5 Essential steps to becoming an elite entrepreneur

5 Essential steps to becoming an elite entrepreneur

It’s uncomfortable isn’t it?

Being so vulnerable all the time. One of the toughest things about being an entrepreneur is that you’re always learning. Always.

It’s not enough to just focus on doing your craft well. It’s the business part of running a business that trips people up.

There are so many moving parts, and elements that need to work together to help you reach your business goals.

And when you’re constantly learning, stretching yourself, as you try to figure things out, it’s easy to consistently feel out of your element.

And that is totally unnerving when it comes to something that plays such a big role in your livelihood.

If you’re not careful, that vulnerability will rock your confidence.

It will cause you to cling to the areas and activities that feel the most comfortable for you. It will cause you to spend all your time on the areas where you feel like you’ve got a strong handle on how to make things work.

But staying in your comfort zone is no way to grow a business.

You’ve got to stretch far beyond it. Here’s a quick story to illustrate what can happen when you do.

How I discovered there were no limits

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to take surfing lessons. So I booked a trip to Mexico with my sisters and cousins, for a few months later.

There was just one problem. I didn’t know how to swim. And I kind of needed to know how to swim to be able to surf. You know, because that involves being in the ocean and all. 🙂

So I hired a swim coach, for four 30-minute private lessons. My first lesson, she totally kicked my butt. Not only could I not swim, but I was really out of shape. Ugh.

Over time, I improved. It helped a lot that I practiced a ton on my own in between lessons. And I continued training on my own after my sessions with the coach were complete.

Eight weeks after my first swim lesson, I was on the Pacific Coast of Mexico learning how to surf.

Sonia going to surf

I was so pleased with myself for reaching my goal, I decided to push myself with an even bigger one: a triathlon.

So I signed-up for a race being held three-and-a-half months later. It didn’t matter to me that I was still a novice swimmer, I didn’t own a bike, and had never actually ran a 5k before. I had just learned to surf, and my confidence was high.

The triathlon was grueling. It wasn’t pretty. But I did it.

Triathlon (before)

So what do my crazy shenanigans have to do with you growing your business?

There is a moral to this story.

It doesn’t matter what your background is. How old you are. What your skill level is. Or even  if you feel completely exposed and not confident in your skills as an entrepreneur.

You can reach your business goals. And it is possible to reach them sooner than you think.

You just need to decide who it is you need to become, and then focus your energy on transforming yourself into that person.

I wanted to learn how to surf. Which meant I needed to become a swimmer.

I wanted to be a triathlete. Which meant I had to get improve my skills with swimming, biking, and running.

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, you can become as skilled at it as you would like to be.  It just requires a decision, and following these steps.

How to grow into an elite entrepreneur

1. Set a clear goal

We covered this in detail in lesson 1 of this series, so if you haven’t had a chance, go back and catch up on goal setting here.

The goal, coupled with the deadline is the starting point. It gives you what you need to focus your efforts to accomplish what’s necessary to grow your business.

When it came to my extra-curricular activities, my goals were clear. Take surf lessons while on my Mexico vacation, and then later, it was to complete the triathlon I signed-up for.

When it comes to your business, your goal will determine what you spend your time on, and where to focus you learning efforts so you can get the greatest return.

2. Acknowledge your abilities

Once you’ve set your goal, the next part is doing an assessment of your current abilities.

To accomplish my goal of taking surfing lessons, I first had to acknowledge that I didn’t know how to swim.  And the ability to swim was the primary barrier standing between me and getting on the surfboard.

When it comes to the goal you have set for your business, you’ve got to acknowledge what skills are required to reach it. And then you’ve got to give yourself an honest assessment of your current level of proficiency in executing that skill.

For instance, when I started my business, I decided that utilizing content was going to be my primary strategy for generating leads.

But I had never really learned how to write for the web. Or what was required to create content people would enjoy.

My thought process was, how hard can this be? I’m smart. I know how to write. I can figure this out.

And that thinking unfortunatley led to me publish this 54-word masterpiece:

Running the Business of Your Business

Know your business. The industry you are in. The way it works. Your customers. Your suppliers. Your competitors. They way they work. What makes you different. Why your business does or does not work. Know the business you are in. That’s how you will be able to stay in the business you are in.

Dreadful wasn’t it? Thankfully, when I published that, I hadn’t left my day job yet :).

But over time, I recognized that I had no skills when it came to blogging. And that recognition that my proficiency level at blogging was nowhere near where it needed to be, led me to move forward with the next step.

3. Get training

It doesn’t matter what it is, you can increase your skills level. And that starts with getting the training you need to move you from where you are to where you want to go.

A lot of people get hung up here. They think that they can’t learn something. Or that it isn’t a part of their DNA. Or whatever excuse they can think of for why they “can’t” do something.

I’ve got news for you. You can learn to do whatever you want.

In her best-selling book Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck showed through her years of research that your basic qualities, intelligence, and talents are things that you can cultivate though your efforts.

And all this is possible through what she calls the growth mindset.

Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.

In other words, you cannot base your potential of how great you can be as a marketer, entrepreneur, strategist, sales person, or whatever based upon how good you are at that skill in the present moment.

How good you get at something is based upon the focused training and effort you put into it.

So for me to become a swimmer, I had to get training from a swim coach on how to swim.

For me to become a better blogger, I went and got training on how to do that.

As you think about the different skills you need to reach your business goals, think about the best ways to get the training you need to grow.

4. Practice

There’s no way around it. Practice is essential. You’ve got to practice your way to performing better at a task. You’ve got to put the time in to grow into the entrepreneur you are capable of becoming.

When it came to swimming, that meant getting a workout in at least once a week. And since I had limited time, sometimes I’d sneak in a swim two or three times a week.

When it came to blogging, I practice by writing every day. It means publishing my work regularly both on my site, as well as on other publications.

5. Execute

The last point seems obvious, but it’s still necessary. Too often, we will put a lot of work in training, practicing, and never actually putting our work out in the street.

I knew a guy who had several masters degrees, but struggled getting a job in his field. Why did he have such trouble?

He had no real-world experience. He was well-trained.  He knew all the theory, and the way things should have worked in his functional area.

But no one was hiring him because he’d spent too much time learning how to do the work. And not enough time actually doing the work.

Learning is essential, but it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t execute on what you learn.

My swim lessons and hours and hours of practice doing laps in the pool would have meant nothing, if I didn’t actually get in the ocean for the surf lesson.

All that training and writing I did working on becoming better at blogging would have meant nothing, if I never published my work.

You’ve got to put your work out in the world. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be the biggest and the best thing out there. It needs to be good enough for you to get started.

Then you can use the forward momentum to push forward, get feedback, adjust, and do it again better. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. That’s how you become a master of your craft.

That’s how you transform yourself from someone who stands on the sidelines wishing you could do something, to being the person who actually does it.

Ready to take the next step in becoming an elite entrepreneur?

  1. Write down the SMART goal you set for yourself in lesson 1.
  2. Who do you need to become to achieve this goal? What specific skills do you need to develop or improve at to make your goal a reality? Write down at least two.
  3. Rate your current level of proficiency in those skills on a scale of 1-10 where 1=I know nothing, and 10=I’m an expert.
  4. For each skill you listed, make a list of three ways you can get training on that skill to improve your proficiency at it.
  5. For each of the skills you need the most work on to reach your goal, write down how you will practice this skill to improve your ability to do it. Include how frequently you will practice as well.
  6. How will you execute on what you’ve learned so you can get real-world feedback on what you produce? Brainstorm at least three things you can do for each skill.