: the next time you have to make a decision, do the first thing that comes to mind. More often than not, your first instinct turns out to be the right one.
3. Replace Fear of the Unknown With Curiosity
Entrepreneurs don’t get a job description; starting a business is a world of unknowns and you have to be a jack of all trades to succeed. You’ll need to learn on the fly, flex your problem-solving muscles daily, and always be on the lookout for new ideas.
Running a business is an education and it’s not the kind you can get sitting behind a desk. I dropped out of college to grow 1-800-GOT-JUNK? because I was learning more about business by running one than I was in school — and those lessons were more valuable than a degree. As Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to find what you love.” So get out there and look for it.
4. Own Up
When something goes wrong, there are two ways to look at it: the world is out to get you or you could have done something differently. Only one of those mentalities works in business.
‘Locus of control’, as psychologists call it, is the amount of control you believe you have over what happens in your life. An external locus — the kind where the world is against you — is a common fault among unsuccessful business owners. These people are more likely to displace blame onto employees and colleagues, or chalk their failures up to bad luck. They perceive success as outside of their control and fail to acknowledge their role in mistakes.
An internal locus, however, is when you take ownership of your business failures and learn from them instead. As a result, you learn to adapt and how to avoid mistakes in the future. These are the successful entrepreneurs.
Eight years ago, I made a near-fatal mistake when I hired a COO that clashed with our culture. I’d been so dazzled by her knockout resume that I failed to consider her personality — and in turn, I failed my team. Other employees refused to work with her and some even left the company. I’d made an error in judgment and I had to own up.
When we let her go, I vowed never to overlook the importance of culture fit again. And in the aftermath of my mistake, we found the best COO we could’ve hoped for.
5. Stop Asking, Start Doing
I first got the idea for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? while sitting in a McDonald’s drive-through. A truck full of old junk passed by and I thought, “There’s my ticket.” I had nothing to lose: I was 19 and didn’t have the responsibilities of a family or a mortgage to consider. So I made the call to get started and went in full force.
‘Entrepreneur’ is more than a job title — it’s a part of who I am. And I know the success of O2E Brands (our family of home-service companies) hinges on our collective mindset. If we couldn’t take giant leaps of faith, we couldn’t have scaled to where we are today. And if we second-guessed all our decisions, we’d take ten steps back for every inch forward.
So when is the safest time to start a business? Never. But the best time? Now.