By Aidar Vafin Ph.D., COO of Arfen Inc, co-founder of Big Data Realty.
I started my entrepreneurship being a student at school. I printed business cards and made beautiful designs, and I think I was the first in my hometown (which is very little) to create colorful business cards on stiff paper. Later in university, I started to get interested in commercial real estate and began to practice it. After graduation, I started a business in construction materials for health care.
The first challenge I faced was the persistence of motivation, so if this is you, I recommend you try your best to focus on your basis and aim. Get a clear vision of what you want, why you do what you do, why you need to sacrifice some things on your path and where you want to end up. Ask yourself what you need to do to get there and, at the same time, how you can motivate yourself to keep the focus on that?
I started my business alone, and there was nobody beside me to support me except my best friend and my wife. Even my parents and relatives were in the position of refusing to accept my entrepreneurship as it was something very unusual for them. People have a specific attitude to doing business in the country where I was born and raised (Russia) and started my business career. Business is considered improper and risky, where people only lose money and health. That’s why my family members were not people whom I could ask for advice, and the only thing I could do was not tell them that I was an entrepreneur before getting results. And when they asked questions, I needed to avoid the answers because they would laugh in my face and tell me some demotivating stories.
So, for me, the first challenge was “to start,” no matter what. This is an agreement with yourself that you work and take steps forward without looking at others, without expecting any support, just doing what you feel you want to do. This challenge can be divided into a few categories:
1. You are on your own: This is how you interact with yourself, motivate yourself, set goals and understand why you do all this. You should ask yourself these questions and answer them all the time.
2. The people around you: They can support you or keep you back. If they don’t have any experience in the business, they may not support you.
3. Find the right partners: These are people who will support you. In my case, they were my foreign partners—we believed in each other and started to work together.
As an entrepreneur, you will always face this “to start” challenge, and you should be ready to meet and overcome it.
What helped me to go further was making steps despite everything. Our business was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2012 (after two years of operation) and we had a cash gap. I paid the workers with my own money and went all-in on marketing. Then little by little, the clients started to appear. Everyone can overcome each challenge and, as they say, take it one step at a time.
Though it is hard to find some common ways to overcome challenges, I suggest the following steps as a solution to the difficulties I mentioned above:
1. Have a definite answer. You want to be an entrepreneur or don’t want to work for someone else. Are you ready to take action to achieve that? Always find positivity in your actions because your mood can fluctuate. Describe for yourself the future you want to have and why you do what you do.
2. Resist the matrix of the surrounding people. Determine your way and surround yourself with people who have a similar mindset and who can support you. When you see that people are trying to be “risk-managers” and see only drawbacks in your ideas, avoid them and don’t share with them. If your friends and relatives are far from the business, avoid discussions about it (depending on the culture). They can’t advise properly about how to be an entrepreneur. However, if they have some narrow specialization, you can ask them for professional advice in their fields. And, if you don’t have anyone to interact with, then your best friend may be a book.
3. Find someone who has expertise in your chosen field. Do this as soon as you choose your sphere of interest, if possible. Do your research and ask for professional advice—all of this can help you find suitable partners and people to work with.
In my case, it was a business in manufacturing and supplying construction materials such as wall protection systems for health care. Every case is specific and unique; there can not be a piece of advice for everyone. Situations are different, people are different, environments are different, countries are different, mentalities are different, age is different and even marital status is different. But based on experience, you can make it work for you. The biggest challenge is to start and continue even before you get results.