TIME Careers & Workplace

The 1 Thing to Avoid If You Want to Be Successful in Life

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Don't let the looks of skepticism get to you

It is the mid 1980s, and I am 27 years old. For the last six years, I’ve been selling my handmade soft sculptures on the street, at state fairs, and eventually, in a retail store. I’ve been learning how to create products people want. But it’s still been a tough way to make a living. And I’m beginning to feel like I may have hit rock bottom.

My friends and family have begun to side-eye me. In their eyes, it’s time for me to grow up — time to get with the program, time to get a “real” job. They are very kind, but I can tell they think I’m a loser. They have good jobs and they’re getting married and buying houses. I’m chasing my dream. At the moment, I also happen to be sleeping on a friend’s couch and my car has just broken down.

They couldn’t envision how my future was going to turn out, but I had faith. I knew my path was never going to be as straight as theirs. I believed deep down that what I was learning would be important later on. I felt sure of one thing: If I could create a living working with my hands, I’d be the richest man in the world. In my eyes, I was simply experiencing a bump in the road — a small detour.

We all hit rock bottom, don’t we? Thankfully, I met someone who believed in me. Susan thought I was talented. She saw something in me that others could not. She let me live with her so that I could start over, and for that I will never be able to thank her enough.

Susan’s apartment in Fremont was brimming with stuffed animals. She had teddy bears of all different sizes as well as farm animals like cows and sheep. She loved the soft sculptures I had created and collected those as well.

One day, Susan asked if I could design a bear. I told her no, I wasn’t a patternmaker — all soft sculpture was done by hand. “Try,” she implored.

So I did. I started studying the dimensions of one of her teddy bears. I needed to teach myself how pattern pieces could be sewn together to create 3-D objects. I took its measurements. Then I reached for paper, started cutting shapes out of it, and began taping them together. It struck me that I could just as easily sculpt in paper.

Inspired, I quickly moved on to color construction paper and built a fish modeled after the character Cleo, the goldfish in Pinocchio. To my delight, it looked absolutely amazing! I stuffed it with paper tissue to give it more dimension. Later that day, Susan took apart the fish and laid out the pieces of paper I had used to create it on shimmering fabric. Together, we created the first plush animal I had ever designed. I was hooked.

My world changed that day. Companies had been selling plush animals forever, and all of a sudden, I had a marketable skill.

For the next month, I created paper sculptures of everything from ducks to dogs to bears — you name it. Working with paper was extremely satisfying, because it was so forgiving. If I made a mistake, well, I could simply keep trimming and then tape the pieces together again to get closer to the right shape. I could shape, cut, tape, reshape, cut again and tape over and over again. I was working with my hands, and I loved being able to transform an idea into a product so quickly. It was magical.

One day, Susan suggested that I contact Dakin, one of the largest and oldest producers of plush animals. Conveniently, the company was located just across the San Francisco Bay.

To my surprise, when I picked up the phone and asked if they needed any freelance work done, they invited me to come in right away. I can remember taking the elevator to the top floor, somewhat in awe. I brought a few photographs of my work along. They’re weren’t much, but they must have been good enough, because they handed me a swath of fabric and told me I had two weeks to design a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever.

When a door opens, stick your foot inside. For me, “fake it ‘til you make it” has always been a bit of a motto. Had I ever designed anything like a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever before? No. But I took a chance.

First, I started studying the structure of a golden retriever. Then I went to the library to make life-size Xerox copies. Next it was time to starting cutting paper and taping it together. If I could make the dog look good in paper, I knew it would look good in fabric. And there it was: A beautiful life-size plush version of America’s favorite dog.

Dakin couldn’t believe how good it looked either. When I held the $1,500 check they handed me, I grinned.

Having the courage to make a change is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur. What my friends and family didn’t understand is that I had realized my handmade soft sculptures could never be mass-produced. I didn’t want to keep selling my ideas on street corners — I wanted to grow my audience. So I needed to learn about manufacturing techniques. I needed to reevaluate where I had been in order to move on.

Dakin mass-produced my Golden Retriever, which the company named Sandy. The following February, I flew to New York for Toy Fair. After the show, I stopped by FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the U.S. It was cold and rainy. Inside, there was Sandy.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Sources of Professional Advice and Inspiration

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"Before going to others, look inward"

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Question: Who do you turn to first for advice and why?

Myself

“Before going to others, look inward. You know your situation better than anyone, and you are capable of amazing creativity. I find it useful to pretend that I’m looking at someone else’s issue instead of my own. If someone else were coming to you with this problem, what advice would you give them? Take a step back and objectively evaluate what is happening. ” — Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar.com

My Social Following

“I will post almost all of my personal or professional questions on Twitter and Facebook because I have some pretty awesome connections. You can expand your social circle online far faster than you ever could in person. Throw out a question and just watch all the great advice roll in. Also, you don’t have to endure endless conversations online. Who has time for that?” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

My Peer Advisor

“I have a daily call with Bhavin Parikh, CEO of Magoosh.com. Even on weekends we talk. While we run completely different businesses (watches for me, test prep for him) we’re going through many of the same struggles of growing a business. He knows everything about Modify, so that when I call and bring up some small issue, he has all of the necessary context and can simply give advice.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

My Father

“My father is without a doubt the first person I turn to for personal and business advice. He has seen just about everything and has met just about every different type of person in his life as a lawyer. He is a very grounded, well-rounded person who has been a successful business person and (more importantly), human being. ” — Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Key Stakeholders

“I go to my key stakeholders, along with my team of external advisers. As the ancient proverb states, “A wise man has many counselors.” You want a diversity of knowledge, experience and education to help create the highest likelihood of success. ” — Parker Powers, ParkerPowers.com

An Executive Coach

One of my most trusted advisors is an executive coach. She has been part of my team since my business was only a few months old. Executive coaches are great because they know more about your business’ inner-workings than an outside mentor, but they are more removed than a board member or colleague. If you find the right one, he/she can be an invaluable impartial resource for key decisions.” — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

My Wife

“My wife has no business background. She is a teacher. However, she possesses a deep understanding of me unlike anyone else in the world. Bouncing ideas off of her proves to be an effective exercise since she offers a fresh perspective on the issue at hand. ” — Logan Lenz, Endagon

Google

“I turn to Google because I hate asking questions without understanding the topic. Once I have a basic understanding, I am able to ask better questions, which leads to better results. ” — Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal, P.C.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Lessons From the Rising Startup Leaders

Use your mistakes to your advantage

We all have our favorite entrepreneurs and business leaders. They inspire us to increase our influence and carve out a name for ourselves.

Some of these entrepreneurs preach their messages off the rooftops, and others are more subtle. These lessons are my interpretation of their business styles and actions.

  • 1. Neil Patel: Share your story.

    Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He’s created multiple million-dollar companies, all under the age of 30 (he recently celebrated his 30th birthday). His work and advice has been some of the most impactful to me.

    Not too long ago I was in the process of figuring out how to develop my personal brand after some interesting obstacles (6 Life Hacks Learned In Prison That Will Maximize Your Productivity). I used my cold email approach to contact Patel, and explained my journey.

    His words rang very clear, “share your story.” Since then, I’ve become a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, increased my influence tenfold, grown my business and have had all sorts of amazing opportunities come my way.

  • 2. Tucker Max: Be you.

    Max’s first book, I Hope They Serve Beers in Hell, was a New York Times number-one bestseller and made the list each year from 2006-12. It sold more than one million copies internationally and approximately 400,000 in just 2009.

    Although he’s self-proclaimed and depicted as a total jerk by the media (hopefully I’m not blowing his cover), he’s one of the nicest, most genuine, helpful “entrepreneur celebrities” (is that even a thing?) that I’ve had the pleasure to communicate with.

    I’m in the process of writing a book, and his new business Book in a Box provides an invaluable framework to the writing process. He’s basically figured out a new way to write books, and has experienced explosive growth (this article explains the genesis of the company and is a very good read: My Startup Made $200K in its First Two Months … and I’m Embarrassed).

    The lesson I’ve learned from Max is very simple: “Be you.” Whether people love or hate Max, as you can see by his writings, he’s not afraid to be himself. That’s refreshing in today’s social media age.

  • 3. Tim Ferriss: Design the life you want.

    Ferriss is most known for The 4-Hour Work Week, which has spurred an entire generation of entrepreneurs to throw in the nine-to-five towel and design the lives they’ve always wanted. Known for treating his life as an experiment, he’s full of practical, self-help knowledge that acts as a guide to entrepreneurs all around the world. He swims with sharks, works from around the world and skydives with supermodels (I made that last part up, but I’m sure he’s done it).

    Ferriss’s message and journey has helped countless people shed the bondage of nine-to-five cubicle hell and strike out on their own entrepreneurial journeys with one clear message: It’s up to us to design the lives we want.

  • 4. Sean Parker: Be bold.

    Parker took on the music industry, and in my opinion, he won. Sure, Napster is no longer around, but his company was the catalyst to an entire industry crumbling through serious disruption.

    Most notably known for being played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network (yes, that’s a joke), he joined one of the most influential tech companies of this decade (Do I even need to name it?) at the ground level.

    Parker hasn’t directly preached the “be bold” mantra, but this is the lesson I have learned from watching his courageous actions.

  • 5. Noah Kagan: Use your mistakes to your advantage.

    When I Google search Kagan’s name, the third result is an article titled, “How Noah Kagan Got Fired From Facebook and Lost $185M.” Does this sound like a dude that’s afraid to keep it real, and use his mistakes as leverage?

    Kagan has gone on to create a multi-million dollar company with App Sumo, and created one of the most used product suites of the year with SumoMe. The lesson I learned from Kagan is to use your mistakes to propel you forward.

  • 6. Gary Vaynerchuk: Leverage your personal brand.

    I wouldn’t even know how to describe “Gary V” to people who haven’t heard of him. He’s like a real life, fast talking, loudly speaking, walking, talking encyclopedia of cool s**t.

    “Fresh out of college he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3M to a $60M business in just five years,” according to his bio.

    He’s an angel investor in companies such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Uber. The #AskGaryVee Show has helped him establish his expertise and catapulted him into being recognized as one of the most influential thought leaders of our time. This all began with him simply creating a YouTube video channel where he discussed his passions and expertise for wine. He was able to brand himself effectively, and leverage that brand to build VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE, a $25 million angel fund.

    This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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6 Reasons Richard Branson Is the Most Popular Entrepreneur in the World

Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.
Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg via Getty Images Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.

He smiles and laughs — a lot

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Richard Branson may be the most popular businessperson alive. Employees, peers, and even strangers seem to love him. With more than eight million followers, he is by far the most popular Influencer on LinkedIn-almost doubling the next figure (Bill Gates’s 4.4 million followers).

I’ll admit, I had never heard of Branson before I started working for myself some years ago. I quickly found out that his status among entrepreneurs is legendary.

So what makes Sir Richard so darned likable?

In a 2007 interview at the famous TED conference, conducted with curator Chris Anderson, Branson spoke about the ups and downs of his career:

Here are some traits and quotes from the interview that I feel help explain his extreme popularity.

1. He smiles and laughs. A lot.

Generally speaking, we like people who smile and laugh. Their joyful spirit is contagious, and they make us feel better about ourselves.

Add to that the fact that Branson appears totally unpretentious, humble, and unable to take himself seriously. Beginning at the 16:00 mark, you’ll find a potentially awkward exchange in which Anderson makes a joke at Branson’s expense. Branson simply laughs it off and keeps going.

Watch Sir Richard for a few minutes, and it’s hard not to like the guy.

2. He touches others.

Not just figuratively. Literally. (Check out point 1:34 in the video.)

Fellow Inc. columnist Dr. Travis Bradberry points out that when you touch someone while conversing, you release specific neurotransmitters in the person’s brain that make him or her associate you with trust and other positive feelings. (Of course, unwanted or inappropriate touching will produce the opposite effect.)

It’s safe to say that Sir Richard hasn’t given us any literal pats on the back lately. But watching how he deals with others makes him appear down-to-earth and relatable.

It’s almost like a subliminal message flashes across the screen, telling your subconscious: I’m trustworthy and genuine, and I sincerely like people. Now follow me on LinkedIn.

3. He values his employees. Really.

In his opening comments, Sir Richard opines: “I learned early on that if you can run one company, you can really run any company. I mean, companies are all about finding the right people, inspiring those people, you know, drawing out the best in people.”

That attitude has led to a reputation as a leader who puts employees first.

How can you not love that?

4. He’s not afraid to try new things. In fact, he thrives on it.

On coming up with the idea for Virgin Airlines: “If I fly on somebody else’s airline and find the experience is not a pleasant one, which it wasn’t 21 years ago, then I think, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can create the kind of airline that I’d like to fly on.’ And so … got one secondhand 747 from Boeing and gave it a go.”

Sir Richard has been known to try his hand at, well, almost anything. The Virgin Group has current or past companies in the music, hospitality, and space-exploration industries, among many more.

Not every venture has been a success. But as hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

5. He hated school.

Branson states in the interview that he suffers from dyslexia and as a child had “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever.” He left school when he was 15 years old, and never pursued a university degree.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t continued the learning process. As he puts it: “I just love learning … I’m terribly inquisitive … I’ve seen life as one long learning process.”

Branson’s alternative road to billionaire-ship holds out hope for dreamers and individualists everywhere.

6. He’s the anti-typical business hero.

In a world where people generally get rich by stepping on others as they climb the corporate ladder, Sir Richard seems different. His philosophy:

“I think if you treat people well, people will come back for more … All you have in life is your reputation and it’s a very small world. I actually think that the best way of becoming a successful business leader is dealing with people fairly and well. And I like to think that’s how we run Virgin.”

***

At the end of the interview, Anderson sums up how most people feel about Branson after a few minutes of observation:

“When I was starting off in business, I knew nothing about it … I thought that business people were supposed to just be ruthless and that was the only way you could have a chance of succeeding. And you actually did inspire me. I looked at you and thought, ‘Well, he’s made it. Maybe there’s a different way.'”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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7 Reasons to Pursue Entrepreneurship

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"For others the freedom and flexibility that comes with creating and owning one’s own business represents the ultimate satisfaction"

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Question: What is the main benefit of entrepreneurship that traditional career paths don’t offer?

The Ability to Create Your Own Destiny

“Entrepreneurship can be very rewarding. You can create your own hours and make your thoughts a reality. We now employ 10 people and we are still growing. I love looking around the office and seeing how collaborative everyone is. It feels good to know that I have created a working environment that people love.” — Courtney Spritzer, SOCIALFLY

The Ability to Positively Impact Your Environment

“The ability to impact the marketplace and see your ideas manifest into tangible services and products that add value is perhaps the most fulfilling benefit of being an entrepreneur.” — Damian A. Clarke, DAC & Associates

The Opportunity to Work How You Want to Work

“There’s no line manager to tell you when you can’t take a day off. There is no red tape to sidestep, or a procedure for anything. You’re not bound by corporate planning left over from the eighties. Systems are new, unfettered and modern. Things work, and there’s no one but you to say otherwise.” — Ben Gamble, See Through

The Chance to Learn Under Fire

“In a traditional job, you are generally only responsible for one bucket of activities. In a startup, you’re able to wear a lot of different hats and learn quickly by doing it. It’s an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks and shouldn’t be underestimated.” — Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli

The Freedom It Offers

“From my perspective, the main benefit of entrepreneurship is the freedom it offers to create and grow a business that’s owned (fully or in part) by you. Traditional career paths tend to lock people into a certain role or industry for years, which works for many. But for others the freedom and flexibility that comes with creating and owning one’s own business represents the ultimate satisfaction.” — Michael Rheaume, SnapKnot Inc.

The Flexibility to Be Your Best

“The main benefit of being an entrepreneur is flexibility; flexibility to work as hard as you want, make as much money as you want, work the schedule you want and sell the product/service you want. How smart and hard you work will determine how much flexibility you give yourself. Entrepreneurship is not for those who need the structure of a 9-to-5 job and a job description.” — Steven Newlon, SYN3RGY Creative Group

The Ability to Love What You Do

“Before taking the plunge in entrepreneurship, I always thought whether I would find a job that I really loved. Now, I work harder than ever before almost on a 24/7 basis. And I absolutely love what I do. I look forward to the every day in office. Loving your job is key to success and entrepreneurship is a sure way to make you love your job.” — Ashu Dubey, 12 Labs

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective

TIME Careers & Workplace

These 3 Tools Will Help You Prepare a Killer Business Plan

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A thorough plan will increase your chance of success

Mission planning in the SEAL Teams always took one of two routes: deliberate or hasty. Deliberate planning assumed a longer term approach (greater than 48 hours) whereas hasty planning was for anything within a 24-hour period — with some missions as soon as now.

While both planning methodologies entailed the same three criteria — time, resources and requirements — two significant differences determined which approach to use: the immediacy of the demand (essentially, the threat) imposed by the enemy (or competitor), and the accuracy of information we had to plan.

For the entrepreneur, it’s tempting to vie for the hasty approach, be like Nike and “just do it,” with hopes that your product will just take off into newfound success. Chances are, however, that it won’t. At least, not without doing the due diligence that gathers enough information to formulate an impenetrable business plan.

To the extent that you can do a thorough, deliberate analysis of the industry, do it. There are tons of free tools that can guide you through the process. In the meantime, here are three simple business analysis tools to help you identify what distinguishes your brand from the rest:

1. PEST

Not to be confused with animals or people, PEST is a way to analyze the big picture changes within your industry to identify growth opportunities. Specifically, the acronym stands for:

  • Political factors
  • Economic factors
  • Social factors
  • Technological factors

Another variation of PEST is PESTLE, which includes the legal and environmental considerations. If you’re stuck on where to begin, start by segmenting each factor into the five W’s — who, what, when, where, why — then unleash the (mental) fury from there.

2. SWOT, the enhanced version

While PEST offers a macro-level view of the competitive landscape, SWOT is typically used at a more micro level to analyze a specific business, product or service. Here’s the value of SWOT:

  • Strengths. While the number of beers you can slam or the number of pushups you can crank out in 60 seconds are certainly enviable qualities (at least, they were when I was in college), competitive strengths are the advantageous skills, resources, capital, network or value that distinguishes your brand from all others. They are why consumers want you and you alone.
  • Weaknesses. A pretty straightforward term. However, if you’re unsure of what your weaknesses are, take your strengths, flip them upside down, and boom, there they are. Weaknesses are where your strengths fall short in comparison to your competitors’. These may be internal disadvantages within your company such as additional bureaucracy or processes, or external weaknesses that fall prey to the market, economy or technology.
  • Opportunities. This is where you leverage your strengths to exploit openings such as lower interest rates, competitor prices, seasonal changes or consumer trends.
  • Threats. These are bad. They are the little guys who work for Murphy and impose his not-so-likable law. Of course, the opposite is true, too. Threats have a way of revealing your current state, they unearth the ill prepared and reveal them for what they are: developmental opportunities. We had a saying in the SEAL Teams: You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to the level of your training.

Here’s the secret to maximizing the value of a SWOT analysis: Pit your strengths against your opportunities and use the result as leverage points to build greater value. Place your weaknesses against your threats and use the byproduct as defense points. This way, weaknesses don’t diminish and strengths become stronger based on emerging opportunities.

3. 7S model

Unlike the aforementioned tools that are generally used for external analysis, the 7S model looks inward at your own company. Developed by McKinsey & Company, the seven S’s of strategy, structure, systems, style, shared values, staff and skills demonstrate why organizations don’t operate as a group of independent silos but rather as a network of interconnected parts.

Imagine an octagon and place an S at every vertex, except for “shared values.” Shared values belongs in the center of the octagon because, well, they’re shared. Now, draw a line from each vertex to another such that each S is connected to another and you see how each component is inextricably linked to another.

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be agonizing — there can be some fun in doing it. More so, the simple act of writing out your business plan through the aforementioned perspectives will reveal previously unconsidered insights that will set you up for success.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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12 Steps to Go From Employee to Entrepreneur

One step at a time

If you’re fed up with your job, it may seem like there are only two steps to becoming an entrepreneur. The first is to quit your job, and the next step is to start a company. While it is possible to transition successfully from employee to entrepreneur, it’s a little more complex than that.

Here are the 12 steps you’ll need to take to become your own boss.

1. Determine what you’d like to do.

Some people call this finding your passion, but it’s more than that. Think about your skills, abilities and experience. Consider what you can realistically see yourself doing for hours each day, for weeks and years.

2. Think about what others will pay for.

A viable business is the intersection between what you’d like to do and what others will pay for. Remember the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” from the movie Office Space? Todd loved building it, but no one was going to buy it. It wasn’t a viable business opportunity.

3. Interview ideal customers.

Find a few people that you think would be your ideal clients. Ask them about their biggest needs, fears and aspirations related to the business idea you plan to pursue. Are the benefits of your product or service in line with their real needs? Also, make a note of the words they use, as they’ll eventually help make your marketing more authentic.

4. Design your marketing and business plans.

Today’s marketing involves content creation, social media, email outreach and more. Make sure you know how you’ll approach each of these alternatives to introduce your idea to customers. At the same time, lay out a business plan that details how you intend your business to function. It doesn’t need to be super formal, but it does need to cover your operating structure, product, delivery systems and expansion plans.

5. Set up your business on a small scale.

If you can, test your company idea by launching on a small scale on the side, while still working your day job. This gives you a no-risk opportunity to test your ideas, get your first clients and see if the business will hold up over time before you leave the security of your current position.

6. Assess feedback and adjust.

Running a small-scale operation will help you determine which parts of your idea are great and which ones need adjusting. Take customer feedback seriously and make any necessary changes before you begin scaling up.

7. Assemble a team.

If your idea seems viable, determine who you’ll want on your business leadership team when you eventually launch full time. Depending on your personal experience, you may need help in areas such as finance, marketing, customer service and production.

8. Secure financing.

For a small venture, this might mean saving up some money to get through the first few months or taking cash from your 401(k). If your aspirations are a bit larger, you may need to think about how to procure venture capital or other outside investment.

9. Set up the structure of your company.

At the same time, you’ll also want to decide what kind of company structure to register. Do you want to incorporate, form an LLC or create a partnership? Get this taken care of legally and carefully define the roles and investment of each of your leadership team members.

10. Leave your job.

When you’re ready, leave your day job. This may feel like an amazing relief after all the work you already put in, but trust me, more work awaits. Although it may be tempting, be sure not to burn any bridges as you leave — you never know when you’ll encounter former bosses and colleagues again, and you may need to work with them in the future.

11. Set up a working budget.

With your full-time schedule now devoted to your business, set up a company budget. This should include payments for marketing expenses, salaries and other important purchases. Just be sure not to waste money on frivolous expenses!

12. Scale up your business according to your marketing plan.

Finally, all that’s left to do is to work the plans you’ve carefully laid out for yourself. Of course, that plan may change over time as you encounter and overcome obstacles. But, this is it — you’re a full-fledged entrepreneur. Congratulations!

As you can see, becoming an entrepreneur requires a lot of work before you even consider quitting your day job. However, if you follow each of the steps listed above and your idea still seems viable, you can leave your life as an employee and become an entrepreneur instead.

There are still many challenges you’ll face, but for most entrepreneurs, the benefits of meaningful work and self-direction are much more important.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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Company Cooked Up in the Kitchen is a National Hit

This entrepreneur learned a love of cooking from her father in Singapore.

Small business owner Nona Lim learned to love cooking from her father as a child growing up in Singapore. When she wanted to create her own company, it was important to her to bring healthy food with Asian-inspired flavors to her busy customers short on time but searching for a wholesome meal. At Nona Lim, what they don’t put into their products, such as preservatives, is just as important as the fresh vegetables and ingredients that are included. Lim’s company has grown from a one-woman shop selling locally in the San Francisco area to a national brand carried by grocers throughout the country.

MONEY

Shark Tank’s Daymond John Blew His First $20 Million Before Wising Up About Money

The Shark-Daymond John Presents "Xpensive Habits" Lavo Brunch Sponsored By: Jack Daniels, Miller Lite & Evian Water
Jerritt Clark—WireImage Mark Cuban and Daymond John attends The Shark-Daymond John Presents "Xpensive Habits" Lavo Brunch Sponsored By: Jack Daniels, Miller Lite & Evian Water at Lavo on February 14, 2015 in New York City.

The FUBU founder shares what he's learned about investing since then.

On ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Daymond John scrutinizes the business plans of wannabe entrepreneurs, but how does he manage his own finances?

A self-made businessman, John is actually pretty realistic – working his way up many ladders and learning from failures. A native of Queens, New York, John founded FUBU at age 23 in 1992, riding the wave of hip-hop fashion trends.

Now 46, he has been with “Shark Tank” since its debut in 2009. He serves as a consultant, gives motivational speeches, writes books and is a spokesman for other businesses, such as Gillette.

Reuters spoke with John about how his acumen for business translates to managing his own money:

Q: How much of your net worth is locked away for the future, and how much is at your disposal now?

A: I’ve probably put in 50 percent for long-term, and the rest I play with. I have squirreled away enough to not have to worry about it. Hopefully, I’ll never have to touch it, and it will be passed onto my kids or a great organization.

What I play with now, it can fluctuate. I can end up using a good percentage of it on a great acquisition, or I can hold it.

Q: How involved are you in the management of that money?

A: There are several levels of it. I’m involved when I’m doing my day-trading. When we’re talking about asset allocation, I have very different approaches. I’m with Goldman (Sachs) and various other firms. I kind of let three out of five of them do their own thing. For two out of five, I monitor (my account) over the course of every month or so.

Q: Most of what you do on ‘Shark Tank’ can be considered alternate investments, but do you do anything beyond that to diversify your portfolio?

A: My larger investments have been apparel brands. As for real estate, I’m part of a fund, but I’ve never been that great at real estate.

Q: When you do a promotion like for Gillette’s Shave Club, do you have an investment in that, or is it just for promotion?

A: It’s a brand association. It’s just an investment of my time and my face and my integrity. I don’t take it lightly.

Q: You lend your name to a lot of causes as well. How do you decide what charities get your time and money?

A: It’s not really a planned thing. I try to give on various platforms, and not do too much check-book philanthropy. For some, I will try to make more people aware of the plight, and help get more people to give. To some I will dedicate time, such as my desire to get out word about dyslexia.

Q: Do you have planned giving worked into your estate plan?

A: I don’t have that formal plan – some will go to family and certain small organizations. One is animal related, one is dyslexia, one is hip-hop against violence.

Q: Who first taught you about finance and money management?

A: I got the knowledge by blowing about $20 to $30 million the first time I made it. I’m not one of the few who hit lotto or peaked at 25 as an athlete. I have had several other bites at the apple.

Q: You have listed Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” as one of your favorite books. What have you learned from it?

A: The fundamental lesson to it is it’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save. You should go after small opportunities that have the potential to grow into large opportunities. That educated me on the tool of money.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Myths Entrepreneurs Should Walk Away From

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"You have no time for friends and family"

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Question: What is one business myth that entrepreneurs should disregard?

You Have No Time for Friends and Family

“Smart entrepreneurs know that having a supportive network of friends and family is critical to helping cushion the falls inherent in startups. Just because you work a lot doesn’t mean that you should neglect the people you love; they are critical to your success.” — Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli

Successful Entrepreneurs Always Know What to Do

“While many successful entrepreneurs may appear to always have a plan and actionable steps to create success, many of them accomplish their goals from continuous failure. Embrace the fact that you will never know everything and fall in love with the process of failing.” — Kyle van dyn Hoven, Creation Burst Studios

You Have No Boss

“You are accountable to both your customers and your employees. If you raised money, you are also accountable to your investors. At times, this can feel like you’ve traded one boss for many. There is definitely a certain freedom in being an entrepreneur and defining your own way; however, many entrepreneurs feel like they have traded a direct boss for numerous indirect bosses.” — John Arroyo, Arroyo Labs, Inc.

Revenue Equals Success

“It’s easy to look at a company’s revenue and deem them successful. However, the true value of a company is based on profitability — not just on shear revenue size. Keep revenue in mind, but always focus on profitability and sustainability of the business.” — Ryan O’Connell, LaunchKC

Only Data Signifies Your Business’ Success

“There’s an entire culture that believes data holds the key: that if you optimize your click rates, you’ll build a successful business. But if you study data science, you’ll find that correlation doesn’t always equal causation, and that more clicks don’t necessarily mean more customers who care. Don’t become blinded by incomplete data and forget your strategy, vision and how you want your customers to feel.” — Todd Medema, Sled

You Must Always Think Big

“While thinking big is something that is always taught, it’s also important to realize the power and profitability within smaller niche markets. Thinking big doesn’t mean you have to go after large markets like finance, health or entertainment. Instead, entrepreneurs can focus on these niche markets and become an authority within that space. Instead of thinking big, think about how you can be the best.” — Zac Johnson, Blogging.org

Success Is Achieved Solely Through Churning Out Work

“While all entrepreneurs have to work incredibly hard to be successful, action should never be confused with progress. Entrepreneurs should constantly evaluate whether their approach is proving successful and stop or change it if necessary. They should simultaneously see both the immediate and the bigger picture.” — Tom Chalmers, IPR License

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article was originally published on BusinessCollective.

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