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6 Business Lessons from 'Apprentice' Finalist James Sun

6 Business Lessons from 'Apprentice' Finalist James Sun
A startup's success is dependent on how focused it is. / Credit: Startup image via Shutterstock

Every year, countless individuals with great business ideas set out to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. For every one of these businesses that succeeds, there are dozens more that never make it off the ground. In fact, according to a 2012 Wall Street Journal article, three out of every four startups end up failing.                              

Why is this failure rate so high? Tech entrepreneur James Sun, founder of mobile apps Pirq and Anomo, believes that a startup's success primarily comes down to focus.

James Sun is the founder of two mobile apps and appeared on season six of "The Apprentice" and the BBC's "Sun Tsu War on Business." Credit: James Sun

"Many startups try to do too many things well, and so they do nothing exceptionally well," Sun told Business News Daily. "They add too many features, and it dilutes the product. Even if it means pigeoning the product in the beginning, you have to be very niche. After you dominate the niche feature or market, then you should expand." [3 Steps to Finding Your Startup's Niche]

As a top-four finalist on season six of NBC's "The Apprentice," as well as the host of the BBC's "Sun Tsu War on Business," Sun learned a lot about what it takes to make a business venture work. He shared six lessons he learned that can help boost the odds of success.

1. Allow your startup the freedom to fail. It is important to consider all possibilities and to be realistic about what areas in your business are weak. Being a leader means constantly carving out new paths. When your business has a few losses, quickly adapt to the changes and move on.

2. Stay cool, and lean in. Accept that startups are going to have ups and downs. Even when the ship is rocking, keep a level head. Continue to instill confidence in your employees and, more importantly, in the fuel to keep your company going: your investors. With any challenge, your team needs to lean in for the next step.

3. Stand out. On "The Apprentice," Sun observed that Donald Trump chose people and ideas with unique angles. Communication and differentiation are extremely important. Your product or service may be obvious to you, but you have to clearly express why you're different to potential customers and investors.

4. Surround yourself with influential people. Make sure there are key players involved in your business who have experience from established companies. Having someone from a company like Microsoft or Google as a mentor or adviser will make a difference to investors.

5. Start the talent search. Pay attention to your employees. Foster their strengths, and see their potential. Be assertive, and transfer them, teach them or switch up their responsibilities to better suit what you see in them. This kind of mentorship builds future leaders for your company.

6. Go with the numbers. Constantly crunch numbers and quantify results. It seems basic, but a lot of entrepreneurs forget that making small changes and measuring the results will lead to long-term improvements. Taking small risks and seeing how they pan out is more effective than drafting visionary plans.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.