How do you ensure success? Who stands out from the crowd? What separates the pros from the amateurs?
There aren’t any definitive answers. And I’m not even going to begin to try and analyze them. What I will say, is that over the years, I’ve been observing. Working with startups and entrepreneurs on a regular basis has provided rare insight into what makes one person get ahead of the rest.
Here are five way to set yourself up for success that go beyond conventional wisdom:
1. Make it easy to help you
Most people are excited and willing to help out new entrepreneurs. But the likelihood of connecting with someone who is more seasoned in the industry is largely dependent on how you make the “ask.”
The first and most obvious way to sabotage yourself is by writing an inquiry email that scrolls on for block paragraph after endless block paragraph. In most cases if you’re looking for advice, the person you’re seeking out is busy.
Keep your email to no more than two to three short paragraphs. Your chances of getting a response are incrementally higher and you’ll come across as more professional – and more effective.
Bonus tip: Ask a specific question. Avoid using phrases like, “Can I pick your brain?” Instead, ask the exact questions you want to know the answers to. Once you have your foot in the door and get a response, you can follow up from there.
2. Write thank you notes
They don’t have to be handwritten and shipped via snail mail, but if someone takes the time to jump on a call on your behalf, follow up with them.
Regardless if the advice was good or not, it’s common courtesy to express gratitude to someone who gave their time to you.
This is especially applicable when a contact goes out on a limb to introduce you to someone. It makes that person and yourself look bad if you don’t take the time to follow up afterwards.
Good things come from gratitude. And the most successful entrepreneurs show how much they value the people who helped them along the way.
3. Start before you’re ready
Should I launch now? Should I get more real world experience first? Should I go back to school? Only you know the answer that’s right for you, but my recommendation to most aspiring entrepreneurs is to start before you’re ready.
Building a business requires a long runway. It’s not only about the amount of hours in the day that you spend on your business, but the months and years that you take building up to it. As I tell my entrepreneurs (on repeat), launching a successful company is a marathon not a sprint.
The sooner you can start fleshing out your ideas, seeking out mentorship, connecting with industry peers and educating yourself, the better off you are in the long run. The old cliche usually holds true: Tomorrow you’ll wish you had started today.
4. Be consistent
The entrepreneurs who get ahead are calm and collected. They’re methodical, they’re strategic and they don’t get easily frazzled.
When you’re first starting out, your attitude and the way you handle challenges are going to dictate how you respond in the months or years of your business to come. The entrepreneurs who get ahead know there is a solution for everything. And sometimes the solution falls under the guise of a better option.
Building a business is not an overnight endeavor. It requires consistency of action, which means not giving up if something doesn’t work the first time.
5. Ask for help
Nobody builds a successful business by doing it on their own. That’s right, nobody.
The entrepreneurs and mentors you see are all getting help, seeking out mentors of their own, building advisory boards and seeking out further education.
Solopreneurship is a farce. If you want to get ahead, then you have to seek out help from others and continue to invest in yourself. That’s what separates the amateurs from the pros.
Author: Shannon Whitehead
Shannon Whitehead is the founder of Factory45, an online accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch — without raising venture capital. Committed to improving the fashion industry, Whitehead launched what was at the time the most successful fashion project on Kickstarter and now helps other fashion entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market.
Image credit: www.madresdedesamparados.org
This article was originally published in Entrepreneur.com