Graphic: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Njue Mutwiri: Advice to young, first-time start-up and small business owners

I have started over 7 ventures since I was 18. Five have miserably failed and two have been a success. There are key lessons that I have picked along this journey that every entrepreneur young or old should pay attention to.

Stay put. I consider the following 10 lessons key to any entrepreneurial mind.

1.Ability to sell is a key determinant

Learn how to sell in whatever field you are in. Know the tricks, the ins and outs of the venture and keep getting better at convincing people to buy from you.

2.Determination is the biggest predictor of long-term success

You can succeed, but often it is a matter of how badly you want to. Stay determined — dial those cold calls, shoot those cold emails. Get hungry for the win.

3.You will grow what you measure

Take a sticky note, and write one goal on it. Be specific. Now place it on your bathroom mirror, so that each morning you’re reminded of your №1 growth priority. If you’re building a company, this should be a week-over-week metric such as users or revenue.

4.Do not mistake activity for growth

Startup founders often don’t know what truly constitutes growth. Adding features to your product is not growth. Neither is getting a fancy office or going to a lot of events. Adding customers and building product counts as growth — that’s about it.

5.The key to growth is progress 

If you’re not moving forward, here is a way to get tasks done through a life hack called workstation popcorn. You start with a list of three tasks, each with subtasks. You go to three coffee shops and only move to the next one when you’re done a task. Make progress each day and you win.

6.The winner between the alligator and the bear is determined by the terrain

Not everyone is good at everything. Negotiate on your territory and play up your strengths.

7.Make decisions quickly 

This can be hard for first-time founders, but remember that time is a cost. There are 24 hours in a day and only about 10% of the information needed to make most decisions. Understand the magnitude of decisions you are required to make and prioritize accordingly. Train yourself to become decisive, so you can move forward with execution.

8.Do not focus too much on competition 

If I decided to become a basketball player tomorrow, do you think it would affect LeBron James’ career? Ignore the noise, because what others are doing is out of your control and they’re probably amateurs. Be aware of the players in the space you are in, but focus on getting to the top of your game.

9.There is no substitute for hard work

When we first started our latest divisions — Growthpad animation studios and Growthpad for non-profits, I moved from office to office seeking to speak to marketing directors and senior managers of some leading companies in Kenya. It wasn’t easy but we cracked a couple of big hard nuts. The good news is that the tougher it is for you, the more difficult it is for others to replicate.

10.Opportunity is everywhere

There is just so much waiting to be discovered, developed or built. Just look around the number of problems waiting to be solved in our society. Now I see it as great news, it means there are still countless opportunities for you to introduce ideas that will shape our future.

Concluding thoughts

Lastly and most importantly, do not play the victim. Don’t feed your mind that non-sensical tagline, (I’m too young, inexperienced, I’m from a poor background, don’t have this or that) — zip it, just get building.

The post was written by Njue Duncan Mutwiri. Mr. Njue is the CEO at Growthpad, a Digital Consulting, Media & Tech start-up.

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