When an entrepreneur succeeds, we have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact. Entrepreneurs can change lives through their work. After all, inventing, innovating, and creating jobs are the sort of stuff entrepreneurs push themselves do before breakfast; entrepreneurism is the heartbeat of our society.
But, speaking from experience, being an entrepreneur is a huge responsibility. Not only are you responsible for the success of your idea (your baby!), but you are accountable to the employees and business partners that believe in you and rely on you, and to the customers that rely on the products and services you create. They say that 2013 was the year of the entrepreneur, but we have yet to crack the code in some key areas. In 2014, entrepreneurs will still work hard to master these five challenges.
Innovation does not mean you constantly need to create ideas and products. Writing in The Harvard Business Review, David Burkus claims innovating isn't at all a problem with quantity of ideas. Instead, innovating is about identifying which ideas are great and how you can improve upon your current services. Relentlessly seeking new ideas to better your brand won't help your business this year. You must realize what your company does well and how you can expand upon its current success to make it better.
Entrepreneurs tend to make instinct-based, snap decisions, which can be dangerous when only 50% of hiring decisions are successful. Making a gut decision is not the appropriate way to build your workforce, and employee turnover is a costly issue that disrupts your work flow and hinders the company morale. Understanding employees' skill sets, studying past accomplishments and being able to clearly articulate to the prospective employee your company's culture are all imperative when deciphering a candidate's ability to excel.
If you have created a popular product, tool or service, there is a good chance that more will come along like it. Standing out in a crowded space is imperative for the growth of each business. Your potential customers are more educated than ever before. They are seeking an effective product at the right price from someone they trust. In order to meet their needs and surpass your competitors, you must know more about your industry, the competitive landscape and your potential customer than the next guy. And you need to make who you are as a company part of your story. Others may come along to replicate a product or service, but they won't be able to replicate who you are or the relationship you develop with your customer base.
As companies grow and evolve, they need access to different kinds of funding across the spectrum. The right kind of funding is key to success in business, especially when scaling. However, getting investors to believe in your dream, drive and capabilities is another beast. It's even more difficult to receive funding if you are a female entrepreneur. It has been reported that less than 6% of US Venture funded companies are led by women. It's important for entrepreneurs across the board to sell their vision, build partnerships and leverage your strengths.
Each year gives birth to stories of another rising social media site. From Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest to Tumblr to Mobli, there are an unending number of platforms to potentially engage your customers, and countless missed opportunities to connect. With a surplus of social media platforms, each with different customer segments, entrepreneurs need to think less about the platform and more about the audience, devoting resources to listening to where, and in what ways, potential customers are talking about the issues about which the company is passionate. In order to successfully reach your target audience, you need to have a conversation that is relevant to their lives. Talk with, not at, those communities and focus on what they want to talk about, not what you want to say.
While the New Year will continue to present entrepreneurs with challenges, there is plenty to look forward to in the upcoming year. So, let's make 2014 another great year of the entrepreneur.