Five Lessons I’ve Learned From 25 Years Of Entrepreneurship

Martin Warner, one of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs, shares what 25 years of entrepreneurship has taught him about success.

I’ve been fortunate enough to build several global businesses over 25 years as an entrepreneur. Despite each one being unique, I’ve applied the fundamental lessons of entrepreneurship I’ve learned to every single one. These will help you advance in business, entrepreneurship, or your career.

1. Practise Critical Thinking And Be Rigorous In Your Decisions And Analysis 

 Entrepreneurship moves fast. You can be sketching out the framework of your new product in the morning and pitching to investors in the afternoon. One critical skill any entrepreneur must master is wearing many hats at once but maintaining a sharp eye for detail. 

 A detailed orientated approach leads to great critical thinking and better decision making. Not every decision you make will be correct, but attention to the details that go into making a decision maximises your chances of making a good choice. Entrepreneurship is all about problem-solving. If you can break a problem down by assessing every detail, then you have a higher chance of solving it. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of detail. 

2. Prudence In Planning. Be Patient And Realistic.

 As an entrepreneur, it is easy to get carried away with an idea or project. In your excitement to reach the result, you cut corners and promise deadlines that you cannot meet. You over-promise and under-deliver. Try to avoid this, especially when working with investors, shareholders, and directors.Never accept your first plan. I revise my plans multiple times when working on new projects or businesses. As a general rule of thumb, your project will cost twice as much and take twice as long to execute as you predict. It is always better to deliver ahead of time and under budget than late and over budget.

Remember the rule of threes when planning, and keep it simple and realistic:

  • It will cost X. 
  • I will achieve Y. 
  • In Z amount of time.

 3. Have A Plan B That Is Almost As Good As Plan A 

 Despite your best preparation, as you execute your plan you run into challenges. Having a great plan B helps you avoid a pivot or an unexpected failure of your business. An example of this was when I sold my 3D printing business for $50 million in a record 17 months. We held patents for full-colour 3D printing, and we were planning on designing, manufacturing, and retailing. We took six-figure pre-orders of 3D printers from around the world.

Plan A was to design, manufacture and sell 3D printers. Plan B was to build value in the patents that we held. Despite succeeding with selling our printers, my doubts about the mass uptake of 3D printing led to me selling the business to a competitor interested in the patented technology. I exited the business with an incredible result. Looking back at how 3D printing technology has not popularised as fast as predicted over the last six years, it was a great plan B. Always hedge options and have a great backup plan. 

4. Do Everything To Remove Complexity

 Great decisions in entrepreneurship come from clear minds. It’s hard to make a great decision if there are complex factors involved. Make it as simple as possible by removing complexity. An example of removing complexity is when an entrepreneur enters a new market versus an existing one. Entering a new market is financially rewarding, but it comes with more complexity than an existing one. In existing markets, you can learn from your competitors and make decisions less complex by being data-informed. In a new market, it is harder to come by data and learn from competitors. There is more complexity in your choices. Ideally, you want to make data-led decisions.

Removing complexity from your product or service is also vital. An entrepreneur must strip their product back to the core problem they are solving. Once your product or service solves the problem, you can iterate. Remember to remove complexity from the situation at all times.

5. Never Lose Sight Of The Customer

 Your customer is the most important asset your business has. Once you have them, focus on building loyalty and advocacy. It is hard to acquire new customers, but if you lose existing customers as fast as you gain them, you will struggle to stay afloat. 

Taking care of your customers rewards you and your business in the long term. Often forgotten in a digital world, word of mouth is one of the most powerful sales and marketing channels. If you take care of your customers, your customers will take care of you. Always focus efforts on what you can do to raise customer advocacy. Keep sight of the customer at all times. They are the most critical part of your business.

If you follow these five key lessons above, I can guarantee that you will progress in your career, business, or entrepreneurship. Get the basics right, and the rest will follow.

Martin Warner is one of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs, renowned for having built and sold his 3D printing business botObjects for $50 million in a record-breaking 17 months, Martin Warner is a global thought leader on entrepreneurship and a business mentor, educator, inventor, film producer, and investor.

Having taught entrepreneurship for 20 years to thousands of people, Martin now shares his thought leadership, teachings, and coaching through his education program, Entrepreneur Seminar.

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