How to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur? How can you learn more from other entrepreneurs to de-risk your own venture and optimize for success?
Success leaves clues. So does failure. It is far better if you can learn from others and get right to the good stuff as a startup entrepreneur.
This remains true no matter what stage you are at from idea to hundreds of team members and getting ready to exit your company.
Here is why this is so important. Plus, some of the many ways of how to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur, and tips for getting the most out of these opportunities.
The Importance Of Learning From Others
It is easy to make assumptions. While some naivety can be beneficial when taking the leap into entrepreneurship, we also know what we get when we just assume.
There are many challenges in all different facets of running a business as a startup founder. They are coming at you from all angles all day, every day.
It’s not the ones that you see that get you. It is what you don’t know that will crush you.
Learning from others who have already been there and done it, or are going through it can provide invaluable insights. It is the great and most valuable hack of all.
It can open your eyes to deadly hidden pitfalls and mistakes. And it can save you years of painful time in trial and error mode, and all of the costly mistakes and detours that can ruin you.
Think of it like running through a forest of bear traps, but having a guide who can tell you where they all are.
Sometimes you just have to ask.
Willingly running in without asking for that help is really just insanity. You’d have to be miraculously lucky to make it out with just a few scratches.
At the same time learning from others is about being alerted to overlooked opportunities, and the best ways to reach your goals and get through the current weeds the fastest, easiest, and most profitably possible.
You really can’t afford anything else in the competitive startup environment out there.
Learning from others will give you new perspectives and ways of thinking. This is absolutely critical, especially if you have been programmed with more conventional thinking your whole life up until now.
Or you haven’t reached this point in a business’ lifecycle before.
So, how do you gain all of this valuable insight from others? How to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur? This is especially important if you want to build something that people want to use that will capture the attention of investors that will give you capital to help you grow the company.
Keep in mind that in fundraising storytelling is everything. In this regard for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Ways To Learn From Others As An Entrepreneur
Here are just some of the ways to empower yourself by learning from others.
Successful entrepreneurs are tremendous readers. Some spend hours reading each day.
Some often even before they consider doing any other work. In fact, there definitely seems to be a direct correlation between how much people read each day and how successful they are.
So, if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, read.
It’s the number one thing you can do. It’s also about the easiest and most affordable.
Read biographies of other highly successful entrepreneurs and business owners, and about their failures.
Read industry books to improve your own knowledge, and learn more about general and specific business topics.
Make the time to read to learn about fundraising and M&A. Perhaps even some fiction can help feed your creativity.
Blogs, Articles & Online Content
You don’t even have to dig into a whole book to learn from reading if you don’t have the attention span.
There are plenty of free and close to free reading sources online. Blogs and articles can still be some of the most powerful and influential content around.
Curate your own feed to keep up to date on your most important topics, and to see what other entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders are saying about their experiences and thought processes.
Social can be a mini version of this feed, though typically won’t give you the value and ROI on your time in these other mediums.
Then there are forums like Quora where you can ask and get your questions asked by other experts. Use them as a starting point for how to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur.
Go Back To School
There may be more efficient, faster, and cost-effective ways to get your MBA in entrepreneurship today, but there are great universities that consistently churn out great entrepreneurs and business experts.
You can use this time for digging into case studies of others, hearing lectures directly from those with real-world experience, and build your personal network at the same time.
Sometimes these professors become personal mentors or investors in their students’ businesses too.
If reading isn’t your thing then try podcasts. They can be even more agile when you are trying to learn on the go. You can take them with you on your commute, on your morning run, and to the gym.
Be sure to check out the Dealmakers Podcast for great insights directly from hundreds of the world’s most hyper-successful entrepreneurs who have raised and sold their startups for the most money.
Startup Accelerators & Incubators
There are many, many of these out there today. The few best ones like Y Combinator can be incredible learning grounds for early-stage entrepreneurs.
It will immerse you in a program that will teach you a lot in a very short period of time, from some experienced minds who have helped guide other successful startups.
This often includes landing some seed funding and the support to gain some real traction in your business.
The best startup accelerators are notorious for being harder to get into than Harvard. So, even the process of pitching them and applying can be a big help in honing your pitch deck and idea.
Interviewing and asking successful business owners and entrepreneurs is a great way to get targeted answers to what you really want to know and get help with.
You can do this by requesting their time over LinkedIn or by email, or by inviting them to appear on your own podcast or blog.
Mentors, Coaches & Advisors
You need them. They can be the most powerful and pivotal allies in your tool chest.
Don’t think they are a luxury you can afford to wait to get once you have some level of success. That’s not how it works.
You will probably never get there without them. Olympic athletes don’t get coaches after they win a gold medal. They get them to gain those wins. Otherwise, you would never hear of them.
They can come in many forms. They can be a part of an informal board of advisors. or they may help for free or in exchange for equity in your company.
Or you may pay them hourly consulting fees. However, you do it, get them, and get the best you can. It’s a wise investment. It will help you go faster and get the results you really want.
Constantly be building and expanding your network. This can open many doors, and often you won’t know which ones and when until they open.
Network with professionals in formal events and tradeshows, do informal networking where they hang out, and meet up with your peers to help each other out and be a support network for each other.
The number one indicator of your future success or failure is the size and quality of your Rolodex. How strong are you in this area?
Events are great for learning and networking. Don’t box yourself into just industry-specific and startup events either.
Look outside of your industry and even internationally too. These events can bring whole new perspectives, feed your creativity, and can take your network beyond what your peers are vying for.
They’ll help you understand how to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur.
Buy Lots Of Cups Of Coffee
Some of the best ways to learn are simply to grab a cup of coffee for a few minutes with those whose brains you want to pick.
It is warmer and more conducive to sharing ideas than in a professional speed networking situation.
Give yourself a coffee budget and blackout time on your calendar for it each week.
Bring Them In As Cofounders
If there are some people you would specifically like to learn from and are inspired by, perhaps the best option is to give them a vested interest in making your business a success.
Bring them on as a cofounder. They can wire their expertise right into your business, and may even bring along some capital too.
Bring Them In As Investors & Board Members
Find great angel investors and partners of VC firms. Pitch them that you really want them to be a part of this venture for what they can add to it, and get out of it.
They may just bring along a lot of capital too. More than that, you can be confident they are going to want to share as much knowledge and value as possible to ensure you succeed.
After all, to the degree that they help is also how much of a return on their investment they are going to get.
Go To Work For Them
If you are still just starting out in the hopes of becoming a startup entrepreneur, one of the best ways to learn is to go work for some of the other entrepreneurs you aspire to be like and learn from.
The great thing about this is that you are going to actually get paid by them to learn from them.
They are not only going to give you authentic advice, but you are going to be able to actually see what they are doing, not just saying.
Learn without the risk until you are ready to break out on your own.
Connecting with experienced entrepreneurs can help you learn a lot about how to start a new venture. If you would like more information about the startup hurdles every entrepreneur needs to overcome, check out this video. I have outlined some basics you’re sure to find helpful.
Tips For Learning From Others As An Entrepreneur
You can have all of the opportunities to learn in the world, but it won’t do you any good without an open mind and willingness to listen and apply it.
Acknowledge you may not know why this advice is supposed to work, or get it, but trust their experience and track record anyway.
Consider how much you would invest in helping a student who thinks they know it all and refuses to listen, even though they are taking up a seat in your class.
Listen, Listen, Listen
You are going to learn a whole lot more from these encounters if you are actively listening. The more you stay quiet, the more you can listen.
Ask Great Questions
To get the right answers you have to ask great questions. Give this some thought before rushing out there and burning opportunities.
Show Up On Time
You might be a hotshot compared to your classmates and most other people your age, but if you want respect and to get the most value, show up on time.
This can apply to Zoom meetings, coffee appointments, investor meetings, phone calls, classes, and more.
Find Ways To Add Value
People like to share and help others. Yet, they are probably even busier than you are. Taking time to talk to you is a big investment of their time.
It is worth a lot. Find ways to give to them, and not just take. Put in the time and effort how to learn from the experience of others as an entrepreneur.
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