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Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. They may differ by age, gender, financial resources, work backgrounds or skillsets. But all entrepreneurs have several unifying traits: they believe in the core idea, are risk-takers, and are willing to work hard. That can be the combination for a rousing success. True entrepreneurs don’t have a choice; they just have to do it; they just have to try.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for years. I’ve started, run, marketed and sold businesses and I’ve consulted with many more entrepreneurs along the way. Whether you’re a brand new entrepreneur or one with years of experience, these tips should be of value.

Valuable Tips for Entrepreneurs

1. Coming up with an idea is the most fun; executing it…not so much. The idea is about 1% of the overall business but execution is about 99%. In other words, the day to day work is where success lies.

2. Most people just think about how great their idea is. They don’t think about how they will let people know about their great idea. Figure out how you’re going to market your business, and to whom (Who’s your audience?), before you spend too much time or money on your idea.

3. Take criticism. Talk to people about your idea, show them what it does or how it works. Listen to what they have to say. You will not like everything you hear, or incorporate all of the suggested changes, additions, deletions or comments, but it’s all valuable.

4. Being an entrepreneur is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. Most businesses are not overnight successes. The best way to succeed, and make money, is to work the business, everyday, for a long time. Even if your business is viable, you may not break even for three or four years. It may take even longer to show a profit.

5. You will be most successful operating a business that you like (or love!). Determine where your interests lie and what your passions are. Figure out a business that combines some or all of those. Making a lot of money should not be one of those things. Do something you can’t wait to do, and the money will come.

6. Always have a contingency plan. What if things go wrong…or right? Do you have the financial, strategic, operations or marketing plans in place to cover what happens if you have too little, or too much, business?

7. Strive to be as passionate about your business after 20 years as you were when you started. Continue to learn about your industry, set new goals, expand your brand and most of all, challenge yourself to grow, change and improve your business.

8. Do what you know. Use the knowledge, experience and expertise you’ve acquired to start your own business. Do what you know…but do it differently, more efficiently, more cost-effectively, more sustainably or in a way that will improve results. Reinvent a better wheel.

9. Brand from the beginning. Take time (at the start) to create a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, a Positioning Statement and a Core Values Statement. If you lose your way, these can get you back on the right track.

10. Offer something no one else does. Become the undisputed heavyweight in your field or design the widget with “wow!”.

11. Work like you’re getting paid. Get up every day and put the hours in — whether someone’s paying you or not. Make the time…back burner jobs don’t succeed.

12. Set goals for yourself and your business. Write them down. Be accountable to someone or to yourself.

13. Work backwards: decide where you want to be and then figure out the steps to get there.

14. We all have a favorite job; something we’d rather be doing. Don’t address just your favorite part of your business but be mindful of the operational, financial, marketing, and strategic plans that need to be in place to make your business a success.

15. Be realistic as to the size of business you want to create. A business you run by yourself may support your lifestyle as well as a business that employs a dozen people (and with a lot less stress). If possible, create a business that is scalable.

16. Do it for the right reasons – not because you want to impress. Do whatever you do well and you’ll earn both personal satisfaction and the esteem of others.

17. Don’t quit. When you hit a wall and think, “I just can’t do this anymore,” keep going. My training as an endurance athlete taught me that when you doubt you can continue, when your brain says, “Stop!” is when you have to swim 10 more strokes, run 50 more steps or just bike to the top of the hill. By the time you’ve gone just a little further, the situation has probably changed and you’ll find can keep going.

Small business is the fastest growing sector in the United States and accounts for 54% of all sales in the US (Source: SBA). There are many reasons why the sector is growing so rapidly. But if you’re an entrepreneur, or would like to start your own business, you already know why. And if you’ve haven’t started yet, now is a good time.

Want to share some entrepreneur tips of your own? Please comment on this post.