Fundamental Rules for Startup Entrepreneurs

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Master the Fundamentals

There may be few road maps available to entrepreneurs when it comes to starting a small business, but there are certainly things to keep in mind. Here are some tips that will help you build your business thoughtfully and intelligently taking the steps necessary to make your venture an ultimate success

 Focus on Financing

Keep your mind on funding. Always be on the lookout for opportunities for funding. Don’t expect to start a business and then walk into a bank and get money. Traditional lenders don’t like new ideas and don’t like businesses without proven track records or financial data.

Seek alternative sources of financing as well. For example, special incentives in place right now may make it a perfect time to look for investors for certain kinds of domestic corporations. The incentives may not be right for your business but could help with startup or expansion in company’s meeting the prescribed profile. See: ICS Fast Money Guide

Know Your Customer

Develop a clear picture of who your ideal customer is. Because potential customers come in all sizes, shapes, and spending profiles — and because ideal customers don’t come with their profiles stapled on their foreheads — your first job is to first identify your customers and figure out which ones are most likely to become your best customers and then to figure out how to attract and reach them. There are a lot of things that go into figuring out your market, whether the market for a new product or service or a market into which you might want to expand an existing business. But creating a profile for the ideal customer can be a great place to begin.

 

Be Professional from the Start

When you first go into business, people don’t know who you are, how you do business, which values and ethics you hold dear, and the quality of your products and services. You need to build credibility as quickly as possible. Everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a professional running a serious business. That means having all of the necessary tools such as professional business cards, a business phone and a business email address, and treating people in a professional, courteous manner. Understand that customers have many choices as to how they spend their money, and if you are not putting forth your best image, your business might not fit their choice.

 

 Marketing & Sales

Of all the areas that small business owners violate the most are marketing and sales. Having a system in place to consistently generate prospects that you can sell to is the only way to keep the business growing and working for you. Your effectiveness in marketing and sales starts with mastering the basics and then applying the best strategies. Remember this one thing: Marketing and Sale aren’t expenses but investments. By investing in them you ensure your success over the long haul.   Marketing vs. Sales: What’s the Difference?

Don’t Do It Alone
You need a support system while you’re starting a business (and afterwards). A family member or friend that you can bounce ideas off and who will listen sympathetically to the latest business startup crisis is invaluable. Even better, find a mentor or business advisor who can help you save valuable time based upon their experiences and such. When you’re starting a business experienced guidance is the best support system of all.

Do Your Research

You’ll do a lot of research writing a business plan, but that’s just a start. When you’re starting a business, you need to become an expert on your industry, products and services, if you’re not already. As you are building your professional reputation, one of the key elements that you need to establish is your position as a subject matter expert (SME). You need to go from anonymity to respected and credible expert. Your continued education will be what sets you apart later on as well.

 

Embrace the Social Media

Yes, I said embrace it because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s not enough to know and except its existence. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have more than 1.5 billion members between them. According to Constant Contact, Social Media Marketing is, “Building your social network of fans, followers, and connections, using relevant and interesting content allowing you to reach and engage more people and drive more business.”   As an entrepreneur, you need to understand how to use these outlets to identify potential clients, partners and suppliers.  Adding Value for Your Clients Through Social Media

 

Learn the Basics of Public Relations

Understanding the basics of PR are key to any entrepreneur or small business owner. Advertising and marketing are both huge costs. Along with the basics of PR management, every entrepreneur should learn the significance of using press releases. Though writing may not be your strong suit, when starting out small it can be critical to have a basic grasp of how to tell others, most importantly the media, who you are and what you do.

 

Invest in the talent you need

Whether tech specialists or other employees, your workforce will be important to your success, at least if your business expands beyond a one man or one woman operation. So the question becomes how do you find the right people for your business and attract them to your company? The answer may not always be money.

 

Systemize Your Business

One of the best ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed is to start systemizing your small business. This means that you have to find an organized way to deal with the different components of your business. Find ways to structure the different jobs so that they are able to get done themselves, or they can be done by another person. The goal of systemizing your small business is to be able to concentrate on enjoying life and growing your company without being overwhelmed by it.

 

Get Help Sooner Rather than Later

Very few persons succeed or fail by themselves. Unless you plan to operate a large corporation with all support in-house, you will likely need to recruit an outside support team. You must find reliable and professional people like an attorney, CPA, and insurance agent who can help you with these types of legal and financial business issues. Just because you’re starting a business, doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on everything. If you’re not an accountant or bookkeeper, hire one (or both).  If you need to write up a contract, and you’re not a lawyer, hire one. You will waste more time and possibly money in the long run trying to do things yourself that you are not qualified to do. Outsourcing such tasks can be a better use of your time. One of the most important innovations for the overworked entrepreneur is the virtual assistant. These workers have emerged as an outgrowth of both outsourcing and online technology allowing support that gets you what you need when you need it at cost you can typically afford.

There is only one way to be successful in your business or anything else. Master the fundamentals—the basics!” To master them you must own them. There is no mystery here. It takes discipline, fundamentals, proven productive systems, and staying actively engaged in building and promoting your business.

Common Small Business Startup Issues (Mistakes)

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For new entrepreneurs, there isn’t a magic bullet or a fool-proof plan to business success. The younger your business is the more likely you are to end up in the failure heap of small businesses. If you want to avoid being a statistic, you will need to learn to take consistent intentional action with regards to how you start, grow and build your business.

Based on both my own experience and those of other entrepreneurs whom I have worked with, I have put together some of the most common issues that I have come across in my many years of helping entrepreneurs develop and take their businesses to the next level.

 

Lack of Patience. Patience is grossly underestimated. We live in a time where becoming an entrepreneur or getting to CEO status has been glamorized and for that reason, many people think that the minute they decide to put on the entrepreneur hat and open for business that instant success will follow. You have got to be prepared to stay in the game even when nothing is happening and even moreso when you feel like quitting. You have to stay the course and put in the work and allow your business time to be known (by the right people) for what you do. Despite all of the hype and other such online promises, there is no shortcut to becoming successful. There is no such thing as an overnight success in business. You have got to double down and put in the work while doing everything you can to get your business in the right position to succeed.

 

Not following their passion. Just because it’s cool to be a start-up founder now does not mean that it is what you need to become. Building a business requires a number of success-oriented character traits such as drive, dedication, a serious sense of commitment and passion. If you are in a business just because it’s the newest trend or because of the potential to make a lot of money, then when hard times come that may make you want to throw up your arms and simply give up then you will be the first one to jump ship if it is something that you are not passionate about. Passion will drive you. It will keep you going despite the difficulties that your business will inevitably come across. I have had may times where I wanted to quit, but my passion for what I do to help others success is what keeps me going. You need to have a passion of some sort. Whether you are passionate about what you’re selling, or if you’re passionate about seeing others succeed like I am, make sure that passion is there. Your passion will lead you to success.

 

Being Afraid of Marketing. Marketing, whether it’s word of mouth, traditional advertising or Internet marketing, helps to get your business in front of people (today) who may very well need your products or services (tomorrow). Too many small business owners either do not have a budget for marketing or assume that they don’t have a need for it. As such, having a clearly thought out marketing plan is essential. The best type of marketing channel(s) will depend largely upon your business and who your target audience is. Too often, the mistake made by so many new entrepreneurs is wrongly assuming that they don’t need to do any marketing and that business will come to you.

 

Skipping the Planning Stage. While creating a business plan may be tedious, without a good roadmap for direction it will be really easy to get off course. Planning is no more than taking the time out to document what you want and need to accomplish, and formulating a strategy and tactics for getting it done. Having a written plan gives you a clear way to articulate what it is you do, how you have gotten to this point and where you are headed. The most important components of a business plan to consider include the Marketing Plan, a Financial Plan, and a Strategic Plan.  While you will need to remain flexible and adapt as the competitive and industry landscapes change, it is unwise to skip the planning stage. Plenty of tools exist that make writing a business plan practically painless. There’s probably even “an app for that”.

 

Not knowing who your customer is. Far too often I have met entrepreneurs who tell me that their product or service will help “anyone” or “everybody.”  This is rooted in the “Build it and they will come” mindset, which shows how much some business owners actually don’t’ know when it comes to marketing. Taking time to figure out who your idea customer is and how your product/service will best suit their need is critical. All too often, entrepreneurs spend their energy on everything but having conversations with current and potential customers. Knowing specifically how your product/service solves a problem or meets a need helps you to be able to create and deliver the precise solutions to meet customers’ needs. In the end. It will make your marketing cost far more effective and enable you to better position your business in front of the right people.

 

Not Mastering the Money Matters. Money is the lifeblood of your business. As a business owner, not only do you have to figure out ways to make money, you have to figure out ways to keep it. Profit is always better than Revenue. It’s not about how much you make; it’s about how much you get to keep. Every dollar that you create and protect as bottom line profit is much more valuable to your business than revenue.  While a single drastic financial decision can cause a business to fail, failure more often than not follows a series of bad decisions and financial mistakes. The problem that I have noticed with most entrepreneurs is that they don’t understand how the impact of many of their decisions affect their bottom line and often overspend on things that do not generate income. These mistakes can be avoided by giving more attention to the details of the business cash flow throughout the year. Understand what your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are, and always think of expenses in terms of how they’ll generate future revenue for the company.

Based on my own personal roller coaster experience with and operating multiple businesses, I can easily understand how both new and seasoned entrepreneurs make mistakes all the time. Indeed, the world’s most recognizable entrepreneurs usually had as many failures as successes over the course of their careers.

While some of these issues are minor and can be corrected on the fly, some especially those that concern money, can easily put you out of business. Financing is a big reason why the vast majority of startups fail during their first few years of operation.

We all make mistakes. The key is being aware of them and consistently working to make smart, well-informed decisions in your business. If you can do that, and remain resilient when you do make a mistake, success will be within your reach.