This article is written for anyone thinking about starting their own business. You may be working in the corporate world, working for a small company or maybe you are unemployed or taking a sabbatical.
Whatever the case may be, there is plenty of opportunity for a person with motivation, determination and vigor to start a new business. I would add that it’s never been cheaper to start a new business. It can be argued that for would be entrepreneurs, there are more resources available right now at a cheaper price than at any other time in history.
The first thing I suggest is that you order a copy of The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship. Don’t get the newest edition, it’s too expensive. Your first lesson from me in entrepreneurship will be to get the most for your money. I’ve provided you with a quicklink to the book on Amazon here. While it’s an older edition, it’s a fraction of the price of the newest edition and the lessons in the book have not changed much over the years.
This is probably the best book that any entrepreneur starting out could read. It covers all the aspects of entrepreneurship from writing your business plan and marketing plan to the core concepts –the ingredients for success, the entry barriers, characteristics of a successful venture etc. Many of the lessons in this article are drawn from what I’ve read in that book and found in my real world experience to be true.
There are some questions you will need to answer before starting out on your adventure. The answers to these questions will help you gain insight into whether your business will be successful or not.
What problem does your business solve?
Since people will be paying you, your business needs to solve some problem that people have. If there is already a business that solves this problem, your business needs to solve it faster or more efficiently. In my case I solve computer problems. There are lots of people in Atlanta that have computer problems and they either don’t want to take the time to fix them or they don’t have the time to learn how to fix them. Their time is better spent on the work that they do.
Do you already have customers for your product or service?
To take a line from The MBA in Entrepreneurship, if you don’t have any customers that are ready to buy your product, you have only an idea, not a business. Before I went full time into computer support, I was already giving computer support on a part time basis, so I already had quite a few customers.
There are certain skills and qualities I think are essential to being a good entrepreneur. Is it possible to get by without these skills? Maybe, but I simply cannot fathom being successful if any of the following are lacking.
I cannot fathom trying to run a successful business being disorganized. With so much to keep track of, good organization is key. I use my computer and various software programs to keep myself organized. I would say 95% of the info I store and use is in digital format. I hardly have anything in paper format, and if I do I try to take steps to get them into digital format.
Again, I cannot imagine having a successful business without this ever important skill. This is an area where I personally need to improve and I try to do as much as possible to do so. Writing a blog is a great way to improve your communication skills because it forces you to structure your thoughts. Also I watch very little television. If I get a spare moment I try to read books instead. I always have an electronic dictionary nearby so that I can look up any words that I’m unsure of.
If you are the type that gives up at the fist bump in the road then this is not for you because you will run into many road blocks. When faced with a challenge or trouble, certain people say “I can’t do this” and certain people say “I will do this”.
4. Ability to make mistakes
I have a notebook where I write down memorable quotes that I read. One such quote I’ve written down is “Failing is learning how to win”. I’ve known certain people in my life who cannot accept nor admit when they’ve made a mistake. This personality type would have a tough time running a business, because mistakes will be made. When mistakes happen you accept what has happened, learn what not to do and refrain from repeating the same mistake. There are other important skills but from my perspective I’ve found these to be the most important.
It’s not a good idea to open a burrito joint if you’ve never worked in the food industry before. To borrow from The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship “Starting a business is a very demanding undertaking indeed. It is no time for on-the-job training. Without relevant experience, the odds are stacked against the neophyte in any industry.”
If you want to open a business in an industry that you have no experience in, my suggestion is you take a job with a company in the industry and work there for one to two years first.
Importance of Effective Marketing
I would recommend you have a good foundation of marketing knowledge before you begin your business. Reading a copy of Guerilla Marketing will give you the proper foundation you need to plan your marketing strategy effectively. You can order it online here. As I said with the previous book I recommended, you don’t need the newest edition. Buy it if you want, but you will pay several times the price of the copy I just linked to. Good entrepreneurs get the most for their money and the important concepts talked about in the book have not changed much since the book was written.
I’ve learned some important marketing lessons in the time I’ve been in business.
Try to focus on a niche market
Once I abandoned the business sector things got much easier for me. I was able to focus my marketing efforts more effectively.
Differentiate yourself in your advertising
If your ad is going to stand out from all the other ads it is going to have to be different. When forming my strategy for some phone book advertising I opened up a copy of the phonebook I had and thumbed over to the computer section. I was surprised to see that almost all the ads looked the same. All the businesses were offering the exact same thing - upgrades, virus help, system crashes, networking, high speed internet. Ad after ad, all with the same services listed in bullet point, all blended together with the occasional picture of the computer monitor with a frowny face or a guy standing over his computer looking frustrated. I fired up Adobe Photoshop and came up with an ad that is completely different, offering a totally different set of services along with a couple of the usual ones just so the viewers know that I can do all the usual stuff as well.
Be creative in your advertising
Going back to my previous example, nothing that I saw in the phone book was very creative. The ad I made up is very attention grabbing. As I write this the ad will be coming out this very week. While I can’t say for sure exactly how well it will do, I have a very good feeling about it.
If you are starting out I hope that what I’ve written here will help you to improve your own marketing strategy. If you have already been in the game for awhile you may be able to concur with some of the things I’ve said based on your own experience. If you have anything to add I would like to hear it, either in a comment posted here or in an email sent to me. Happy entrepreneuring.