The entrepreneurial spirit is a powerful thing. For the first time, a majority of Americans think that starting a business is a great opportunity (Gallup research poll from 2015). The millennial generation is largely responsible for the recent swing to entrepreneurialism. Enthralled by the startup culture and Silicon Valley software boom, the image of success for new college grads has changed. Now, success looks like a graphic tee, skinny jeans and sneakers cruising down the streets of San Francisco on a fixed gear bike en route to a personal office space in the SoMa district. A divergence from large corporations and business suits. But what about those of us that aren’t interested in building another photo sharing app, and don’t have the technical savvy to design an artificially intelligent robot? Is there room for us in the entrepreneur scene? Absolutely. In fact, many reputable business publications (Forbes, NY Times) have published editorials predicting that 50% of the American labor force will be freelancers or entrepreneurs by 2020! The World Wide Web has changed everything (as if you didn’t already know). Internet devices allow us to access the biggest marketplace in the world, anytime, anywhere. Many of you are taking advantage of this expansive marketplace by selling cool stuff on Amazon. And many of you are considering quitting your 9am-5pm to focus on selling full-time. Successful full-time Amazon sellers think of themselves as entrepreneurs. This is a daunting step, but fear not, you’re not alone, and you’re not the first. Before I made the leap, I polled successful Amazon entrepreneurs for tips and best practices. Here’s what they said…
1. Consider Short-Term AND Long-Term Goals
Most people spend their entire professional careers as employees. Until recently, i was no different. As an employee, I spent my time completing the tasks that were passed down from on high. Most of these tasks tended to be short-term problems that needed quick solutions.
But the self-employed don’t have the luxury of focusing solely on the short-term. If you do focus too heavily on the short-term, you run the risk of losing your competitive advantage, or stagnating due to lack of vision. You need to start considering how your actions (and the actions of your competitors) will shape your market over the coming months and years.
The long-term business approach might not come naturally at first, but over time your mind will start to anticipate long-term priorities and problems. To start training your brain for long-term thinking, try a simple exercise I’ve heard recommended by a former CEO of General Electric. At the start of each work day, use a journal to jot down the top 3 long-term priorities for your business. The entire journal session should take less than 10 minutes. Don’t overthink it. Write down the first thoughts that come to your mind. Every 3 months or so, thumb back through prior entries to see which priorities persisted. The repeated long-term priorities are where you should focus the future of your business.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Break Things
Most corporations train their employees with a universal principle: “break the rules, and you’re fired”. This is a necessary rule that ensures the effectiveness of larger organizations. The C-level execs have a vision for the company and any employee that doesn’t subscribe to that vision is just getting in the way of progress.
As an entrepreneur, your job is to find new and profitable ways to break the rules. By “rules”, I’m referring to the conventional ways of getting stuff done. The problem with conventional and traditional wisdom is that it stifles innovation and creativity. From time to time, practice ignoring the status quo and consider radical, alternative, solutions…and try them! Even if it means breaking stuff.
3. Streamline Your Life
The days of clocking in and out (literally and figuratively) are over. When the clock strikes 5pm, nothing changes for the entrepreneur. You can’t hang up your hard hat everyday at 5pm and expect to have a thriving, growing business. The 24/7 nature of entrepreneurship can be one of the biggest challenges for the newly self-employed. Because you’re the type of person willing to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur, you run the risk of working around the clock, and sacrificing other important elements of a well-rounded life (family, friends etc). You’ll be reading up on the latest developments in your industry, keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing, and putting our fires that flare up in the middle of the night.
Instead of trying to resist this lifestyle, learn to accept it, but build in healthy boundaries. Once you do, force yourself to aggressively carve out time for your life outside of the business. The most successful business owners accept their limitations and implement boundaries to ensure their personal life has a place in their professional one. An example of a healthy boundary could be an intentional commitment to your family by restricting all business activities to the home office (ie: no checking product inventory levels on your laptop at the dinner table, and no emailing your freight forwarder from your iphone in the bedroom).
Another tip for streamlining your life is to get comfortable saying “NO.” Entrepreneurs have many daily responsibilities, and the consequences of failing in those responsibilities due to distractions could be irreconcilable. If a given distraction is not making you money or adding to your overall happiness, it has no place in your life. This goes back to setting priorities. On the business side, everything outside your priority criteria needs to go. If you don’t streamline, you run the risk of ending up drained and disoriented, and your business can’t afford to have it’s leader in that kind of condition. It’s crucial that you focus your unwavering energy on the priorities that are most critical to the life of your business.
No one ever said that making the leap to full-time Amazon seller would be easy, but if you consider some of these principles you’ll be in good shape. I wish you the best of luck on the journey to calling yourself “boss.” It’s a great feeling!
Author: Shane Stinemetz
Jiu Jitsu fighter, Sci-Fi lover and Digital Nomad. After becoming an FBA seller, Shane left the tech scene in Silicon Valley to work on Fetcher and travel around the world.