Thursday, August 7, 2008

You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?

If you have an inkling of an idea, you might be considering becoming an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs have an interesting life, without a doubt.

However, I'll point out several aspects of entrepreneurialism I discovered the old-fashioned way: from the school of hard knocks!

1. Your "Big Idea" is just that. Somewhere between 5 and 500 other people in the world may have had the exact same light bulb moment you did. The only difference is who will ACT on their big idea.

2. Your "Big Idea" is just a beginning. Where do you go from here? How do you create a plan? What ways might you implement your strategy? Who will you hire? Where will you base your headquarters? Who should you hire to help? There are so many questions facing entrepreneurs - start to make a list of ways you think you might need help. Then seek out resources to help you in your journey.

3. Most companies do not fail because their idea stinks. Most companies fail because their execution stinks. What am I talking about? Well, for starters, how well are you managing your money? This is the #1 place businesses fail.

(# Months) Life of business = $ in bank - burn rate per month + new money in.

This is the bottom line. Yep, cash IS king! If you're able to get your ego out of the way, you might look at this first:

a. How much money are you bringing in versus how much money are you spending?

When you can answer that question and the money in is greater than the money out, you're getting somewhere!

What's the next biggest area of execution where people fail? They go it alone. It isn't easy to be an entrepreneur. It's even harder to do it by yourself. This is why my firm, ARRiiVE Business Solutions, has two "i" letters (and why they're emphasized) -- because you no longer have to feel you're launching your product by yourself. I help you and we're now a team! i and i is the Rastafarian way of saying "we" so why not "i" and "i" doing it together?! Anyway, decide what kind of help you want on your team: marketing, legal, financial, operational, managerial, sales, support, HR, etc., and go get it. Most companies need help with either marketing or operations. The positions I've hired or outsourced have been marketing 60%, operations 25% and legal and financial the remainder. Make sure, at the least, that you have a good attorney and a good accountant. Their advice is always handy.

b. Get good help. Most entrepreneurs have a difficult time getting past their ego. If you can't get beyond your own "I think I know the answer" problem most entrepreneurs suffer from, you won't ever lift a finger or write a check to get help from people who can and will help you. I'd start with your operations. Make sure you have a solid product or service to offer FIRST, then you'll have a solid way to make money.

c. While you're getting help, make sure your marketing is in order. Most entrepreneurs skimp on part of their marketing. Perhaps they think that saving money in this area is wise, but it is the wrong place to save (I'll say more on that in a bit) but no -- make sure you spend money where you need to in order to have solid marketing.

Critical Marketing Keys:

1. Poor logo. Your logo represents what you do. When I designed my first logo, I hired a graphic designer to help. (See My second logo, third, fourth, and fifth, I hired out help, too. Now I design logos for others whenever I want the side work, see for an example of a logo I designed.

2. Business card. Hire a professional designer and use proper card stock. You'd be surprised how much more seriously people take you when you make this one simple change. If you're using the avery inkjet printer cards, stop right now, call me. I can help you. The layout on your card is as important as the stock. I've also seen people skimp thinking they know graphic design (artists, especially) and then after I get through with their card, they always thank me for improving their card design.

3. Website. Get your website right. Don't start big (like I did) start small. Keep it simple. Then focus on getting the word out and building traffic. The good news is that today you can start a website far less expensively and with much more power than when I started The bad news is that there are MILLIONS of sites you're now competing with. You'll likely need to hire an expert who knows how to get Top 10 position on Google and can teach you tricks how to drive traffic to your site (hint, hint). I have designed many websites. At ARRiiVE Business Solutions, I still offer web design as a service even though I now outsource 98% of this work. This is a good thing, because you gain extra eyeballs on the site design challenge and also gain another expert's opinion in the process, along with someone who's been there and done that and also understands layout AND sales copy. I find this useful to my clients and they're happy with the end-result.

4. Off-line promotions. Are you going to trade shows? Are you going door-to-door? Are you speaking publicly about your services or related topics? (Speaking drives a considerable stream of revenue to my business). Have you created a nice 3-part brochure that showcases your product(s) and service(s) properly? Again, hire it out, do it right. But once you have the material to hand someone, you have to take ACTION and get out there. Go to networking events. Leave them with something but always ASK FOR SOMETHING in return. How can they help? Who do they know? Can THEY use your service?

5. Hone your sales skills. Entrepreneurs must learn to sell or they will fail - period. You must be a good salesperson. Right now, I offer a lot of sales advice at the ARRiiVE: Innovations In Business blog. You can browse around there, although sign-up for the blog on email because in the future I'll be offering video training to help you improve your sales techniques and grow success.

6. Improve Your Marketing Pitch. When you can say what you do in 20 seconds and people get excited and ask you to meet with them, you've got your pitch refined. Seriously, that's the essence of it, right there. Test it, test it, test it, practice saying it BEFORE that important contact at the mixer you attend, so you have it right on target there and capture what you need from those vital interactions.

There's so much more to being an entrepreneur... if I could leave you with one super-valuable piece of advice I learned the hard way: downsize your expenses immediately. Many entrepreneurs only give themselves 6 months worth of money to make it. We all read how it takes entrepreneurs up to 5 - 10 years to succeed, but then why would we only allow our self only six months? This is stupid. It is ego. Take out your ego and downsize immediately if you are serious about making this dream a reality. Sell your house, drive a less-expensive car, get rid of HBO, do whatever it takes, but downsize your bills. Figure out how to give yourself a 5 year money plan and then spend your money wisely.

If I had done this one step of advice I just gave you, I would have incurred zero debt during my first five years of business. Instead, I continued to live in an expensive house, drive a nice truck, and kept the cable bill on. Be smart with your money, and then figure out how to make more money quickly, and build, and improve, and learn, and improve. Notice I said "learn" not fail. I don't view failure as failure unless I failed to learn from it. So, I say learn, build, improve, learn, build, improve... it's a multi-part process. We will take a step back once in a while. But learn and then go two or three steps forward.

Take a deep breath... exciting days are ahead of you!

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1 comment:

Jennifer said...

"Your Big Ideas" get more fun when you have more money to play with!!

Thanks...this was a great article:

Jennifer Cannon

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