“The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and an actualizer. He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.” ― Robert L. Schwartz
It takes guts and gumption to leave behind the familiar and secure 9 to 5 job, start something new from scratch, and be completely accountable for its fate.
Having said that, entrepreneurship continues to attract a large number of millennials, especially those thirsting to carve a niche for themselves in the crowded business world.
According to StartupBros:
- 60.3 percent entrepreneurs do not find working for others to be appealing.
- 64.2 percent said they’ve always wanted to own their own business.
- 74.8 percent expressed that the desire to build wealth motivated them to become entrepreneurs.
The SBA says that about two-thirds of businesses fold within the first ten years. So, how does an entrepreneur beat the odds? We’ve got a few suggestions to help you not only crack the entrepreneurship code, but ace it.
1. Planning is vital, but be nimble
How many times have you been under the impression that you’ve come up with a unique “innovative” business idea, only to realize that someone else has already implemented it? Probably quite a number of times. So, do you lose heart and give up on your entrepreneurial dream? Of course not!
The thing about outstanding entrepreneurship is that your success may not necessarily come from a groundbreaking revolutionary idea or plan, but from knowing when, where, and how to strike. This means the proper execution of your idea or plan is of paramount importance.
A lot of entrepreneurs spend their valuable time and resources devising the perfect business plan. There are so many books and online resources available that are geared toward writing your perfect business plan that many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of planning but never doing. While you should do your research and validate your idea, the key to success is taking action.
One will always learn more through taking timely actions than simply conjecturing. Business owners are incredibly fortunate to live in an era with access to the granular insights big data can provide. The trick is knowing how to gather the right data. It can help owners make more precise decisions and eliminate guesswork in terms of timelines and execution strategy.
2. Foster meaningful relationships
As an entrepreneur, your business is likely built on relationships and partnerships with stakeholders. Your internal stakeholders are your employees and investors, and your external stakeholders are customers and suppliers.
You want those internal and external stakeholders to stick with you through thick and thin—they’re more likely to if you nurture meaningful and mutually-viable relationships with them.
Build customer loyalty
It’s no secret that most businesses prefer to work with repeat customers than pump in more time and money into acquiring new ones. But some satisfied customers still don’t become repeat customers.
The reason behind this is the lack of connection. This means that building trust and goodwill is not enough; you need to stay on their mind and keep the connection strong if you want them to come back. Think social media, loyalty programs, discounts and freebies, contests, and so on.
Connect with other businesses
As a business owner, it is natural for you to want to work with companies that you like and trust. This is why building long-term working partnerships with like-minded entrepreneurs in your industry will play a key role in your business’s success.
Attend networking events and get to know other business owners in your industry. Check out influential companies and find a way to connect, whether it be through a formal business meeting or a casual introduction. The key to networking is to offer mutual benefits, so approach it as though you have something to offer, rather than with a focus on what you can get from your new contacts. Perhaps you can offer to feature them in your newsletter or recommend their services to your existing customers. Building strong business relationships will create a sense of community and help strengthen your brand.
Nurture sources of funding
Healthy business relationships can lead to financial benefits, as well as access to other resources, too. Building a relationship means that there is mutual trust between parties, so dedicate time and energy to developing strong relationships with investors and mentors.
Just as you would in a blossoming friendship, reach out to potential business partners and be genuine with them. Ask them questions, learn from their experiences, and be open with them.
All entrepreneurs are looking for the best opportunities to turn their vision into a reality, and most of them are seeking funding. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to develop relationships with seed investors, venture capitalists, angel investors, private investing firms, and even banks, depending on your business goals and growth capacity.
3. Get a mentor
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” – Zig Ziglar
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself a good mentor, he or she will help you hone and own your vision; maybe they’ll help you build the skills and connections you need confidently chase and accomplish your lofty dreams.
Some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs attribute their success to their mentors. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, often speaks of Steve Jobs as his mentor. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has referred to Warren Buffet as his mentor and credited his success to him. Richard Branson speaks similarly of Sir Freddie Laker.
So how do you find a good mentor? Think of the industry stalwarts you admire and reach out to them. Make sure you network with industry bigwigs (depending on who you consider suitable to guide you in your current situation) and approach them to mentor you. There is no shame in asking someone to mentor you; in fact, the person will likely feel quite honored.
If you have limited connections in your industry, there are resources that can connect you to business mentors. Score, for example, can help you find mentors in your area.
The bottom line is a mentor will probably not come to you. Proactively seek him or her out, and be genuine with your request. Pick someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to share your fears and unusual ideas, and someone who has experience that you can learn from.
4. Embrace automation and the cloud
Automation tools are great for management processes that require precision. These include tasks like payroll, reimbursement requests, employee onboarding, and so on. If you think automating business processes is going to burn a hole in your pocket, think again. In fact, by embracing automation, your business will be able to enhance profits as well as productivity.
Automation programs like Kissflow are an investment, but the upfront cost for the right solution should both improve productivity and minimize losses in the long run. Many automation tools are cloud-based, so they can be used outside of the office, which can create more freedom for you and your business.
Other cloud-based applications can also help free up time, and in some cases reduce the need for physical office space. They can also be used to implement marketing campaigns, store documents, and handle accounting duties from anywhere.
5. Use a project management solution
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be juggling multiple projects simultaneously. It therefore makes perfect sense for you to add project management tools to your arsenal early on. Doing so can help you ensure that your projects are well-organized, proceed according to set timelines, and are completed within the predefined budget.
Let’s take a look at a few interesting statistics:
- There are projected to be 15.7 million new project management roles to be added globally across seven project-intensive industries by 2020, for an economic impact of over $18 trillion, across multiple industries.
- 80 percent of “high-performing” projects are led by a certified project manager.
- On average, it takes seven years in the profession to go from entry-level to managing large, complex projects.
Project management software like Workzone provides an intuitive interface where your team can share documents, collaborate on timelines, edit calendars, and more. A good project management solution should facilitate good interdepartmental communication through status reports, notifications, and time tracking.
6. Keep an eye on your competition
Any entrepreneur worth his or her salt knows that while it is important to stay ahead of competitors, it is also important to learn from them. This does not mean imitating them; that will do you no good. We’re not advocating corporate espionage, either.
Follow your competitors closely on the news and social media, and analyze their moves to understand the reasons behind them. Learn from their mistakes, implement their best practices (relevant to your business), and use review platforms like Yelp to find out what people are saying about their product or service. You can also find financial information on larger companies online.
It can also be very revealing to pose as their customer and buy (and use) their products, to help you identify their strengths and weaknesses. This type of research positions you to be able to either out do them, or pivot quickly to focus your efforts on a niche market or variation of the product or service.
7. Improve your digital presence
Your business needs to be discoverable on search engines, and your online presence should be mobile optimized.
Let’s take a look at a few interesting statistics:
- 60 percent American adults use smartphones and tablets to search for local products and information.
- 50 percent of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, as did 34 percent who searched on a computer or tablet.
- 78 percent of local mobile searches lead to offline purchases.
- 71 percent of people surveyed said they look for and confirm the location of a business before visiting it for the first time.
- 93 percent of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions.
Google My Business offers simple tools for managing your business description, hours, and location, and using it makes it more likely that your business will appear in search results—local SEO. Include high-quality photographs of the interior and exterior of your storefront so that customers can easily find you.
Also, ensure that your business website is mobile-optimized. Most searchers will wait for your site to load for no more than three seconds before abandoning it.
Make sure that the information mentioned on your business website and social media pages is consistent. Your blog posts and social media posts need to convey the same messages to your audience. Plus, if your business details like name and address aren’t consistent online, your chances of appearing early in search results will be reduced. Understanding and using SEO best practices can only help your business gain visibility.
Finally, manage your online reputation. Reply to comments and reviews as quickly as possible—studies have shown that most customers expect a response within four hours. Be sure to be as polite and professional as possible, as your response has a big impact on growing brand loyalty and customer experience.
In many ways, being an entrepreneur is like playing a game of chess: You stand to win only if you know how to play. The difference between successful and novice entrepreneurs is the former are persistent in their efforts and refuse to quit until they’ve figured out how to thrive.
To master the game of entrepreneurship, you need to view problems as opportunities and equip yourself with the right tools. Chess is all about strategy, just like entrepreneurship. The bulk of your strength comes from your ability to react to a given situation with the best possible move while thinking ahead.
Create a solid business plan, learn as much as you can, and find mentors to support you. Then take action, execute, and experience the excitement of growing your own business.
Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a full-service digital marketing agency, and MoveoApps, a mobile app development company. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, and the Huffington Post, to name a few. He has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica for three years in a row.