If I could go back and write the book on what every entrepreneur should know before starting a business and send it to myself with a little card that said, “Read this FIRST”, this is what I would tell myself (and every other start-up entrepreneur like me):
10 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know BEFORE Starting
#1: Change is inevitable (and necessary) – The business you start today is likely vastly different from your business of the future. It’s impossible to predict how your business will change and evolve because it’s impossible to know all the potential factors that will require it.
Just know that it will happen and that’s okay. Create your web site, print your brochures and business cards, announce your new venture – just leave yourself a little breathing room to change and grow, okay?
#2: Your customer database is your #1 asset – Starting from day one, build your database of contacts, resources, customers, industry peers, partner organizations because all will be valuable now and in the future.
Every person is a potential connection to exactly who you need to connect with, every subscriber is a potential customer of whatever new product or service you launch in the future, every industry peer is a potential joint venture partner so build a detailed database now!
#3: What you are selling isn’t what they are buying – I love the marketing adage “No one ever bought a drill because they wanted a drill; they bought a drill because they needed a hole.”
What you are selling (your product or service) isn’t what your customers are buying (happiness, peace of mind, status, relief from pain). Focus your marketing on what they are buying and less on what you are selling!
#4: Prepare for both the worst case AND the best-case scenarios – It’s impossible to start a business without planning for the worst-case scenarios. Chances are you have planned for higher costs, longer than expected returns on your investments and unexpected events.
Now plan for the ‘Oprah factor’ because that’s just as big a threat as the worst-case scenarios. What happens if overnight, your widget becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread? Can you scale up to manage the demand? Can your operations support the growth?
#5: Seek out strategic partners – Strategic partners are your single best marketing resource because they already target your ideal customers and they can add value to your existing customers.
Strategic partnerships encompass everything from exchanging leads and referrals, to value-added programs for customers, to joint venture arrangements. Start building those relationships early.
#6: Nothing beats the praise of a happy customer – Did you know that on average, women make 107 word of mouth recommendations every week? Do the math and you will start to see the impact of every happy customer.
Ask yourself, “What is the WOW Factor that will have people talking about my business?” What will make customers remember AND talk about you to their friends? Deliver that.
#7: Know your ideal customers (inside and out) – Saying you target women within a certain age range and geography is a start, but you need to know more than just that about your customers…A LOT MORE!
When you know who you are targeting (and everything about what makes them tick), where they frequent, how they behave, and so on, then it’s easy to find them, woo them, and surprise and amaze them with your delivery.
#8: Passion is the best motivator – Don’t just start a business because it’s a ‘good idea’ and it make sense because chances are you are using those words to describe a business that you aren’t all that keen on.
Passion is the best motivator and you will need that when your office printer starts on fire and your clients are 3 weeks late paying your invoice. Doing what you love gives you the extra oomph to deal with the roadblocks and setbacks.
#9: People buy from people – Behind every single buying decision is a person and that person needs to know, like and trust your people. This holds true if you are B2B, B2C or B2Pets.
Everyone in your company – from the janitor to the senior executive represents your business, good or bad. Stellar branding, phenomenal marketing and an amazing product can be made or broken by your people.
#10: Every business needs an exit strategy – It’s difficult to imagine when starting a business that you will ever want to exit, but the day will come when you will either want or need to do so.
Build an exit strategy. Are you going to hand it down to your employees or find a strategic partner to buy you out? Too often entrepreneurs miss an opportunity to cash-in on their years of work by closing up shop when an enthusiastic start-up is waiting in the wings.
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