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7 Steps To Being A Resilient Digital Entrepreneur

We explore 7 effective ways to overcome the challenges you may face when establishing your digital business.

The failure rates for new businesses and startups are notorious. Perhaps it's not surprising; as an entrepreneur there’s a lot to learn and the curve is steep.

For digital enterprises, things are perhaps even more precarious. By basing your operations solely online you might be without the support networks and infrastructure of a physical business. And in the age of the internet, especially post-pandemic, the potential for competition is nearly limitless.

To avoid being amongst the 1 in 5 businesses that fail in the first year, or 60% in the first three years, a digital entrepreneur must show resilience.

Here are the 7 most effective things you should do to overcome adversity.


What does it mean for a digital business to be resilient?

The pandemic led to thousands of businesses closing in the UK. Even with government help during Covid-19, entrepreneurs and business owners who weren’t ready for tough times couldn’t keep going.

Being able to withstand stresses and pressures, is vital if you want to survive when things get difficult. That’s what resilience means – whether that’s adapting to changing conditions or planning ahead so you can weather whatever storms may strike.

In business, digital entrepreneurs need this kind of sustainability more than anyone. Recent years have seen the rise of unicorn startups - a term used to describe a startup worth $1 billion or more – in the digital space, alongside a slew of flash-in-the-pan enterprises with promising ideas but no staying power (dead unicorns).

If tech unicorns can be valued at $1billion then fail, there’s every chance a smaller digital startup may suffer the same fate. To avoid the digital enterprise graveyard, we suggest the following steps for resilient businesses.


1. Embrace failure

Understand and accept the very real possibility that you might fail. Starting a business is a brave thing to do precisely because it’s risky.

If not succeeding scares you, that’s probably a good thing. The fear of failure may temper your most extreme proclivities. But facing it also prepares you for the possibility of being in the 20% of new businesses that don’t make it.

It’s said that failure is the best teacher, but it doesn’t have to be your own. Try learning from those who have failed before you. You’ll soon realise that you’re not the only entrepreneur who’s ever made a mistake. And by avoiding errors others have endured, you might get a step further than they did.


2. Grow a thick skin

As a passionate digital entrepreneur with exciting new ideas you’re bound to make waves. Leading change and driving disruptive innovation in a digital market involves putting your business and yourself out there.

Related to the step above, you need to be prepared for setbacks and grow a thick skin. Rejection of your ideas is par for the course as a new entrepreneur. Having the confidence and self-belief to carry on when things don’t go your way is a very apt definition of resilience.



3. Remember your business purpose

Resilience in the workplace requires belief in what you’re doing. You shouldn’t be overconfident, but you need to have faith in what you’re trying to achieve with your company.

It’s easy to get stuck thinking in terms of what you’re doing, how or when. But don’t forget to link everything back to why. What is the overriding purpose of your digital enterprise?

It could be leading positive change in your business area, improving people’s daily lives, or protecting the environment. Whatever your company’s purpose, that should lead everything you do, and it will give you a focus to guide your actions, especially when things get challenging.


4. Have a Plan A

Once you know the why of your company, you’ll need to build that into a thorough business plan.

As a digital entrepreneur, perhaps a sole trader, it’s easy to get into the reactive habit of deciding everything as it arises. However, even if you only have yourself to answer to, plotting out a plan for your company will benefit you in the long run.

Where will you be in three, six, twelve months’ time? Who do you need to hire and when? What marketing assets are scheduled so people find out about your business?

Even if you adjust things along the way, following a set of predetermined steps will give you a structure to work from. It’ll help you stick to your company’s purpose at every stage, improve stakeholder management and show investors you’re serious.



5. Adapt and innovate

Digital entrepreneurship is a fast-changing endeavour where markets move quickly. Failure to evolve might see you become extinct. Deviating from your business plan when things change can be a positive thing.

However, the best form of adaptation is pre-emptive. By analysing your business performance and reading the marketplace, you can innovate before trouble arises. Embrace inventive ideas, put budget and time into research and development, and persevere with learning new skills.

If you put work into innovation and keep abreast of your industry, you’ll ride the peaks and troughs while your less resilient competitors sink.


6. Have a Plan B

Disaster Plan, Contingency Plan, Continuity Plan. Call it what you will, a resilient entrepreneur will know what to do if (when) things go wrong.

Nobody can tell you what, how or when disaster will hit. But whether it’s a communications catastrophe, a supply shortage, a financial furore, or a global pandemic, a backup plan will prepare you to maintain the sustainability of your business.

Crises separate the resilient from the reckless. A thorough, comprehensive emergency procedure prepared in the cool of foresight will prevent panic in the white heat of disaster.



7. Ask for help

No matter whether you’re a brand-new digital startup or a scaling business with a few years under your belt, you can’t know everything. If you’re going to be resilient, especially as a new digital entrepreneur trying to fulfil your leadership potential, you’ll need help.

That may come in many forms.

If your cashflow is suffering, a meeting with an investor could save you in the short-term. They can only say no, but not asking for help isn’t a strength, and it can be a weakness.

Reach out to your networks and contacts for advice. Find a mentor who’s been in a similar situation and can guide you in your business. Don’t be silent if you’re finding things tough – people generally like helping if they can and it’s a compliment to be asked for your advice.

Make an effort to learn as much as you can but don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know".


Become a resilient digital entrepreneur with us

To be a successful business owner you need to learn a lot. Nobody has a completely smooth journey to success, but if you can learn as you grow, you’ll be in the strongest possible position to survive whatever trials you need to face.

At Northumbria, our Business and Management MSc is designed for anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship, whether you have business experience or not.

The online course is entirely flexible, so busy professionals can study without having to take a break from their careers. And our Digital Entrepreneurship module will teach you how to start, scale, and survive the challenges that working with digital technology throws at you.

Find out more on our Business MSc course page and get in touch with our enrolment team to start your journey to understanding entrepreneurial resilience.

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