There’s no doubt here in Silicon Valley, the buzzword is “entrepreneur.” Students aspire to be one, you can get a degree in it, and they are all over Twitter. With the desire to be an entrepreneur on the rise and the statistics to back it up what will it take to be one?
It is not an easy path, that’s for sure. Everyone’s journey is different and these are just a few of the most common steps you will need to take. Keep in mind, this list is by no means all encompassing. It takes a lot of self-discipline, tenacity and patience. Most of all it takes a specific type of person to become a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs need to be comfortable initially being solely responsible for or at least having a solid understanding of every facet of their business. They need to be creative, forward looking, proactive, excel at problem solving and turn failures into learning opportunities for future success!
Do you want to offer a service or sell a product? Has the product been created, or are you creating the product? And most importantly, are you ready to determine to what extent you are willing to accept financial risk? Take the time to calculate all of your assets. Specific assets would include savings accounts, insurance, stocks, investments, and put on paper how long you can survive without an income. Some companies start seeing profit right away, while others take a few months or even a few years to generate a pocketable profit. Make sure you set goals and have a loss limit. I’ve seen people go into bankruptcy and never lift off because they ran out of resources. I can’t emphasize this piece enough. Do spend a lot of time budgeting your personal life and business goals. You will need to make sacrifices. TechGirl Financial can help you. We have the resources to manage your budget, cash flow, alert you on spending habits for your personal and business accounts. We will also coach you along the way and throw out pointers here and there but our main job is to protect you and your money.
Will your product or service have competition? Most every business will have competition and it is important to understand who your competition is! Having a solid understanding of how much of the market place your competition owns before diving in can save you from heading into a failed business venture. Will your business be able to steal away enough of the market share/revenue to stay afloat? Or will you be able to create attractive and innovative products/services that are not currently offered by your competition that will drive business away from them to you.
Take a look at your demographics too, do you realistically have enough of a target market in your area (for example if you are a local retailer) to support sales? Defining and understanding your target market, the marketplace and your competition is SMART and should be tackled early.
A business plan should define your product or service and explain why there is a need for your product or service in your target market. A good business plan will include marketing analysis, detailed descriptions of your product or service, projected financials for the first few years, business structure, marketing budget and anticipated hiring needs (W2 vs. 1099). It is not uncommon for a business plan to be very lengthy. A solid business plan will also be critical if you are planning on applying for business loans or seeking investor interest.
Entrepreneurs are optimistic people that think their way is the right way. (I love that about entrepreneurs.) Optimistic people however tend to let that positive energy underestimate time, money, and other limited resources. That is why you need to overestimate how much time it’s going to take your business to launch and bring in revenue, how much it will cost you, and what roadblocks are going to show up on the way.
It is critical to create a strong brand and to set aside a budget every year for marketing! A strong brand and solid marketing plan should include basic tools for example: professional looking logo and brand name, business cards, a responsive website, ongoing SEO/SEM (search engine optimization and marketing), social media (Google +, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.), letterhead, envelopes and signage. Phase two marketing might include a combination of both traditional and digital marketing such as print/direct mail campaigns, television/radio advertising, PPC/CPC Adwords, vehicle graphics, e-mail marketing, workshops/seminars, etc.
The key to marketing your business in the beginning is to focus on the mission critical items first, and not to over invest in excessive advertising. There are many ways to effectively market your business that are inexpensive or free like the best type of advertising “the word of mouth referral”. Consider joining a business networking group –online and offline, build trusted relationships with other business owners and help refer business to each other.
An elevator pitch is something that is short, sweet and to the point. What would you say to catch a person’s attention and impress them in the amount of time it takes to ride up 3 floors in an elevator with you? The key to a great elevator pitch is to be confident, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Practice your pitch as much as possible with family and trusted friends. Get their honest feedback and work their suggestions into your pitch.
You will get rejection from time to time. Seek positive and negative feedback and understand negative feedback will help you create a better product. It’s not easy to sell, but every entrepreneur must. Be very comfortable with the idea that every “no” brings you that much closer to a “yes.”
YOU are your best sales person, the passion you alone have for your business venture will drive your success so figure out how you want to sell yourself!
It begins here: Be confident, flexible, and work hard. Approach your product or service with a sense of urgency, passion, and energy. You shouldn’t be able to understand how people can live without it right now. There’s always an excuse as to “why now is not the right time.” Make it urgent and if you’ve done your market research correctly it will move quicker with your energy and passion.
Always keep your goals clearly defined and put a time table in place for accomplishing them. Good luck!
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