There’s a lot I’ve learned along the way to finding business and financial success before the age of 30. Below is the advice I would offer to today’s entrepreneurs.
Innovation always involves a leap into the unknown. Courage is a fundamental prerequisite for entrepreneurial success. This includes a willingness to swim against the tide, communicate clearly at all levels, and to discuss, criticize and inform. However, it’s precisely the unwillingness to leave your comfort zone that causes many young entrepreneurs to fail.
Don’t listen to naysayers.
There will always be people who say: “That’s impossible. Don’t do it. Be realistic.” This is a typical reason to abandon an innovative and promising startup. Yes, it’s true that most startups fail, but who’s to say you won’t be the successful 10th in line?
If you are really convinced by your idea and you’ve considered the risks and opportunities carefully, you shouldn’t let yourself be dissuaded by naysayers—even if they come from your own family or circle of friends. Be proactive instead and create a supportive environment on your way to your goal.
There is a psychological phenomenon that claims you can banish a bad mood by simply smiling. Routines take advantage of this mechanism. Do things regularly that you know will have a positive effect on your self-perception and your own performance, regardless of how exhausting the day was. Only when routines become second nature do they become fully effective.
Good routines might include exercising in the morning, reading industry-relevant literature or making five new contacts per week. For example, my day begins at 5:21 a.m. My performance throughout the day benefits from having a regular circadian rhythm. I start the day with 100 pushups and a 60-minute jog around Berlin Tiergarten. Physical fitness improves my mental fitness and gives me enough energy for everyday business life.
Invest in yourself.
If you want to be successful in the long term, you should not only invest in your company but also in yourself. If you invest in your education on a monthly basis, you’ll build up a wealth of knowledge in a short time span, which will become a competitive advantage.
The same applies to constant physical and psychological training. Here, too, it’s important to look at the time and monetary investment in the long term and not to expect immediate cash returns.
I challenge myself to read one complete textbook per month. This isn’t just a passive absorption of knowledge. Investing in my personal education this way increases my vocabulary (useful when negotiating with investors), enhances my problem-solving capacity and shapes my mindset to face the challenges of the future.
Invest a percentage of your monthly income.
Once you can pay yourself a decent base salary, it’s important to pay yourself first. The main thing here is that your money works for you and you take advantage of compound interest.
Especially in the early days, it’s crucial to build up healthy capital stock. My companies typically maintain a liquidity reserve of 25%. Any surplus would be invested in medium- and long-term assets. As a private person, I set aside three months’ base salary as a private nest egg and put the rest in long-term investments.
After the first entrepreneurial success, you might feel like everything runs by itself and you can live off your first success for a long time. But that is a mistake. Competition evolves constantly. If you don’t develop your offer at the same pace, you’ll soon be left behind. Motivate yourself again rapidly after you experience success and stimulate your appetite for further growth.
Question your actions.
There’s always potential for improvement—even if you don’t see it right now. A good starting point is to evaluate processes and products regularly, test alternatives, and implement new approaches if necessary. View problems not as “irritating additional tasks” but as the core of the entire entrepreneurial process.
There’s only one way to develop your full potential: Think big. If you think big, big things will happen and you’ll attract other big-thinking people who will contribute to your success.
A corporate vision of true greatness encompasses more than just economic goals. It shows you where you want your company to be at a certain point in time. This includes the image you wish to project. You have to move beyond your comfort zone constantly. After all, you can’t achieve anything great if you’re only focused on the everyday.
Always take responsibility.
We often blame other people for things that go wrong in our lives—our parents, friends or colleagues. But this is the wrong approach. In the end, you’re always responsible for your own progress. Being aware of this can help you gain more self-confidence, courage and full control. Break out of the victim role and shape your future actively. You’ll no longer perceive small setbacks as a threat.
Never accept short-term solutions to long-term problems.
In many less successful companies, problem-solving means treating symptoms. Let’s take the example of employee motivation. It may help in the short term to pay dissatisfied and unproductive employees a higher salary, but they will quickly get used to it and fall back into old habits. It’s more important to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the reasons for the underperformance. The circumstances aren’t always immediately obvious. Once problems are identified, they can be eliminated within the framework of a continuous improvement process.
Courage, deliberate optimism, routines, personal investment, ambition, scrutiny, perspective, accountability and solution-oriented analysis are aspects of personal and professional success that you need to address every day. A complex problem should always be solved with a quick review to see which of these areas might have been left unattended. Certainly, times in my life during which I enjoyed the most professional success were when all the cups were full.