Running a business

Episode 3: Here's why planning and patience are key for entrepreneurship

For someone so fast on the slopes, freestyle skiing champion Alexandre Bilodeau is far more measured off-piste. When he took his Olympic gold medal home from Vancouver in 2010, he was determined to defend it in the 2014 Winter Olympics. But before he hurled himself headlong into training again, he took a moment.

"I asked where I wanted to be in four years," he recalls. "What skill set did I need to deliver the right performance?" After understanding what he wanted to improve to become an even better competitor, he turned it into a detailed, multi-step training plan that informed every training session on the way to Sochi.

Planning is key

Alexandre, now a Chartered Professional Accountant and investment professional, uses the same principles when advising entrepreneurs. Whether honing yourself as an athlete or growing a business, you must plan meticulously to achieve your goals. Setting clear objectives is one part of the process. The other is breaking them down into smaller and smaller steps, giving you a detailed road map to success. It's a little like building a budget, he says.

If there's one thing that entrepreneurs will learn from this exercise, it's that big dreams are really a series of small steps. Taking an incremental approach to entrepreneurship puts your journey in perspective.

Rather than focusing immediately on huge goals, begin by steadily tackling the smaller ones, perhaps with our illustrated guide to starting a small business.

Take things step by step

"Start walking those stairs, slowly surrounding yourself with the right tools and gathering the right people around you to address all the challenges along the way," Alex advises.

A methodological approach to building a business also gives you a clearer view of risk management. Training for an Olympic skier isn't about hurtling headlong down the mountain — it's about taking a measured approach, pushing yourself enough to grow but taking care not to get injured.

Alex advises entrepreneurs to do the same. Taking the time to identify the potential pitfalls along your entrepreneurial path gives you the judgment to avoid them.

"Not doing any risk assessment is always a bad thing," he says. "And putting all your eggs in the same basket is not the way to go."

Get by guidance and mentorship

Sometimes, a sportsperson needs some extra perspective to prevent their passion from taking over. That's where a coach was crucial for Alex. When he felt driven to push ahead and tackle bigger goals too soon, his coach would encourage him to rest and pace himself so that he could stay the course in the long term.

"I needed somebody like that around me to help me focus just on my goals for the day, and remind me that baby steps are important because we don't want to trip up," he recalls.

Just as every successful sportsperson needs a coach, many of the most successful entrepreneurs perform better with guidance and feedback from trusted friends and colleagues.

"Some entrepreneurs want to skip steps and go all in," he says. Moving too quickly can get a small business into trouble. Entrepreneurs who sign big deals at the wrong stage can end up locking themselves into agreements and limiting their options. "You might move too fast, and it's hard to change your business model after that," he warns. Just as pushing yourself too hard in training could snap a hamstring — trying to leap forward too quickly as an entrepreneur could be detrimental to your business.

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Keep a growth mindset

Trusted colleagues and mentors can help ground an entrepreneur, reminding them of their plan and helping to keep them on track. A circle of advisors will give you the benefit of their experience, and help you to see the bigger picture.

The ability to network with supporters is a key part of a growth mindset, as is the ability to assess risk.

"It's important to do things step by step based on solid foundations," says Alex. "We don't want to shortcut anything. Doing those risk assessments with the right people definitely helps."

Alex knew when he started out that few people ever made it to the Olympic podium. The first step he took was committing to try. Each of the next thousand steps was small — but each one was just as important as the next. And having a trusted mentor who walked alongside him was one of the best things he ever did.

Good business tools give you the breathing space you need to turn your passion into a successful business. Find out how solutions like QuickBooks Online can help.

<< Episode 2: Alex Bilodeau explains how you know it's time to start your own business<<

>> Episode 4: How flexibility and humility can help your entrepreneurial journey>>

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