If being an entrepreneur was easy, everybody would do it. Building a business from scratch takes hard work, determination and planning, but perhaps most important for the entrepreneur is being an adept evaluator. From critically assessing the market and your offering, to operations, staff and even your own skill set, you must be able to identify the path to success. If you can do that, all you need to to do is put one foot in front of the other – although there are some tips that may help you reach success.

Research And Define Your Market

There’s no point in launching a product or service if there is no market for it. Rather than focusing on what you want to provide to consumers, think about providing solutions to their problems. For example, you will not find success opening a burger joint if your market already has ten burger joints, unless you’re planning to offer something unique that is currently unavailable and in demand or there is an underserved geography within your market. Successful business owners respond to unfulfilled needs in the marketplace. They identify the market demand for their particular product or service and build their business around targeting their niche market.

Keep Learning

The most accomplished people are usually individuals who dedicate themselves to learning as much as possible. Take every opportunity to learn from others. This isn’t just about studying or reading (although these are important to undertake also). It’s being observant as you go through your day and open to learning something from every person and every experience. Take some time each day to write down any important lessons. Really learning from others, and from your mistakes when you make them, gives you a greater chance of success in the future.

Know When (And When Not) To Listen

Being an active listener is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can develop. Every person you meet has the potential to say something that will help you build a successful business. This goes for mentors, peers, staff, family and friends – even the random people you chat with at the store or sit next to on a plane. Try to listen more than you talk. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn! Just remember that active listening doesn’t mean following every piece of advice that comes your way or believing everything you hear. Be open to new ideas and information, but evaluate it’s merit for yourself before putting anything into practice.

Look Ahead

Even though much of your focus will be directed towards operations, especially in the early days of your business, it is important to take stock of where you are right now and where you want to go. Always keep looking ahead, re-evaluating your strategy when required, and planning your next steps. Block out time on a regular basis and dedicate it solely to your business roadmap.

Network, Network, Network

Take every opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, people within your industry and other local businesses. And don’t just network up. Make sure you network laterally as well as down. That way you can build a network of potential mentors, investors, partners, peers and up and comers. All of these individuals can be valuable in your business life, from finding the right staff to building a bigger, better business. Don’t rely completely on online platforms like LinkedIn to build your network either. Business associations, trade shows and networking events provide great opportunities, as do social gatherings with friends and family.

Work Hard, But Also Smart

Building a new business often requires long hours and wearing many different hats, especially if you’re operating on a shoestring budget. There are no shortcuts when it comes to a successful startup, but there are smarter ways to work. Figure out what functions you absolutely must handle yourself and (if possible) outsource the rest. With a whole industry of freelancers now available, you don’t need to hire a bunch of people to get the help you need. How much is your time worth? Is it better spent on something more productive for your business? Could a specialist get the work done more efficiently? Do you even have the skills to get it done? These are all questions you should ask yourself when it comes to allocating your most precious resource: your time.

Find Your Passion

While your business offering should be built around market demand, it should also be something you’re passionate about. Building your own business is hard work, so make sure it’s worth it. Spending your time creating something you don’t love (at least a little) will be much less rewarding, not to mention it will be hard to stay motivated. That doesn’t mean you have to love the specific product or service you’re offering, but you should be inspired by the process, the challenge, the lifestyle it affords, or some other major aspect of business building.

Create Balance

Even though you might be tempted to spend all of your time working, you need to build in down time. We are not machines, and if you try to operate like one, you are destined for burnout. Create balance in your life. Prioritize your health. Eat well, get regular exercise, and take time to relax and recharge.

Remember that success is defined by you. For some that may mean being the CEO of an international empire, while others may be aiming for a comfortable lifestyle with less hours spent working. Success as an entrepreneur has many forms, and if you make it your personal mantra to never give up, you will find yours.