By Andrew Moran
Tired of the everyday grind? Looking for some professional adventure and challenges? Want to get away from the monotonous 9-to-5, Monday to Friday and daily water cooler chit chat?
Well, have you ever considered entrepreneurship? If you’re like the growing number of people discontent with their jobs and looking for something that will make them be the best they can be, then you might be considering launching your own small business.
With entrepreneurship, two things can be true at the same time: it is easier than ever to become an entrepreneur, and it is harder than ever to become an entrepreneur. The former is correct because the world is your oyster, thanks to the myriad of platforms, services and tools available at your disposal to sell a product, offer a service or market a good. The latter is right because the competition is fierce, and it is harder to stand out from the crowd.
Then again, nobody ever said entrepreneurship was easy. In fact, one of the greatest rewards of entrepreneurship – besides the monetary compensation and independence – is overcoming the many obstacles all on your own. But that doesn’t mean your solo pursuit should prevent you from attaining advice to take that next step, grow your brand or fine-tune your startup. Let’s be honest: everyone needs tips to survive and thrive as an entrepreneur.
1. Get Your Finances in Order
Once you go into business for yourself, you can no longer be as liberal with your finances as you were when you were employed by Vandelay Industries. This means the days of drinking triple, Venti, half sweet, non-fat caramel macchiatos with soy at 120 degrees from Starbucks are gone – a strong, boiling hot, rich, bitter and vulgar black coffee is your only alternative.
Unless you have received Series A funding from venture capitalists on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, you will be depending on your personal finances to both help you get to the next day and to start, maintain and expand your enterprise. Simply put: proper business financing is key.
Before you launch your small business, you should:
- start a budget and stick to it
- pay off all your debts
- cut back on your spending
- determine how much you need to get by
- calculate how much you can fiddle around with for your startup.
2. Operate within Your Means
Whether you have a hefty small business loan, or you just received a massive inheritance from your great uncle Ethel, it can be tempting to spend every available penny on your business. You might think that the more you spend on your company, the more successful it can become. Wrong.
A successful business doesn’t generate sales, boost clientele and potentially win awards by spending all its capital on operations. Instead, many startups operate within their means. In other words, they don’t:
- take out enormous loans
- work in opulent settings
- unnecessarily expand into foreign markets
- adding your brother’s wife’s nephew’s cousin to payroll.
In the end, if you only have $23,000 to work with every year, then that is what you will do. Indeed, if there’s one piece of advice that failed business owners wish they were given is that they wished they better managed the pennies.
3. Save on Marketing Dollars
Thanks to the power and prevalence of digital marketing, you don’t need six-figure campaigns to get noticed. Instead, with a free Twitter account, a strong Facebook acumen and $100 in Google ads, you can still market your brand without having to break the bank. Of course, there’s a lot more than you can do than just tweet and ‘like’ without an immense investment.
But what? Here are some tips:
- engage with your audience and thank them for any kind words
- search engine optimisation (SEO) is still key, even in 2019
- email marketing is not dead – the rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated
- be active, not passive, on social media; do concentrate on only a couple of platforms
- website design is still the most important investment you can make.
4. Find Experts
Many people tend to believe that entrepreneurs are jacks of all trades. While this might be true in the very beginning, startups eventually grow their team and add talent to their talent. It is important to remember, however, that when you do hire professionals to join your small firm, you need to take on experts.
In other words, don’t fall for hiring your college roommate who once drew a stickman as your lead graphic designer. Likewise, refrain from adding your boyfriend or girlfriend to your workforce because they gave you the puppy eyes.
5. Allocate Your Energy Wisely
There is a general misconception that every entrepreneur needs to burn the midnight oil in order to be successful. On the one hand, it is correct that you need to work more hours than you would at your old desk position. On the other, however, you do not need to clock in 23 hours a day with only one break every seven hours.
Let’s be honest: sleep is the most important thing you can get. Without an adequate amount of sleep, you will not be able to function correctly, your mind will not work the way it always does, and your mood will be one of morose and melancholy – not exactly the characteristics of a tycoon!
The important lesson from this is to allocate your energy wisely – don’t burn it all.
6. Treat Your Customers Right
Have you heard of customer relationship management? This is an approach, which uses data, analytics and automation, to take care of interactions with prospects and current clients. This is just one of many techniques to make your customer front and centre of your business.
A company will only generate the big bucks if it treats its customers right. Amazon is a perfect example of customer service; just look at its pop-up self-serve grocery stores that use the honour system for products – if you were charged an item you did not buy, then you can get a refund.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what industry you are occupied in or how great your products are; your clients are your ticket to the entrepreneurial championship game. Whether it is abiding by the motto of ‘the customer is always right’ to offering easy refunds, there is always something a little extra you can do to garner the support and trust of consumers.
7. Listen to Client Feedback
How do you know if you’re doing well or poorly? First, you just need to take a gander at your revenues and bottom line. Second, you need to listen to client feedback.
Client feedback is on par with treating your customers right. Since they are the ones who do not have any skin in the game and interact with you, your business and your services, then they understand first-hand what is right or what is wrong with your private enterprise. It could be the putrid user experience on your website, or it might be the deplorable mobile applications that are too slow.
Sure, we tend to despise feedback when it is bad – and love it when it’s great – but it is an important aspect of every ring of entrepreneurship, from growing to learning.
8. Network Like It’s 1999
The year 1999 was an interesting one for aspiring entrepreneurs. The internet was still in its infancy, people were still mostly utilising the telephone for communication, and email marketing was all the rage. It struck a fine balance between the real world and the digital one; these days, everyone prefers to communicate through email or by text.
Is this the most effective way to network? Not exactly.
Networking, even though we perish the thought of striking up small talk at those industry conferences, is a critical approach to entrepreneurship. By establishing and cultivating your network, you can eventually have a plethora of contacts that can prove to be beneficial to your brand. You might meet someone who is involved in shipping, or you might know a guy who can get you a great deal on web hosting, or you could have met someone who is head of a digital marketing firm.
9. Join Entrepreneurial Support Groups
Just because you’re an entrepreneur, it doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings – not every single entrepreneur is of the Jeff Bezos or Gordon Gekko variety. Oftentimes, the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you’re an entrepreneur, mainly because your livelihood, and potentially the livelihood of your family, rests on you, your abilities and your small business success.
What’s the solution? You may lack the time, or you may feel reluctant, but you could join an entrepreneurial support group to find help from other small business owners who have felt stressed, overwhelmed or stumped.
These support groups will give advice and wisdom they may have wished they had when they first started out.
Or, if there isn’t one of these entities available in your area, you could also find a mentor. This will be someone who has plenty of experience in your particular industry or who has small business tips to ensure you make the right decisions for your startup.
10. Deliver More Than Expected
There is an old saying in the business world: under-promise and overdeliver. It might be a tired trope, but it is one of the best ways to win the hearts and minds of clients, suppliers, investors and partners. Sure, it’s a cheap gimmick, but it works – it also develops your trustworthiness, respectability and reliability as a one-man or -woman band.
Think about it: if a company unenthusiastically said it would take three weeks to get something done, but then it’s completed in a week and the results are marvellous, wouldn’t you be satisfied?
It is estimated that more than 500,000 people become entrepreneurs every month. It would be great if all 500,000 led successful ventures, but this just isn’t possible. Instead, studies have found that these businesses shutter their doors within the first year of opening – that number surges to 66% within 10 years.
But do you have to be one of these statistics? Not with the right attitude, strategy and knowhow – a triple-threat mindset to send you on your way down the road paved with gold.
Originally published 6/13/2019