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success ladder

By Patrick Clements

Entrepreneurship is a popular career path today—and for good reason. There’s an undeniable sense of gratification in taking the road less traveled and creating your success through your own ideas and hard work. And, of course, there’s always the (slim) chance you might get rich and famous in the process.

But as even Richard Branson and Bill Gates would attest, the path to success is paved with uncomfortable challenges and tough lessons. From my experience of starting a business and connecting with and mentoring budding business owners, I’ve discovered there are six lessons every entrepreneur eventually learns.

1. You can’t do everything on your own

If you feel uncomfortable asking for help, you’re not alone. Most entrepreneurs are self-starters used to doing everything solo—and usually doing things their own way. This independence is often one of the catalysts behind launching our own ventures in the first place. But it can also become a handicap.

While you might be a highly efficient and capable individual, there’s only so much one person can handle. And the longer you avoid asking for help, the larger your burden will become. As your business grows, you’ll be pulled in a thousand new directions and responsible for making critical decisions. If you’re mired in day-to-day minutiae, your company will never get off the ground.

What this lesson will teach you: Hire wisely, delegate often, and invest in tools to help you work smarter.

2. Having a great idea isn’t enough

Everybody has good ideas, but it takes more than daydreams to launch and grow a successful company. Execution is what separates a concept from just being a great great idea to a living, breathing, viable business.

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If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be willing to put in the work and execute on your innovation. And, to be frank, this part can suck. There will be many late nights and numerous frustrations, and you might even question whether your idea is even worth it in the first place. You need to understand that if it was easy then everyone would do it. Having the right mental fortitude and passion are essential to lifting any idea off the ground.

What this lesson will teach you: Your idea is just the beginning. If you want to bring it to life, you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. No excuses.

3. Revenue isn’t the only measure of success

Many business founders (myself included) started out believing their bottom line was the single most important measure of success—that if they could just hit a specific number, everything would be rosy. We are taught that financial success is the only form of success.

Eventually, through time and experience, you realize financial success is a red herring. Sure, making enough money is critical to sustaining your business. But there are other equally vital measures of success—like how much of a difference you’re making in the lives of others. This would be your employees, your customers, your partners, and even your investors. (The same holds true in your personal life. If you’re relying on money for happiness, you’ll always be disappointed.) If you are providing the opportunity for individuals to grow professionally, socially, communally, then that is equally as important as financial success.

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