Why Young Entrepreneurs Should Be Hopeful and Strategic

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If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need strategy and action.

As an angel investor, VC investor, advisor, attorney, and serial entrepreneur, the one mistake I see entrepreneurs make too often is to rely on hope. Don’t get me wrong. Hope can be a beautiful thing. When Senator Obama’s book came out, The Audacity of Hope, I loved it and was inspired by it. It laid the foundations for me to join my current company, where I help inspire people by connecting them with great thought leaders and Awaken Greatness Within.

Hope is important–as a starting point. It can give you the strength to persevere in the face of adversity. It can motivate you to achieve your goals.

However, hope is not a strategy. It is not a plan. It is not a roadmap to success. When I hear a young entrepreneur start a sentence, “Well, we hope that…is going to happen,” then I can be pretty sure their business is in trouble.

So this is what I tell entrepreneurs about a strategy to help them get started.

What Is and Is Not a Strategy?

A strategy is your roadmap to success. It is a plan that outlines how you are going to achieve your goals. It’s based on data and analysis.

It is not your mission (which is what you want to accomplish). Neither is it your vision (which is the reason why you do what you do). Strategy is how you’re going to accomplish your mission and vision.

How Can You Get Started on Building a Strategy?

Once you understand what a strategy is, you can break it down into steps so you can accomplish your goals.

1. Set clear goals. This step seems obvious. Yet, sometimes entrepreneurs have vague goals, like they want to make a lot of money or help people. Or they have poor goals in which they have an idea for a cool product, yet no idea if anyone needs it. To set clear goals, find a good problem to solve.

Maybe you see people with low incomes need affordable transportation to get to work. Once you know what problem you want to solve, you can start developing a plan to get there.

2. Do your research. Yes. You need to do your homework. Lots of it. Study your industry. Study your competitors. For example, if you’re setting up a retail location, look at the foot traffic on that street, mall, or shopping center. Do people shop there? And what do other businesses like yours earn? The more you know, the better equipped you will be to create a successful strategy.

3. Create a plan. Your plan should have specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals. You may have heard of the acronym: SMART. For example, your first step in your journey might be: Create a Business Plan for Funding. Then you can break down that project into measurable and achievable steps into a timeline. Maybe you can work on a part each week. And you will have it done in a month.

4. Take action. This is the step where young entrepreneurs often go astray. Instead of doing something, I see them sit around and hope for the best. They make a business pitch and hope they will get funded by the first VC they interview with. I don’t see them take action like networking with everyone they know so they can generate excitement or find more people who are interested.

5. Be persistent. Sometimes you won’t see the results for quite a while. Don’t give up when things get tough. In fact, for many young entrepreneurs, even though you are pursuing your plan and following your SMART goals, it will feel like your business is making little progress.

At the start, you might be attracting few customers and have little income. Just remember, you need to keep repeating the steps in your plan until you see progress or until you get enough feedback that shows you need to change your plan.

Remember, hope is not a strategy. It is a feeling. Feelings, wishes, and dreams are never going to be enough. If you want to be successful, you need to have more than just hope. You need to have a plan. You need to have a strategy. You need to take action.