Do you often find yourself daydreaming about being your own boss? Can you vividly imagine what it would be like to start a business and run it the way you want to? Or perhaps, you've already taken the leap into entrepreneurship but your execution needs some fine-tuning.
Not everyone is an entrepreneur at heart, but those who are, know it. You may have a business idea for a product or service that you wholeheartedly believe will take off - you know it is something that will either help a lot of people, or a solve a problem that needs addressing. For many though, deciding on what business you’re going to start is still unknown; you just know that a traditional 9-5 doesn’t fulfill your ambition the way owning and running your own company would, and therefore, you’re constantly brainstorming ideas until you find one that sticks.
Regardless of whether you've launched your business already or are still developing its concept, below are 5 areas to focus on to optimize your success. It isn't a blueprint guaranteeing it, but every business endeavor first comes gift-wrapped in layers of hurdles and failure - only the relentless get to the prize. This list will keep you on track towards your goals, eliminate mental clutter and fine-tune overall concepts and strategy.
Focus on Solving a Problem
If you are still trying to figure out what you want to do, this is an excellent area to start. Successful entrepreneurs find real problems that need a solution, and they figure out how to solve them. The easiest way to get this train in motion is to focus on problems you might have dealt with personally.
Are you a single-mom who can’t find a decent babysitter in your area? Maybe you will start a referral website, or an app to exchange information with other working-moms. Are you really good with money management, but often hear your friends complain about their lack of financial control? Perhaps starting a consulting business that helps other women increase their financial literacy and wealth management skills, would be the entrepreneurial path you take.
If you see a need, odds are that others do too. You can be the one to turn it into a successful business.
Keep Overhead Low
- Avoid the large, luxury purchases! Hit pause on the fancy office space with the best view of the city. Notice I didn’t say “skip it” because if that’s what you really want, you’re time will come… one day, when your revenue warrants the view. Unless your location has a direct impact on your sales and growth potential (i.e. restaurants, retail stores, etc.) think practical and cost-effective. When you’re a startup, it’s so important to operate as lean as you can without compromising product quality and customer service. This also prepares you to operate just as well during your industry’s predicted slow periods, as well as during any unexpected downturns in the economy that affect all businesses.
- One of the most common mistakes that new business owners make is hiring too many full-time employees in the beginning. It is exciting and you want to hire the best talent, and as many as you can afford to immediately. But just like any other expense, it’s important to measure the value of the problem each hire solves and compare it to the opportunity cost associated with having them on your payroll full-time.Fortunately, we live in a time where freelancers and independent contractors are easily accessible. There are multiple websites out there that you can browse to find the help you need, especially for work that your business only needs periodically. Fiverr, Simply Hired and TaskRabbit are just a few. When you utilize contract-workers and freelancers you are cutting down startup costs and you have the added benefit of flexibility. If you find a person who does a great job, you can keep working with them on new projects. Conversely, if you hire someone who doesn’t quite fit in with your vision, you can cut ties and move on easier than if you had to fire them and then rehire for the position. That being said, this doesn’t mean you should never hire people. This is just a great way to hit the start button while minimizing costs in the beginning. As a business owner, it’s nearly impossible to wear every hat effectively and expect to scale. Hiring quality employees is imperative to your success, but be mindful to always hire consciously, especially in the beginning.
Maximize the Benefits of Social Media
Whether you have a personal love/hate relationship with social media or don’t fully understand the scope of its capabilities (which can be a full-time job in itself), you cannot deny that if used correctly it can get your business in front of thousands of potential customers with just a click of a few buttons.
Social media has given you a worldwide audience without having to leave your office. Traditional advertising methods like TV, radio or print require much larger ad budgets. You may outsource this work to a digital marketing agency, but if you plan to take on the beast in social media marketing yourself, start by:
1. Doing extensive market research to understand the demographics of your target audience and then
2. Do your homework on how to create content for each platform as well as how to effectively post and advertise on them. Ever-changing algorithms and trends will keep you on your toes in this area; create engaging content and post them consistently to maximize your the benefits of social media. You will start to see a difference in traffic and eventually sales, if you are executing well.
Create Value For Your Customers
While your product might be the bomb.com, you need to create something beyond it that your customers will value if you want to stand out from the crowd. Loyal customers don’t just love a great product, exceptional customer service or low prices, what keeps them attracted as well is a sense of connection between themselves and your brand. If your marketing messages only scream “BUY BUY BUY”, you’re missing a huge opportunity to offer your customers something in return for their time and business. You'll know you've hit the nail on the branding head when you start to see a returning and raving customer base.
Think about the brands you feel most connected to and even brag about wearing/consuming - analyze what makes you so loyal to them, aside from their products and services. Great marketers achieve this connection to their customers without seeming deliberate, and sometimes even detectable. Take what you learn from your findings, and apply it to your business model to create something that people want to be proud to be a part of.
Don’t Stop Learning.
The most successful entrepreneurs are those who know that they don’t know it all, and accept that as a challenge. They adopt a growth-focused mindset that keeps them developing as a business owner and as an individual. A unsatisfied thirst for knowledge opens you up to new ideas that you can incorporate into your business.
You might learn a new language that expands your customer base, you might find a new problem that needs solving, or you may learn a new way of doing something that ultimately saves you time and/or money. There are unlimited benefits to keeping your mind in ‘student’ mode and the most accomplished people know that. Bill Gates is a strong advocate of this mentality. He keeps his mind busy reading 50 books a year on a range of varying topics. In 2017, he told Time that reading is absolutely “essential” to success and that you “don’t really get old until you stop learning.” If someone as notable as Bill Gates stands by it, there must be some truth to it, right?
These 5 areas of focus are essential to the successful launching and survival of your business, though not an exhaustive list. What are things you focus on to help grow your business?
As you all know when you strive to be the entrepreneur you know you are, there is always a risk of failure. You might fall before you walk and walk before you run, but those who ultimately prosper take any setback as a lesson learned and keep moving forward. John C. Maxwell famously said, “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.” Failure can lead to growth and from that growth you can move forward and find success as an entrepreneur.