Want to know what difference the right business lessons can make? Here’s my story. Growing up in a lower-middle-class Indian family, my relationship with money was…complicated.
My dad was a small business owner, but let’s just say his approach relied more on hearsay business myths than an actual functional strategy.
So when I followed in his footsteps, trying to make something of my own, I thought I knew everything there was to know about running a business.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
But hey, at least I was my own boss, right?
Except, being your own boss also means being your own employee, and let me tell you, I was not a very good one. So when my ventures tanked, I had no one to blame but myself.
It’s not just my past self. Most people who start running before they can barely walk end up falling face-first a few steps ahead. Some never learn the lesson. But a few do.
And even then, they break themselves so bad that they can’t even put to the test what they had learned the hard way.
After all, the fear of failure is nothing compared to the pain of actually failing.
I don’t know you. But chances are, you don’t want to end up there. If that’s the case, here are a few business lessons you should learn before burning truckloads of cash into the pit of your dreams.
Business Lesson 01: Entrepreneurship Isn’t a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
My initial business attempts failed because I was too selfish. I wanted to get rich, and I wanted to get it fast. That’s where I was wrong.
Running a business isn’t about what we want. It is all about finding market gaps and creating scalable solutions to fill them. It’s all about the problems you solve.
If you solve a million-dollar problem, you make millions. If you make a billion-dollar problem, you make billions
And if you keep trying to manifest wealth (instead of learning how money really works), you make an ass out of yourself who lets people get away with his hard-earned money by selling him false dreams.
As MJ DeMarco says in The Millionaire Fastlane:
Stop thinking about business in terms of your selfish desires, whether it’s money, dreams or “do what you love.” Instead, chase needs, problems, pain points, service deficiencies, and emotions.
So if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, forget about the sports cars, luxury mansions, and exotic holidays. Focus more on the value you provide for your target market.
Business Lesson 02: It Can Be Far Less Risky Than You Think
Make no mistake. Business can be risky. There’s no surefire success. What worked for you before might not work the same tomorrow. And when you lose, you lose real-life money.
So, yeah, it’s risky — for those who don’t know any better. But for people who know what they are doing, it’s far less dangerous than it looks.
Again, running a business is all about finding your market’s pain points and providing effective solutions. It requires you to have a unique set of skills and high adaptability.
And when you have those qualities, even if your business goes under, you will have no problem finding a good job.
Being an intuitive problem solver will instantly put you head and shoulders above those employees who are only grinding to pay their monthly bills.
The only thing is you have to keep your debt level as low as possible.
But how to do that? How to detect market gaps and find innovative solutions? And how the hell can anyone start a business without having to take insane amounts of debt?
Don’t worry. Here’s what you need to know.
Business Lesson 03: Innovation Isn’t Exclusive
I know. It might sound too good to be true. But you don’t have to be the creative type. All you need is a solid starting point. And to get that, you have to be a damn good listener.
Most people overlook this part and lose a fortune trying to innovate products no one wants. Here’s what they don’t understand.
It’s not just about what people are buying. It’s also about why they are buying it.
Different people might buy the same product for widely different reasons.
For example, you might buy a pair of headphones for watching content on your laptop. In that case, you want an immersive experience.
On the other hand, if I buy the same pair to accompany me on my morning runs, I would want a tighter grip and a more robust cable.
Likewise, if someone buys it as a gift, they would want it last longer. And if a podcaster gets it to film their videos, they would expect a clean mic experience.
As Clayton M. Christensen noted in his book Competing Against Luck:
When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again.
And what if it doesn’t do the job well?
we “fire” it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.
So if you want to build a product or service a wide range of people would like to pay for, find out what jobs they are hiring that product or service for and how you can make their experience smoother.
Business Lesson 04: You Can Try Out Your Business Model Before Making the Big Investments
How do you plan a product that people would actually want to pay for?
You don’t. It’s impossible.
Market research and studies are no guarantee that people will actually buy your product. Just because someone says they’re interested doesn’t mean they’ll follow through.
We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.― Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
So if you take them at their word and start producing in mass quantity, it’s more than likely that you will end up with a warehouse full of unsold products and an empty bank account.
That’s why you should always start with a Minimum viable product. What’s that? An MVP is a stripped-down version of your product or service that you can’t retail yet. But you can sure test it in the real world.
Here, let me tell you a story.
Nick Swimmer Warren, the founder of Zappos, wanted to see if people would be interested in buying shoes online.
He tested this idea by posting pictures of shoes on a website and seeing if anyone wanted to buy them. When someone did, he would go to the store, buy the shoes, and ship them to the customer.
Eventually, when the volume of orders became too much for Warren to handle by himself, he knew he could expand it into a real business by creating his own catalog and hiring a team.
That’s how you do it without exposing yourself to potential financial disasters.
Business Lesson 05: Growth & Success Aren’t the Same Things
Okay, let’s get one thing straight.
Revenue and profit are not the same things. And just because your business is growing doesn’t mean it’s automatically profitable.
When your growth is not scalable can get unsustainable. It’s because it may require a constant infusion of resources to maintain the increased size or scale of the business.
For example, Uber is known for focusing on growth rather than profitability, leading to losses despite a 72% increase in revenue.
While some venture-backed start-ups prioritize expansion over profits, Uber was more than 10 years old at this point.
Similarly, Casper has consistently lost money since its founding, despite earning a 50% profit margin on each mattress sold.
So, no. Letting go of your profit or reinvesting it in your baby isn’t a wise call. If anything, it will spoil the kid, and he will never learn to stand on his own feet.
We learn from mistakes. But it doesn’t always have to be our own. If you manage to learn these business lessons from others’ mistakes, it can produce the same results without the pain of failure.
But if you want to leverage others’ wins, you must also learn to strike & maintain meaningful relationships with the right people.