New survey: Road to entrepreneurial success may not be what you expect

(BPT) - If you've dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, you may think success is a straight road from one success to another until you've 'made it.' But a recent survey reveals what small business owners have learned: Making mistakes is not the end of your entrepreneurial career. More likely, it provides the key to ultimate success.

"Good business fundamentals and hard work, combined with planning, organization and surrounding yourself with supportive people who can offer an honest opinion, can be the essential drivers to success," said John DeSimone, president of Herbalife Nutrition. "In business, just like in life, what matters most is seizing the opportunity to learn and improve."

Here are the biggest takeaways from the study:

1. Learn from your failures

Survey respondents said it took an average of two failed business ideas before they figured out what worked. The key is not to let failure discourage you but to allow your mistakes to help you learn, grow and succeed in future endeavors. Almost 90% of small business owners said they learned valuable lessons from each unsuccessful venture, and 38% advised entrepreneurs not to be afraid to make mistakes.

2. Prioritize effectively

Over 30% of survey respondents said learning to prioritize work is critical. Many business owners make lists, then become overwhelmed by their workload - leading to procrastination. Beyond making lists, entrepreneurs must dig deeper to understand what tasks are most essential, and why. Ask each day: What tasks are essential for your business to succeed? If inventory is low, ordering goods is a top priority. When revenue is stalled, sales calls may be highest on your to-do list. Similarly, another top recommendation was to make a solid business plan (41%).

3. Be goal oriented

The importance of entrepreneurs learning to be more productive was high on the list of lessons learned. Over 40% of small business owners said productivity was critical to success. How do you achieve higher productivity? By first setting attainable goals. Unlike employees who have goals and deadlines set by others, entrepreneurs need to learn how to set attainable goals for themselves to be more productive - then tackle them, one step at a time.

4. Get organized

When small business owners were asked what advice they'd give someone just starting out, a top tip was to get and stay organized (42%). What does that mean? Organization entails both ordering your things (files, equipment) and structuring your time:

  • Documents should be clearly labeled and easy to access, whether stored digitally or on your desk.
  • Color-code items - for example, red for urgent, blue for today and yellow for later completion - to help identify hot activities.
  • Organize your workday by making a list of tasks and prioritizing those to be completed first.
  • Set a timer to dedicate yourself to each task before taking a break. Knowing you have time constraints - and something to look forward to - can help you complete tasks faster.

5. Keep learning

Entrepreneurs believe ongoing learning is essential for innovating and developing new ideas. Nearly one-third (29%) of them believe continuing education is the secret sauce that helps business owners stay on top of their game.

How can you fit learning into your busy schedule?

  • Read articles and attend virtual events during breaks or evenings, thanks to content being available on demand.
  • Review news stories, industry blogs and research to help you brainstorm new ideas to keep you and your business fresh.
  • Keep a "spark list" handy, where you can jot down thoughts and ideas to help you grow.

The survey, commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition and conducted by OnePoll, asked small business owners and employees to share lessons they've learned through workplace mishaps - and how those lessons shaped their entrepreneurial journey. Insights from 8,000 small business owners and employees across 15 countries, including 2,000 Americans (1,000 small business owners and 1,000 employees with 10 years or more of experience), can teach a great deal about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey? Visit to learn how.

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