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It's a difficult time to be a dreamer. Over the past few years there has been an unprecedented amount of economic disruption, causing uncertainty within the markets for practically every industry. The Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent global supply chain problems, and the war in Ukraine are just a few of the disruptions that have caused expectations to go flying out the window, and in the United States rising interest rates and record-high inflation have seen rumblings of a recession grow louder with each passing month.

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For entrepreneurs, whether you are contemplating starting a business or already have one it can be a daunting time. By definition, entrepreneurs have more at stake than the average worker, and are hugely invested (both through time and money) in the overall success of the business. Entrepreneurship already brings with it a significant amount of unique challenges, and adding the turbulence that is increasingly appearing to be the “new normal” only serves to further heighten stress. 


So how does one steel themselves to the fear and uncertainties that one faces as an entrepreneur? For Vinod Gupta, the answer is to arm yourself with knowledge. “The more you learn, the more educated you become and the better off you are overall,” said Gupta. “Arming myself with knowledge is the best thing I can do to overcome any fears I have about the future.” 


Vinod Gupta has had an entrepreneurial career spanning over five decades of time. He moved from India to the United States with less than $50 to his name and with a single loan of $100 transformed the first company he founded into a global corporation achieving over $750 million in annual revenue. After leaving his first business he has gone on to found a number of new companies including an investment firm and a marketing company. A lifelong believer in paying it forward, Gupta has dedicated his time and energy toward aiding others in finding the success he has, often through providing and funding educational endeavors. 


Knowledge can come in many forms, and for Gupta the important thing is to always recognize opportunities for learning when they are in front of you. A curious mind is the secret sauce for an entrepreneur, enabling them to move forward even when the future is unclear. Below are just four examples provided by Gupta of how one can stay curious.


Seek out formal educational opportunities  


Entrepreneurs must be duly prepared to face the challenges of the future, and a large part of that involves being a proactive learner. With two master’s degrees as well as three honorary degrees, Gupta himself has taken full advantage of the collegiate system. Although he originally attended school for agricultural engineering, upon immigrating to the United States and realizing he was interested in entrepreneurship he promptly earned his MBA as well. For Gupta, these sorts of programs can provide invaluable knowledge, but he also acknowledges that a formal education is by no means the only way one can further their technical knowledge. 


With a little due diligence, one can find a number of free and low-cost options on practically every subject needed from accounting to public speaking. From online courses to weekend seminars, the opportunities for furthering your education are numerous, and thanks to the internet you often can do them from the comfort of your own home. The current trends in the labor market and tech industry also make it imperative for entrepreneurs to stay up to date in order to remain competitive. “Learn, learn, learn. Education is so important and it never stops. The more you learn, the better off you are,” said Gupta.


Read anything and everything


Perhaps the most obvious way one can easily gain knowledge is through reading. “Every day I spend two hours reading, whether it’s the Wall Street Journal, the local paper, or the New York Times,” says Gupta. “I get a lot of ideas just from reading. It allows me to learn about what’s new and happening around the world, which I can then take and use in both my personal life and business life.” 


While reading books on entrepreneurship and your own markets are certainly a worthwhile endeavor, Gupta encourages fellow entrepreneurs to not limit themselves entirely in this way. Oftentimes stepping outside of your usual subject of interest and exploring something new can lead to more innovative ideas in the long run. For example, reading a presidential biography may provide valuable insights about leadership, and even fiction can teach us valuable lessons about looking at something from the perspective of others. 


A common complaint of entrepreneurs is that they “don’t have time” to read. While it is understandable given the heavy demands that are placed on their shoulders, taking in media in a different form such as through audiobooks or podcasts while at the gym or while commuting are simple ways to quickly add to your knowledge base. 


Communicate with your customer base


Now more than ever it is imperative that entrepreneurs take an active role in communicating with their customers. This is true both in the logistical sense – whether you are offering a product or a service it is better to remain up-front and honest in light of the often changing interest rates and other sliding factors that have been unstable as of late – but also so that you can stay attuned to their needs. “Always listen to the customers. By listening to the customers, you can not only learn what makes you successful but also what is holding you back. Putting that into practice will bring success,” said Lall. 


One simple way you can get all of the specific information you want is to provide customers with a survey. Opening up a direct channel such as an email address can also help facilitate better communication. Ask those who work in customer-facing positions to notate requests and comments made by customers. By truly getting to know your customer base you can better understand their needs. 


Accept the inevitability of failure


“Nine times out of ten, an idea fails and that’s fine,” says Vinod Gupta. Failure is good, it’s a part of learning. You only need that one idea to work to be successful.” It is often through failing that we can truly gain the most knowledge. For entrepreneurs in particular the idea of failure can be terrifying, and while the catastrophic failure of your business is obviously the worst-case scenario, it is important to remember that any failure less than that is recoverable for your business. 


When you accept that failures are inevitable, you open yourself up to a whole new category of knowledge – the knowledge that comes from experience. Becoming okay with the idea of an idea not working allows you to take greater calculated risks, and as a result learn from the process. It can open the doors to new opportunities and give your business a much needed competitive edge.