As an entrepreneur and an author, I get the privilege to speak to a lot of professionals, business owners and media producers. During my conversations I am frequently asked, “What are some of the most important lessons, you have learnt as an entrepreneur that you would like to share with other aspiring businesses?”
Mine is not an uncommon story. Like many others, I came to this country as an immigrant from India in the fall of 2005. I did not have a lot of things going for me when I decided to start my own business. Most businesses need two Cs to take off the ground— Capital and Contacts. I had neither. All I had was a vision, a dream of doing something on my own and making it big.
With nothing but a couple of thousand dollars, my laptop and a desk in my two bedroom apartment in San Jose, I founded Arcus Lending in 2008; the same year when the biggest financial crisis hit the U.S. economy.
Most people thought I was crazy and, well, I could not blame them. It is very easy to get disappointed and dejected from the initial failures and give up easily. And believe me, I did fail frequently, especially in the beginning. In fact if you are not failing, you are not trying. Almost everything that made me successful started as a failure—when I started writing blogs, I didn’t get a single lead. When I started speaking only a handful would turn up to hear me. When I went to other related business seeking business, I wouldn’t get any. This lasted for months. But I persisted. I made sure to stay on track and kept plugging analyzing, monitoring and finding ways to improve continuously.
So, succeeding during one of the worst recessions didn’t come easy. But with a clear vision and a solid game plan I was able to create a thriving lending business in a span of four years.
There were several lessons learned along the way. Here are the three, I consider most important.
Build a Self-Brand
If you don’t blow your own trumpet, who else will? Many of you readers may have heard this. But most of us who grew up in India, find this really hard to do. It was hard for me as well, so I started the easy way. I realized that writing about my knowledge and sharing it in smaller groups was something I could do. I started my own Lending Blog and began writing frequently. I started contributing to other blog sites in my industry and speaking at small industry events. Soon, the blog writing evolved into writing books and speaking at small events and led to my getting speaking invitations from national industry events. Media interviews followed and soon I was the go-to person when it came to mortgage lending.
So in other words, own your own successes. Everyday there are significant events that happen in your business life. If you are not able to convey the message of your success, no one else will. Consider it an art form. It’s not boasting and bragging but branding your own message.
Pick the medium that works best for you —text, video or audio. If text is your thing—write blogs and/or ebooks. If video works for you, record and distribute videos on YouTube, Facebook and other video sharing sites. You can start a Vlog (Video Blog) as well. And if you are good at talking, starting a radio show or podcast is the way to go. Whatever medium you pick, current technologies make it extremely inexpensive to share your message and engage with your audience. And if you are not a born public speaker like me, try Toastmasters. It’s one of the best investments you would make when it comes to personal development.
Learn and Evolve
The biggest lesson I perhaps learnt as an entrepreneur is to never stay stagnant; always engage in the process of evolving. Since I began my journey as an entrepreneur, I have spent hundreds of hours in learning new ideas, tools and technologies. The return on investment has been huge.
In today’s age there is no dearth of information. You need to take action after getting the information. Usually it’s not the lack of money or time that prevents people from executing. I was asked on a radio show what I thought was the number one reason why business owners do not implement ideas. I said it was inertia; lot of us are just stuck where we are. Even at this stage of my business, I spend several hours every week to learn new ideas. It’s an investment in your own advancement.
Out-Hustle the Competition
There are a lot of things in your business that you probably don’t control or may not have access to. When I started, I didn’t have any capital or contacts, both of which are critical to succeed in any kind of business. The one thing that you can and must do is out-hustle your competition.
Very early in my entrepreneurship days I was listening to the 2007 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, Vikas Jhingran speak about his victory. He wasn’t pegged as one of the favorites to win the competition. After winning he was asked his secret and he said that he knew he wasn’t the best but he out-prepared all other competitors. He worked on and practiced his speech two times more than other competitors. I took his message to heart. I knew I had my limitations but I decided I would never let my competitor out prepare or out-hustle me.
Remember what novelist Greg Evans said. “I do not have superior intelligence or faultless looks. I do not captivate a room or run a mile under six minutes. I only succeeded because I was still working after everyone else went to sleep.”
Entrepreneurship is a roller-coaster ride and not all days are sunny but with some imagination, a solid work ethic and a great attitude anyone can win this game.
Shashank Shekhar is the CEO, of Arcus Lending, a Silicon Valley based mortgage lending company. He is a national speaker, a blogger and an Amazon.com best-selling author. He can be reached at[email protected].