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.

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Why Networking Is Important for Small Business Owners

Networking 5 reasons

My inbox is constantly full of invites to webinars, real estate investment seminars and MLM presentations, and that’s just from vendors. If you factor in all of the professional development groups that I belong to I could attend a new networking group almost every day of the week.

Networking is an essential part of doing business these days, whether you like it or not. Aside from the free drinks, Business Networking is more than just a way to gain new clients and/or get sales. Done properly, Business Networking is a way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others to develop a network of compatible professionals that you can use to help build a sustainable business.

I would like to share with you 5 reasons that outline why business networking is important for small business owners and why you should invest more time and effort into getting it right.

 

Make Connections

The old adage, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know” is absolutely true when it comes to building a successful business. To grow your small business quickly today’s entrepreneurs need to have a strong source of relevant connections in your network that you can call on when you need them.

Networking in the right circles is one way to gain access to highly influential people that you otherwise would not have been able to easily talk to or connect with.

It’s not just about who you are directly networking with either – chances are, people whom you meet at various networking functions may already have a network that you can tap into as well. So, ask the right questions to find out if the person you are networking with knows who you want to know!

 

Opportunities

With a motivated group of business owners comes an abundance of opportunities! Networking within the right groups brings with it plenty of opportunities for those who think about more than just making a sale. There are always lots of opportunities that are inherent with attending networking events including the opportunity to speak as an expert on a given subject, opportunities to be a sponsor for an event, opportunity to cross promote a comparable product and/or service, guest writing opportunities… the list goes on, and the opportunities within networking are really endless. One way to help identify such opportunities is by finding out what the group needs to grow and learning to ask the right questions.

Just make sure that you are careful to entertain only the right opportunities and don’t try to jump into every opportunity that comes your way. The opportunities that you get involved in should align with your business goals/vision, otherwise you might find that you are spinning your wheels chasing after opportunity after opportunity and getting nowhere.

 

Raising your profile

Being visible and getting noticed is another huge benefit of business networking. Make sure you regularly attend business and social events that will help to get your face known. Rather than just showing up and taking business with other entrepreneurs, one good way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and/or to raise your profile is to offer to give a brief talk about something you specialize in that may be beneficial to the attendees of the group. A brief talk- and not a sales pitch– can go a long way in establishing credibility and helping others to gain more clarity about what it is you do and how they can help you grow your business. This will go a long way in helping to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it. You are also more likely to get more leads and referrals as you will be the one that pops into their head when they need what you offer.

 

Business Leads

Using the contacts that you make while networking can open doors for business opportunities. Knowing WHO your ideal customer is and how to communicate that to other potential referral sources is critical. Once you become involved at networking functions is one sure way to generate new “qualified” business leads.

Never forget the saying, “The fortune is in the follow-up.” Some leads take time to convert into actual clients and having a reliable follow-up plan in place is very important. These warm leads are the easiest to convert, but you have to put in the effort and be sensitive to the needs of those you are contacting. Communicate professionally when you follow up on leads. People want to help others but aren’t interested in someone badgering them for business. Be sensitive to timing and use common courtesy when following up with contacts.

 

Generation of referrals/Increased business

Probably the most obvious benefit and the reason why most business owners decide to participate in networking activities and join networking groups is to generate referrals and increase their businesses.

More often than not, the referrals that you generate through networking are normally high quality and most of the time are even pre-qualified for you. You can then follow up on these referrals/leads and turn them into clients or better yet, other referral sources. Compared to other forms of marketing, networking is one sure way to acquire much higher quality leads and to connect with people who can really help you build your business.

Exchange Ideas

Being in the company of like-minded business owners to talk to also gives you an opportunity to exchange ideas and to get advice from other business owners on all sorts of issues related to your business or even ways in which others may go about in creating that important work-life balance.

I often tout my workshops and networking events as an opportune time to tap into advice and expertise (for FREE) from people whom you otherwise would not have had an opportunity to speak with without an appointment. Just make sure you are getting solid advice from the right person – someone that actually knows about what you need to know and is not just giving you their opinion on something that they have no or very little experience in.

Business Networking is more than just a way to gain new clients and/or get sales. No matter what industry you’re in, networking is always a good idea for business professionals wishing to foster relationships and grow their influence. Done properly, Business Networking is a great way to continue to promote your business you can collaborate with and explore new ways expand your client base and gain access to new market places.  Whatever the case, be sure to get those questions together and be prepared to make come lasting connections!