bookmark_borderBusiness Skills to Master As an Entrepreneur

Forget about perfection.

A lot of business owners get stuck on perfectionism. That is just not how business works. You simply need to move forward, throwing things at the wall to see what sticks and tweaking along the way. Be okay with making mistakes. Otherwise, you will be stuck in the development phase forever and you’ll never get your product or service out there. Most successful entrepreneurs have numerous failures before they finally find their ultimate success. The same goes for authors who send out their manuscript to rejection after rejection before finally getting published. Keep moving, and don’t give up!

Find Your Focus.

Entrepreneurs tend to have what I call EADD: Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorder. They are all over the place, they have shiny object syndrome… and that’s because they’re creative! Entrepreneurs are visionaries. One thing they are often missing, however, is follow-through. If you’ve got a bakery, you’re a business coach and you also make jewelry, where is your passion? Where are you really able to dive deeply in order to see something through to its best outcome? You can certainly build more than one thriving business over your lifetime, but if you’re trying to do them all at once, you aren’t giving your all to any.

Jump In with both feet.

As entrepreneurs, you have to be willing to go into uncharted territory, to do what others haven’t and what they may even be discouraging us from doing. Generally, as humans, we fear change. Our brain is wired to protect us and we get that fight-or-flight response when we encounter something that’s out of our comfort zone – even if it’s good for us! We have to be willing to do things that feel risky in order to get the big rewards for ourselves and our businesses. Usually the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward will be. Don’t just test the water, Jump in with both feet! If you only “sort of” jump off of the diving board, you’ll do a belly flop. The support you need will come, but you have to commit to that initial leap of faith.

Learn to say “no” for yourself.

We’ve covered how important it is for entrepreneurs to know how to say yes, take leaps of faith and be brave in their decision making, but we also need to learn how to say no. When distractions come your way, such as exciting side projects that pull for your attention, it is important to be able to stay focused on your main goals. Say “no” so that you have more time for “yes” in the area that you most needs that energy and creativity to make your goal a success.

bookmark_borderTime Management For Solo Entrepreneurs

  1. Put your to-do list in writing and prioritize it. Studies show that people who write their lists down are 90% more likely to complete their list than those who do not.
  2. Be realistic about how long it takes to get things done. Block out a reasonable amount of time on your planner, especially if it’s an appointment where there’s driving time to consider.
  3. Schedule time with yourself, without interruptions. If that means closing your office door and letting your voicemail take phone messages, then that’s what you need to do. Do this at your most productive time of the day. Are you a morning person? Start your day out with some quiet time by yourself, when you’re the most productive and focused.
  4. Don’t multi-task. That’s right! These days, people have found that they’re much more productive when they’re allowed to focus on one task at a time, rather than constantly juggling a dozen different projects at once. Think about it – don’t you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something when you can cross things off your list?
  5. Are you a “yes” person? Learn to say no. Sometimes adding just one more thing to your to-do list means staying at work an extra hour. Ask yourself if you really have the time and energy to handle one more task. Don’t guilt yourself into it, especially if you’ll feel resentful later, for having done it.
  6. Do you work at home? Don’t let common distractions sidetrack you. That basket of laundry will still be there at the end of the day.
  7. Try to combine like tasks. If you have lots of phone calls to make and emails to respond to, make all of the phone calls first, then tackle the emails.
  8. Keep all your contacts in one place, within easy reach. Do whatever works for you, whether you keep an address book in your day planner, in Outlook, in your PDA, or on your laptop. You need to have fast and easy access to phone numbers and email addresses.
  9. Use waiting time productively. When waiting for an appointment or traveling, catch up on reading trade magazines, writing correspondence, or jotting down creative ideas for marketing your business.
  10. At the end of each day, plan for the next day. Write down tomorrow’s to-do list, prioritize it, and then clean off your desk.

bookmark_borderEntrepreneurial Inspiration

For four of his teenage years, from 1872 to 1876, Milton Hershey served as an apprentice to a Lancaster, PA candy maker. After his apprenticeship, Hershey decided to start his own candy business. Armed with an in-depth knowledge of the business, he worked on building his business for six years. Unfortunately, despite his hard work, the business failed.

Undeterred, Hershey moved to Denver, CO and found a job with a candy maker who taught him how to make caramels. A year later, he returned to the East Coast and launched a second candy business, focusing on caramels, in New York City. This business also failed.

Despite two failures in the candy business and on the brink of bankruptcy, Hershey was convinced he would eventually succeed. As such, he returned to Lancaster, PA and started another caramel business. This business was successful. But rather than continuing with caramels, Hershey become interested in chocolates and dedicated himself to learning about and inventing ways to manufacture chocolate. As a result, he sold his caramel company and launched Hershey Chocolate Company. Just over a century after launching the company, Hershey’s firm (now called The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY)) generates annual revenues in excess of $4 billion.

Milton S. Hershey was raised in rural central Pennsylvania and lacked a formal education. Despite this, and despite failing twice at the same business, Hershey maintained entrepreneurial passion, drive and perseverance. As history has shown, these factors were enough to transform Hershey from a failure to one of the great entrepreneurs in history.

bookmark_borderBiggest Entrepreneurial Obstacle

  1. Company X is already doing it – So what? There’s plenty of business to go around, and even if you’re interested in a very saturated and competitive market, there are still many ways to stand out and align yourself with the rest of the industry. There are multiple leaders in plenty of business sectors, and joining the ranks just depends on how hard you’re willing to work.
  2. It’ll never work/I’ll never pull it off – Wow, nice effort. You’ve already defeated yourself without even doing the research it takes to find out if a business venture is possible. If you start out with that attitude then you’re right, you’ll never pull it off. How will you make it if you never even try?
  3. Too much of a risk – As the old saying goes, without risk there can be no reward. Your mission is to take as much risk out of the equation as possible by planning, planning, and then planning some more. Have solid projections, do your homework, and if things don’t go the way you expect them to, there are always options to minimize the financial burden of selling off a company. If you know what COULD happen ahead of time you’ll be much more prepared for any situation that DOES happen.
  4. Not educated enough – OK…so educate yourself. In my opinion it’s no longer necessary to have a college degree in order to be successful. Passion can outperform education anyday, and if you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing it’s definitely possible to educate yourself on just about any topic. While a college degree or similar training is a huge headstart to success, real world experience can be just as beneficial.
  5. Worrying about what others think – So many times I’ve heard people tell me they had a great idea for a business, shared it with (insert negative person’s name here), and (insert negative person’s name here) said it wouldn’t work because (insert negative reason). Has this person ever conducted business in this industry? Then how do they know what will or won’t happen? It’s a good general practice to listen to the opinions of others in an attempt to gain wisdom, as long as you remember that they’re just that: OPINIONS. Make up your own mind and trust your instincts.

I am by no means saying I have followed through with every business idea I’ve ever come up with. Some ideas really aren’t as good as you originally thought they would be after you do the research. But if you never even put the work into the initial phases of starting a business, you’ll never find out if you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

bookmark_borderTrials Of An Internet Entrepreneur

Little did I realize that life on the Internet is quite a bit different than the world of absolute truths that I exist in as an Engineer. Everyone is presented as an expert but few people seem to agree on any given topic. How can perceived reality differ so greatly?

The truth of the matter is, that Internet Reality is defined by the search engines and the algorithms they use to present it, and I doubt very seriously that the folks that really
understand it will divulge their secrets anytime in the near future. Therefore any understanding of the reality presented, can only be reactive in nature and speculative at best. I made numerous mistakes in setting up our first store before this concept really sunk in. Without realizing it, I was trying to use an approach which may have been functional, but did not work well with the search engines and therefore would have always limited our success. I finally came to the conclusion, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

My mistakes began at the very beginning, when I purchased a third party PHP shopping cart and loaded it on to a reputable hosting company. Based on everything I was told, this should
be a “Walk in the Park” and we should be selling product any day. I was soon to find out that I required a working knowledge of PHP to modify the shopping cart and even worse, my page requests timed out as often as 60% of the time. Now in all fairness to the software industry, I’m sure there are many quality solutions being offered today. The problem is, which do you buy?

In utter disgust, I turned to a suggestion seen at WorldWide Brands and chose to open up a Yahoo Store. I also purchased the first edition of Online Store Profits and followed it step by step as I created our store and was quickly up and running. From there I purchased Arelis for our link management software and IBP 8 for our site optimization and marketing. Lastly I
purchased IDevAffiliate for our affiliate tracking and management needs. I’m sure there are many other effective options that can be chosen, but these are the ones that have worked well for us. Our search engine visibility and subsequent sales continue to improve, and in general “Life Is Good” and we are pleased with our selections.

bookmark_borderBiblical Entrepreneur

They labor in vain that build it – literally, “In vain toil its builders in it.” The idea is, that they are entirely dependent on God. No matter what their skill, their strength, their industry may be – all will be in vain unless God shall assist them. They are dependent on Him for life, for health, for strength, for practical wisdom, for a disposition to continue their work, and for success in it.
Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].Whether you are an inspiring entrepreneur or a CEO of a major corporation, the Bible
is the ultimate source for valuable, pertinent advice and guidance; it provides you with the keys to your future successes. Jesus used scriptures by quoting passages as He taught. He used Isaiah’s prophecies to bring to disruption the Pharisees’ false piety (Mark 7:6-13). In Luke 24:25-27 he explained that the things concerning Himself had been written by Moses and the prophets. Most notability, when being tempted by the devil, Jesus used scriptures, (Matthew 4:4 – KJV), “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”. Also, read Matthew 4:7 and Matthew 4:10.

So, what is a Biblical Entrepreneur, (also in some circles the term Christian Entrepreneur is used. To fully understanding the meaning (and heart) of a Biblical Entrepreneur, you must understand how the world God views business and entrepreneurship.

In college I studied business on several levels, both undergrad and graduate programs. Both taught (by definition) that an entrepreneur’s main concern is the generation and accumulation of wealth for shareholders and stakeholders. The success of the business is determined by that end goal. Everything about the business from the customer to the employees, finances, product, marketing, and management team worked to reach the goal to accumulate wealth (grow the business).

Although, making money is a key objective for all business ( no profit, no business), the focus of a “Biblical Entrepreneur” (by definition) is someone (a Christian) who uses their talents, treasures, and time to operate a business, in which God has place them as a steward, in a manner that will bring Him glory, as well as be a blessing to his or her community, nation, and world.

Why is this distension important? As a Biblical Entrepreneur you will have many ups and downs. Knowing the “why” you are in business will give you the strength, courage, and tanistry to face the hard times. Knowing the “why” is the start of building a successful business based on the Kingdom Principles.

bookmark_borderFacing Fears as an Entrepreneur

Fear is such a huge issue in people going out on their own. I have heard from the CEO of a real-estate based network marketing company that even though he has people packing out company seminars, that maybe 2-5% of people will actually go out and apply the knowledge by putting offers on real estate. He is convinced that the rest are paralyzed by fear.

Here are some of the techniques I have used as I learned them from the successful people I know:

Think about what you do want. When you find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind over and again about your worst case scenario, turn it around and focus on what you DO want. Visualize yourself getting what you do want. See the new house. See yourself talking to the interested person as they become a part of your business. You get what you focus on.

Change the voice. When you hear yourself telling you that you’re not good enough – you’re going to fail. Just change the voice from yours to that of Mickey Mouse or Jim Cary or something that would hold little weight with you anyway! Who cares if Mickey Mouse thinks you’re not good enough?

Voice them to a trusted friend or associate. Hopefully you have been able to find some level of support in your enterprise. Ideally, you have a significant other that supports you. If not, then you should have some kind of support network from your team, upline, or corporate that you can talk to. Some people may tell you that it is silly you could even believe that you’re not good enough. For me, my wife has been a constant source of support. However, don’t go looking for support to all those people who doubted you and told you it was crazy to go out on your own.

Have a personal development library. I draw tremendous support from my library. It is not just filled with how to resources, but also stories of others who conquered their fears. I couldn’t begin to list the many sources I have, but if you email me I can recommend something based on your own description of your circumstances.

Go ahead and do it. Sometimes just making the smallest step will help get you going enough that the fear of not doing something can go away. An example would be neglecting to write an article such as this one out of fear of failure. Just starting it can create enough momentum to see it through.

bookmark_borderEntrepreneurial Difference

Think about your own childhood and youth. Did you sell lemonade in the front yard? Rake leaves or shovel snow for a few extra bucks from neighbors? A lot of us did.

Unfortunately, the drive and ambition associated with those youthful undertakings are often not developed or encouraged by our school systems, parents, and society as a whole.

For generations, people were raised to think that success required doing well in school, going to college, and pursuing a career with intentions of making a long-term commitment to a company. We see this in the older ranks of the baby boomer generation and our parents. Did your parents work for an employer for 20-plus years, whether they were happy and fulfilled or not?

Work often overshadowed any urge to go the independent route, since society often frowned at mavericks who followed their own path. Compound that negative stigma from a by-gone era with the fact that the 40-hour per week commitment to one’s employer left little time to even turn a hobby into a part-time business or to express the entrepreneurial creativity in other ways. People just went to work.

Now don’t get me wrong, many people pursued the entrepreneur’s route in earlier generations, but not to the extent they are today. This trend is, in part, due to the fact that times have changed and companies no longer employ people from college to retirement nor do employees feel the loyalty to stay. It is not frowned upon to leave an employer after a year or two, as it was in the past. The trend can also be attributed to a growing desire to feel self fulfilled and enjoy life (including work), even though as a society we work many more hours per year than our European counterparts who recognize the importance of “holiday” or vacations (and even siestas).

For these two reasons, there is an epidemic of people starting businesses in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Women start 424 new enterprises every day. Nearly half (46%) of new female business owners fled corporate America for the freedom to set their own hours according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. In addition, 65% of women who have started businesses in the past decade honed their skills from being managers in big corporations.

Now you may ask, what are these attributes that distinguish entrepreneurs from other people? While this is not scientific, it is based on years of interaction and observation with business people.

Entrepreneurs are courageous. As Julia Cameron expresses it in her book, The Artist’s Way, “Leap and the net will appear.” That’s what entrepreneurs do. They trust and take calculated risks to start the business and then every day after that. This was my mantra when I was leaving my former employer after 17 years.

Entrepreneurs are passionate. They believe in what they are doing and pursue their vision with gusto. They immerse themselves fully into the project or idea.

Entrepreneurs are tenacious. A study of 1,165 self-made female millionaires over a three-year span shows “their defining characteristic to be perseverance,” according to Thomas J. Stanley, author of the book Millionaire Woman Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen. He concedes that women are more goal-oriented and have had to work harder than men. Anyone who makes cold calls and adheres to a good follow-up program knows it takes tenacity and perseverance.

Entrepreneurs are visionary. The true entrepreneur sees a big picture…a goal at the end of the rainbow and then devises a plan to get there. They are proactive about conveying their vision and enrolling others in it.

Entrepreneurs are creative. The very nature of taking an idea and turning it into something of value requires creativity. Whether your idea is the development of a product, launch of a service business, or even the creation of an event or program for a non-profit, creativity is the root of all entrepreneurial efforts starting with the vision itself… all the way through the implementation.

So, are you an entrepreneur? If you’ve ever had a dream or an idea that you wanted to pursue with passion and are willing to take the action to make it real, I’d say you’re off to the right start. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur at heart and just never pursued your dream because you’re scared? I encourage you to move toward your passion rather than let your fear rule you. I did when I quit my commercial real estate job after 17 years and I haven’t looked back. In addition to the universe, there are people to support you such as your family, friends and coaches. If you have all of the other qualities, and only fear is holding you back, go for it. Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? Believe in yourself and others will too.

bookmark_borderBefore Getting A Franchise

Get The Support of Your Family:

The success of your franchise is also the acceptance of your immediate family in supporting your effort. It is this simple. Take for instance, if you buy a franchise which is part of a book-store chain and your family does not even visit it once. Will you have the determination to see it through? If you need to take a short vacation, will your family member help to run the franchise in your place?

Know Your Strengths & Expertise:

A franchise should not just be a means for you to start your first business. It is preferable that you have a recognized skill or interest in the franchise before parting with the franchise initial capital. Maybe take a personality test to determine if you have the tenacity to follow through with the franchise.

Unique Proposition Of The Franchise:

The franchise should be protected by a patent or intellectual property law. This will create a significant barriers to entry.

Market Research:

A franchise can be a huge success in a particular geographical region but has less acceptance in another country. Thus it is crucial that you inspect the relevance of the market research that has been conducted by the franchise company especially in the area of when the market research was conducted and the demographics of the sample set.

Franchise Competition:

Do not get a franchise that does not seem to have a recognized competitor or an industry that can be classified – unless you are interested in being a master franchiser or have a first-mover advantage. The market may be slow to accept your franchise and you may find it hard to re-coup your initial investment within the agreed contractual period.

Legal Assistance:

It definitely pays to get a legal expert to read the franchise contract fine-print. You do not want to be accused of violating some of the franchise terms of agreement and pay an unnecessary penalty.

Get New Contacts:

Do not just depend on the contact database that may be provided by the franchise owner. You should also try to generate new contacts as the franchise contact database may also be used by new franchisees.

bookmark_borderKeys to Entrepreneurial Success

  1. Focus, focus, focus, focus, focus. The word “focus” simply cannot be said enough. When launching and growing a venture, tons of opportunities and obstacles arise. Entrepreneurs that succeed are typically the ones that see the forest from the trees. They remain focused on the prize. They consider new opportunities, but also note that pursuing them often takes them away from accomplishing what they set out to do.
  2. Hire smart. Companies succeed based on the people that comprise them. Virtually all people in a small, growing entrepreneurial company make key decisions and take actions that can significantly impact the success of the venture. As such, the people that are hired must be hired with care. They must be intelligent, responsible, and equally importantly, have the enthusiasm to succeed and the ability to work in a fast-paced, rapidly changing entrepreneurial environment.
  3. Communicate. So, you’ve followed the first two lessons. You have set company goals and remain focused on achieving them. You have hired great people. Now, it is important to effectively communicate. The laser-sharp focus and goals must be communicated to the great team. Management must share information, instill company values and vision, discuss each employee’s performance with them, and make employees feel that they are the company and that the company is them.
  4. Win. Entrepreneurship, like basketball or football, is a game. There are winners and losers. There are narrow victories and landslides. There are Davids and Goliaths. Competition should be hard work, but it should also be fun. The company should be instilled with competitive spirit and be committed to winning. Winning may take many forms, such as hitting sales goals or turning a profit by a set date. Regardless of how winning is defined, it should be clearly articulated and everyone in the company should have a competitive, winner spirit instilled within them.

The above four lessons can help entrepreneurial ventures edge out their competition and enjoy the financial and emotional success that such ventures are capable of generating.