Over the years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and become friends with some incredibly successful entrepreneurs. I discovered many of them like to face a challenge head-on and will not stop at anything until their goals are accomplished. This is an admirable trait not many people have. I also had the wonderful opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a start-up. I must admit, it's not all revenue and roses like some people think.
If you're in the preliminary start-up mode of a business or even a few years in, these words of wisdom may come in handy. Here are 10 things I found to be some of the most important pieces of advice for an entrepreneur. When I walk the start-up path again, I will make sure to have these at the top of my to-do list.
Plan / Roadmap
Create the plan and work the plan is what I was told time and time again. Without a plan, business owners will not have a roadmap to get where they think they want to go. Yes, this plan will change over time, but at least there is a guiding strategy moving forward.
This can be a very difficult thing to do, especially if you don't have an outgoing personality. However, entrepreneurs must learn to ask for the sale over and over again. This is an art unto itself. Learn how to do it well and make it your own. This will serve you well.
Creativity comes in many forms. In this case, it means to think differently. Don't do what everyone else does. Grab onto an idea, shape it, pull it, stretch it and keep doing that until it works. Also, talk to others who are going through the same process you are and leverage their creative process. You will be surprised at what you will be able to come up with for fresh ideas.
A laser sharp focus is what you need to push aside distractions. As a business owner, there will be countless opportunities for you to spend your time and energy on non-essential activities. Think of these non-essentials as a catalyst for failure. Stay focused on your plan and work it like crazy. Learn how to say "no."
I like to think of this as the "differentiator" between a conscientious businessperson and a lazy one. In my years of leading creative teams and managing client engagements, I have seen that planned and purposeful communication that continually shows the client you are thinking ahead is a great way to communicate. Whether you are communicating to prospective customers or existing ones, clear, purposeful and frequent communication is critical.
Killer Office Space
This may not be useful for every business; however, I have seen it to be incredibly helpful in my years around creative agencies. If part of your selling strategy is your business image, creativity or intellect, you may want to think about jazzing-up your office suite. I have been part of companies that were not only selling services but were selling creativity, ideas and results. When the customer enters the office and instantly senses the "wow-factor" that surrounds them, that first impression is a great way to win them over without saying a word. Believe it or not, it works.
Know Your Prospective Customers
This should probably be number one on this list. Make sure your start-up team whether it is you as the owner or others as well, knows your audience intimately. Regardless of how good you think your company is, if you can't identify customers clearly, understand their motivations, desires and DNA, your company will have a hard time getting off the ground. When you know your customers, you can develop a plan that focuses on creating an incredible customer experience at every touch point. Whether you focus on social, mobile or face-to-face, they matter and are highly relevant prospective customer touch points.
Part of knowing your customers is also knowing exactly what you offer and how that is a competitive advantage in the market. Simply put, are you solving customer problems and making life easier for them or is your product just another option in the market? Conduct competitive research and find out what the opportunities are for your company to create distinct separation. This distinction will become a valuable differentiator for your company to launch successfully.
My dad once told me, "work hard to keep your reputation squeaky clean, and it will serve you well." As a young man, I remembered that and carried it with me into my career. As a business owner, your personal reputation is linked to your business reputation. Make sure to align yourself with credible people and create business partnerships with credible companies. It only takes one slip-up in the reputation department and soon your reputation will be in the toilet. A damaged reputation is extremely difficult to repair. Stay clear of the ugly side of business and your reputation will stay clean.
This one just so happens to be my personal favorite. Because I am a lover of learning and all things digital, I take advantage of both of those and immerse myself in learning everything I can about my craft. Learning is no longer just in the classroom, at a tradeshow or training workshop. Learning is actually in your pocket on your smartphone every minute of every day. Take advantage of the easy access you have to content and invest in yourself as a professional.
Veteran entrepreneurs know their once clear vision and plan at some point can become uncertain. Words of wisdom from the veteran to a new start-up business owner are like gold and should be treated as such. Make sure your business has clear, guiding principles like the ones above. They are necessary for good decision-making and purposeful, productive actions that keep a business on the right track for sustainable growth.
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