How many hours a day should an entrepreneur work? Do you need an entrepreneurial streak to reach success? Should you hire employees only if they have an exceptionally impeccable track record? Do you need to be adamant in your decisions? Sergey Tokarev, a co-founder of venture studio Pawa and Reface investor, spoke about the real life of an entrepreneur and what it takes to become one. The businessman debunked four of the most common myths about the life of an entrepreneur.
According to some studies, says Sergey, there is some kind of an entrepreneurial gene that helps people to make business and get success. However, it is not enough just to be born with the right qualities. One also needs to use their qualities correctly, know how to be at the right time in the right place. This is what makes entrepreneurs successful.
A long time ago, when the investor and a businessman was managing an Internet website, he tried almost all job positions in the company by himself. He tried not only managerial responsibilities, such as supervising the website, drawing up tasks for developers, and generating marketing ideas, but also such tasks as working in a 24/7 support service.
‘I got a whole lot of experience. I mastered all the areas of work that I needed. I realized that in order to make your product successful, you must understand your customers. It is essential. Through this experience, I realized that anyone could become a successful entrepreneur. I did not have a proper background, so I decided to study management, sales, product concepts, and it helped me a lot. I also read psychology books to understand why people visit websites at all. Nobody is born with these skills. They can only be purchased,’ assures Sergey Tokarev.
Sergey Tokarev has an interesting point of view on how to select personnel for companies. Tokarev says that usually, it is important to hire strong professionals, but there is a kink in this approach. The businessman never hires a person who, applying for a C-level position, shares only their success stories in their CVs.
‘I prefer stories of failure. They help understand the character of a person, see the difficulties he had to face, and how he coped with them. It’s simple. Everyone needs someone who can help with failures, who can cover. Together, you can always achieve more than doing everything by yourself. So, first of all, it must be a reliable person. It is much easier to learn tech skills than get required soft skills,’ says Tokarev.
Learning from mistakes is more important than learning from success. A person should be prepared for failure, but more importantly, not be afraid of them. Once you have failed, the next time you will have more chances for luck. Every problem has a solution.
When it comes to being self-motivated and ready to move towards a goal despite difficulties, perseverance is indeed good and necessary, agrees Sergey Tokarev. Especially in the startup world, where everyone wants to be a unicorn. However, it is important to be flexible as well. The tech world, as the businessman explains, is changing rapidly, and you need to be ready to let go of wrong and outdated ideas and change them according to the new trends and market demands.
‘Our Reface app was originally called Reflect and could only change faces in a photo. Later, we added the ability to work with videos. Before launching the update, we conducted a poll for the best name. There were several options: Copycat, Doublicat, Reflect, and Reface. Everyone chose Doublicat, so we adopted that name. Four months later, we changed our company name from Neocortex to RefaceAI. Then, we decided to repeat the poll on the app’s name. This time, everyone chose Reface. Now, I understand what an important step we took and why people chose a different name at first. At that time, they didn’t have an experience of using the app, they just saw examples. When we asked them the second time, they already had the interaction experience, they knew how it feels like using it. And when you feel something, it helps you better understand the essence of things. This is a good example of how flexible you need to be and how quickly you need to change your thinking, rethink your whole life and all the steps that you have taken,’ says Tokarev.
IT entrepreneurs are believed to invest all their energy and time in their business. However, this thesis is controversial. At certain difficult moments, you indeed need to sacrifice your personal life and prioritize your business, Tokarev admits. For example, when launching a new product or service. But even then, one should maintain the correct work-life balance.
‘Even the most successful athletes achieve success only through making enough breaks and creating a balance of work and rest. This allows their muscles to rest so at the right moment they can work at capacity. It is important to maintain your mental health. Establish a balance. To do it, you need to take care of yourself, both your physical and mental health. And I consider that sleeping enough is the most essential part of success. Don’t believe that entrepreneurs have an 18-hour workday. You need to sleep at least 8 hours a day. Your health begins with sleeping enough. As you age, you understand this better and better. If you work 18 hours a day, it means that you have the wrong time management,’ says Sergey Tokarev.
The businessman considers health and correct life balance to be the key aspects to succeed.
‘Most of the books and rules for entrepreneurs say: “Think big, follow your dream.” But dreams often turn into nightmares. Remember, entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you don’t want to burn out, take care of yourself,’ advises Tokarev.
In the end, the entrepreneur, with a pinch of irony, advised to avoid following the rules and tips of other people, including his own, but instead to create and follow your own rules.
Sergey Tokarev is an IT entrepreneur, co-founder of more than 30 companies with a total staff of more than 5,000 employees around the world. In addition, Sergey Tokarev is an initiator of the STEM is FEM charity educational project, which promotes gender equality and tech specialties among Ukrainian girls.
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