Lots of cliches here, but very true cliches nonetheless!
1. Research. Research. Research
This is the first thing you need to focus on when starting any new venture, or even a new project within your existing business.
Get to know your market, your competitors, your customers and test any assumptions you have made about these groups (check out my post on Validation for ideas on how to do this)
Before you spend a penny on development, you need to have built up a solid business case (will your idea generate profit) using accurate and real time data.
Don't be afraid of talking to anyone and everyone to get feedback and get as much of it as humanly possible! Also make sure that you put that feedback into action and use it when developing how you will actually put an idea into action.
2. You get out as much as you put in
Pretty self explanatory, but good things come to those who work for them.
You will not become a millionaire overnight, if you become one at all.
Successful business owners have to put in years of work, sweat and tears to get to where they end up.
If you aren't willing to put in the work, stop right now and go and get a boring 9-5, or get an attitude transplant, because you will get nowhere my friend.
3. Make time for yourself
This is so so important, because after all you are the most important thing in your business and your health and happiness is of paramount importance.
You can't be passive about this either, you need to actively carve out you time. Because let's face it, unless it's scheduled in and ring fenced with barbed wire, other things are going to take over.
Be selfish, even if it's for one day a week or a couple of hours each evening, you deserve it. Hell, you NEED it!
4. Numbers are king, know them inside out.
This has probably been my biggest lesson and one which I am actively seeking to learn more about, all the time.
A business needs to be profitable and you need to know when and how you will make this happen in financial terms.
Get to know your numbers intimately, because you need to be in control of them at all times.
5. Keep organised, it will make your life so much easier
I wish I had put in place a systematic filing system from day 1, as it would have saved me hours of wasted time looking for particular documents or invoices...
Have a system and ritually stick to it. It's also worth reviewing it every once in a while to make sure that it still works for you and the needs of your business.
6. Failure IS an option
Everyone screws up, or has things that don't work out. In short, everyone experiences failure.
Failing, especially in business, can actually be a very positive process because there is ALWAYS something you can learn from it.
The worst thing you can do is obsess over what went wrong and get "failure freeze" which basically is the fear of moving on because you might fail again.
By all means, analyse why you failed and work out the areas you need to improve on. This stuff is the rocket fuel which will propel you forwards. However you also need to focus on what went right, because nothing in life is an abject and total failure.
Use all of this information to make better decisions, because failure isn't a problem, it's what you do after that is the real killer.
7. Don't be afraid to say no to things that don't inspire you
This directly relates to number 10, but I do believe it is a very valuable point on its own.
I am a yes person, which is generally a very good thing to be, but it has meant that I have taken on tasks which I probably shouldn't have.
If you take on a task which doesn't inspire you, you will not put your all into it and will probably end up resenting it. So if you have the choice, always strive to only do the things you really love (I know this is not always possible, it's not like you can sack off the accounts! But there will be some things that you can and should say no to)
Saying no is a pretty difficult thing to learn, especially if it doesn't come naturally, but learning to be assertive is a very important skill which will ensure that you don't end up in awkward situations.
8. Hire for attitude and ability. Skills can be taught.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it has to want to be taught!
Again with the cliches, but I'm serious! You can have the most amazingly qualified and highly skilled person in your team, but if they aren't engaged or enthusiastic, there's literally no point them being there. Don't carry dead weight.
Hire people who share your vision and values, then work on teaching them what they need to know to take themselves to the next level.
You also need to look at how you empower and engage people, because you also need to pitch in and provide the structure and environment which will enable them to flourish.
Your people are your biggest asset, treat them accordingly.
9. Know what you want out of it - have an exit plan
Having an end point in mind means that you have something to plot a course towards. You can also use this as a guide to measure your progress and help keep yourself on track.
Your goals might be financial, professional or even personal, but it's important to have them!
Think about where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, even 20 years and plan accordingly.
10. Know your values
Think of this as a "I would do anything for my business, but I won't do that!" (got to love a cheesy Meatloaf reference)
There are some things I will not compromise on: beyond everything I value my integrity, both in a personal and professional context. This directly affects my decision making process, as I refuse to enter anything that contravenes my commitment to honesty and truthfulness.
Your values might be different from mine, but it's important to know what you stand for, because as the cliche goes - "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything"
I really think it's a very good idea to write down your values and keep them to hand, as they will help guide you through difficult decisions and risky choices.