Unlike many entrepreneurs, Sam Ovens figured out very early on that the nine-to-five wasn’t his destined path in life. He wanted more, so after just three months working his first post-college job, he quit and moved into his parent’s garage to start his first business.
After nine months of hard work and spending all the money he had, Ovens’ first business – a reverse job board — went live. It quickly failed miserably, as did the next two businesses he started.
Rather than giving up and going back to the mundanity of office life after each failure, Ovens used the experiences as learning opportunities. Why didn’t his great ideas fail to resonate with consumers? What did he do wrong? What did he do right?
This self-evaluation and his willingness to learn and grow, led Sam to try his hand once more at entrepreneurship, starting his fourth company – a business consulting firm.
This time his efforts paid off. By age 26 – just four short years after opening his consulting business — Ovens had made more than $10 million. Needless to say, he has also moved out of his parent’s garage.
I spoke to Sam recently to hear what advice he had to share with other entrepreneurs. What follows are his top four tips -the most valuable lessons he learned through his own process of entrepreneurial trial and error.
1. Build your personal brand fast.
Building a personal brand has several key benefits for entrepreneurs. First, having a recognized personal brand can help give your new business credibility.
“If people know and trust you and your personal brand, they’re more likely to trust your new business,” Ovens, said.
Second, the wider your personal audience, the more prospective clients you can reach on any given day.
Ovens suggests building your brand by seeking out publicity – both for yourself and for your company — by booking speaking engagements and by developing a robust social media following as quickly as you can.
“Each media hit, speaking opportunity or social media post has the potential to bring you a new customer. Personal branding is an essential tool for business success,” Ovens, said.
2. Monetize your networks.
According to Ovens, most entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs already have a more valuable network of contacts than they realize when they get started with their first business.
“When you’re first starting out, don’t forget about your personal network of friends and family,” Ovens, said. “You might be surprised how many potential clients already exist within your immediate sphere.”
Friends, family and friends-of-friends are all people with needs, and it will almost always be easier to approach someone you already know about your new business than it will be to approach a total stranger.
3. Never stop learning.
No matter what, when you start a new business, there will be a learning curve.
Regardless of how well you think you might know your chosen industry, or what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, you’re always going to encounter new challenges, industry changes or other obstacles that haven’t crossed your path before.
“Thanks to the huge availability of information these days, any entrepreneur can teach him or herself just about anything,” Ovens, said. “I read hundreds of books and taught myself all about marketing, sales, accounting, strategy – even personal development methods. I knew that I needed to understand all of this if I wanted my business to work.”
4. Get over rejection.
“Facing rejection was a huge fear for me when I started out,” Ovens, said.
As a natural introvert, calling people and reaching out to prospective clients was way outside of Ovens’ comfort zone. But, he saw how important it was to put himself out there; and so, he learned how to face rejection.
“Forcing myself to talk to strangers about my business – and then, understanding that business rejection isn’t personal –was probably the most critical step in my journey to ultimate success,” he said.