It is undeniably powerful to own your business; to be your own boss and in control of your destiny. Successful entrepreneurs are not defined by unique concepts, products or services, they are shaped through the development, implementation and execution of ideas. It is how you carry out your vision that will lead to a prosperous venture.
A great philosopher once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet”. In entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as luck. Every successful entrepreneur has advanced their vision through hard work, determination and skill as part of preparation and opportunity. While these are important ingredients in any venture; the special sauce that will transform your dreams to reality and help your business thrive is the ability to take action. In fact, you can dream of ideas, make plans and have the opportunity, but without taking action there is no business.
In my experience with entrepreneurs, it is the absence of response that has interfered with great opportunities and stifled the progress of a new venture. Many entrepreneurs I have worked with are plagued with perfection paralysis. They believe that a business plan must be “foolproof” to execute. This belief, in part, is rooted by the unknown and fear of failure. As I have often expressed to entrepreneurs, fear has no place in entrepreneurship and failure is a given. In other words, entrepreneurs are fearless and do not shy away from failure. They understand missteps are inevitable and learning from them is fundamental. Every entrepreneur must dive-in to realize their vision and create a successful business.
In taking action to fulfill your entrepreneurial vision, there are three key questions to consider that will help you advance:
What is your Business Opportunity?
Entrepreneurs start with an idea that needs to be thought through, assessed and evaluated. To be able to accomplish this, you must share your product concept and test it. Allow feedback from others that will help improve your offering. In this early stage of concept formation, your idea is a seed that needs sowing to help it bloom. During the cultivation process, you must keep in mind that not every great idea will automatically translate into a business opportunity. Historically, there have been amazing concepts that have never reached the marketplace. Do not give up and remember that a unique characteristic of every entrepreneur is tenacity.
To help your idea evolve into a business opportunity you need to be flexible. At face value, this may appear to be an easy task, but for enthusiastic passionate entrepreneurs, it may be quite challenging. New entrepreneurs are passionate about their product or service; they believe in their vision. While passion is important, too much can cloud thinking and hinder your ability to adjust, pivot, and make decisions that are best for product development and business success. Keep your passion in balance and maintain objectivity towards what you will be offering consumers.
In addition to flexibility, knowledge of the market is critical. You must gain information and become “market intelligent”. This will help you better understand the forces that will shape your opportunity. Market knowledge will provide a clear view of market structure and where your product or service fits in the marketplace. It will facilitate your ability to forecast potential and demand; reducing risk to you and potential investors. Understanding the marketplace will also allow you to better serve potential customers, relay the value you can provide and the need or want your product will satisfy. You cannot sell your product or service if you do not know the target buyer you are selling to. So, take the time to define your primary, secondary and tertiary customer; their demographics, and psychographics. The following questions can provide a starting point in identifying your end user:
1. Who needs/wants your product?
2. What is the need?
3. Do they know they need the product?
4. How does your product satisfy that need?
5. What value do you deliver with your product?
Finally, every business has competition. Even if you are first to market with a unique product or service, you will not be the only one in the marketplace. Inevitably, others will copy your great idea; especially if the idea proves to be an opportunity. The “first to market or first-mover advantage” is not guaranteed and it is a myth. There have been first movers that have loss market shares to rivals that came after them. Facebook, for example, was a latecomer to social media networks, yet they beat out the innovators in the industry; taking over My Space and others. Recognizing and acknowledging your competition is vital to your startup. Every entrepreneur must know the landscape they will be doing business in. They must gain insight to rivals; know what their competitors are doing, why and how they are doing it. Therefore, including a competitive analysis in your business plan and strategy is imperative to your business success.
Who are your PEOPLE?
People in business constitute you, the entrepreneur and your team. The entrepreneur is the most important factor in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are high achievers with a desire to be in control of their destiny. For many, solving a problem they themselves have struggled with ignited their passion to create a product. Others realize their vision from experience in an industry or workplace. Regardless of how you arrived at the idea for a new venture, the personal characteristics that influence entrepreneurial success are the same. Engage in self-examination to assess the following capabilities which will serve you well when making future decisions and building a team:
(1) Visionary- Entrepreneurs are able to visualize their business concept in the future. They are able to establish short- and long-term goals towards achieving their vision and dreams.
(2) Action-oriented - They make decisions and follow through with implementing them.
(3) Conviction - They have strong values and beliefs; especially as it relates to their idea.
(4) Commitment - Entrepreneurs are tenacious and persevere even when faced with challenges and things do not go their way.
(5) Detailed - Entrepreneurs are able to focus their attention on details, they are thorough, accurate and precise.
(6) Driven- They are goal oriented and get it done; they do not make excuses.
(7) Decisiveness - They are able to make decisions quickly with speed and clarity.
(8) Flexible - Entrepreneurs are agile and flexible; they can adjust and pivot when needed.
(9) Risk-taker - Entrepreneurs take chances and risks to accomplish their vision and goals; they do not allow fear to get in the way.
(10) Delegate- Entrepreneurs are able to distribute work and tasks to others to help accomplish goals and objectives.
In the beginning you may work alone; however, when you become ready to launch and grow your business you will ultimately need to include others in the process. Therefore, an essential part of your startup is building a strong team; consider the following areas: Experience, Personality and Culture. Before building a team, assess your weaknesses and strengths; ensure that you include individuals in your team that help address your weaknesses. While you may be knowledgeable in many areas of business, your capabilities are likely limited; thus, including individuals with experience in areas that you are not strong in is vital to your success. In addition to experience and skill, personality if often overlooked; but significant to building a team. Focus on building a team that differ in personalities but can work together to promote innovation and achieve the company’s goals. Team members will need to collaborate, communicate and cultivate relationships. This will build trust and lead to a healthy organization where employees are engaged and profits are maximized. Finally, consider the culture and values you envision for your company. By hiring individuals that support your vision and mission, you will foster an environment that will advance your company and provide a competitive advantage.
What RESOURCES do you need?
Business resources are needed to generate goods or services for your venture. Four types of resources are central to your business: (1) Physical (2) Human (3) Intellectual (4) Financial. Physical includes raw materials, buildings, transportation and machinery. Human capital comprises staff, talent and experts involved in your startup. Intellectual resources are the patents, copyright materials, partnerships, databases and brand name. Financials are monies; such as cash and credit. Different ventures need different types of resources. Therefore, it is imperative that you identify what is your type of business and what are the resources you will need. For example, a manufacturing business will require different resources to that of a service provider. To best execute your idea, business plan and strategy write down what your venture needs. You may divide them into the above four categories; but be specific and detailed oriented. Remember that startups usually face constraints and may require the use of low-cost methods, such as existing networks, to acquire the resources needed. While many entrepreneurs use their own money to fund their new venture at the beginning, as the business grows you may need to take on debt or an investor. Debt requires you to pay interest but you will keep full control of ownership and once you pay off the debt your liability ends. On the other hand, debt can have a negative effect on profits and the valuation of your business. Equity financing in essence is selling interest in your venture. This may take the form of partnerships, angel investors, crowdfunding or IPO (Initial Public Offering). In taking on an investor, think about the amount of control you will have in your business; such as with decision making. You may also be more willing to take on risks; whereas investors will be concerned about losing their investment if the decision is too risky. All in all, the decision of how to fund your business is yours and what you feel most comfortable with when weighing the pros and cons.
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Dr. Maria is an entrepreneur and your personal and business transformational expert. As a certified core energy coach and neuroscientist with a doctorate degree in neuropsychology, MBA, and 20 years of experience, she draws from research based strategies to ensure clients gain the tools needed to excel. Her passion in education and experience as a professor of two major universities reinforces her ability to transfer information to others, inspire creativity and learning.