Whether it’s January 1st or June 1st if you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or not getting the results you want in your business (or in your life) it’s worthwhile revisiting the goals you set for the year ahead. January often brings lofty ambitions and expectations when our energies and motivation are running high, but did you really put the plans and structures in place to achieve what you set out to do and manifest your desires?
Entrepreneurs are fantastic at getting a lot of things done quickly, but in the rush of enthusiasm, often shy away from specific, impactful goals and targets. To help you move through this year powerfully and productively I’m sharing with you my favorite goal setting secrets.
Stop the Internal negotiations.
You know this is happening when you find yourself thinking of a goal, then immediately shrinking it down as fear and uncertainty creep in. Instead, map out just the next 2 or 3 steps forward and get moving. Action educates you. If it’s not working, assess, correct and move forward, but be unwavering in your commitment to see this through.
Set Annual, Quarterly and Even Monthly Income Targets – and Keep Track.
While it’s crucial to write down your one year income goal, it can seem unmanageable and even unattainable. Breaking it down into small chunks makes it completely do-able and gives you something realistic to work towards. Be sure to track your income at least weekly, and if you’re not hitting your targets reassess and move forward with new action steps.
Make One Goal Entirely Self-Improvement Focused.
This step is often overlooked in our quest to do more and have more. But I firmly believe that you don’t make the money, the money makes you. Businesses aren’t built in isolation; it’s really a personal and spiritual game, challenging you to break free of past habits and beliefs and ways of “being” in the world. Every year set a self-improvement goal that helps you breakthrough some of this old patterning and conditioning. Take a training course or workshop, invest in a mentor, or even commit to regularly reading specific blogs that are going to help you expand personally, create a new mindset and further your business growth.
Think Long Term and Short Term.
Focusing only on short term goals keeps you in a perpetual cycle of chasing “bright shiny objects” and also chasing cash. Focusing only on long term goals can create extended periods of little to no revenue while you wait for the big pay-off or recognition ahead. Balance your goals with immediate income and long term growth; profitability and recognition, wild success and personal satisfaction. This is a healthy diet for optimal business performance and personal well-being.Goals are not meant to be task-masters or slave drivers.They’re not something we do to ourselves, but for ourselves. They should inspire you, light you up, stretch you and scare you just a tiny bit. But ultimately they are the gift we give ourselves that pulls us forward into the next expression of who we want to be.
If you were asked to close your eyes and think of the top five traits that a successful entrepreneur should have, what would be on that list? Think about it. Does salesmanship make it onto the list? It should.
Because sales is present in almost every area of an entrepreneur’s life. If you were to think about how much time you spend trying to get people to do what you want, it’s likely that it takes up a large portion of your day. As Daniel Pink says in his book To Sell is Human, “We’re all in sales now.” As a matter of fact, Pink found that we spend about 40 percent of our time trying to move others.
It’s inescapable. If you want to grow your enterprise, you need to know how to influence and move people. This post will give you three reasons why being a great entrepreneur means being a great salesperson.
Selling Makes You a Better Leader
John C. Maxwell, one of the foremost authorities on leadership, defines leadership in this way:
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
It’s true. You can’t lead if you’re unable to influence people. Sales is the art of influencing people and moving them to action. You cannot be a great leader if you don’t know how to sell.
Sales is required if you want to motivate your team to buy into your vision. You need to be able to clearly and persuasively explain to your team what your vision is and why they should follow you. Otherwise, you’ll only have employees who are complying with what you’re asking.
You don’t need people to obey you. You need them to follow you.
I agree with John C. Maxwell’s definition of leadership, but I would change it slightly. I’d replace the word “influence” with “sales.” Leadership is sales. Nothing more, nothing less.
Selling Can Help you Get Funding
How many times have you seen poor, hapless entrepreneurs on Shark Tank fail because they were unable to convince the sharks to invest in their enterprises? How many of these young entrepreneurs had great ideas and great products, but were unable to pitch them in a way that made the investors willing to buy in?
If you think sales isn’t an important skill for an entrepreneur to learn, watch a couple episodes of Shark Tank and you’ll quickly change your mind. Think of the blood, sweat, and tears these would-be entrepreneurs gave to launch successful businesses. It’s almost heartbreaking. You see them crash and burn just because they didn’t know how to sell their dreams properly.
Sure, there’s probably other factors involved in their rejections, but many times, their failures are a clear result of the entrepreneurs not knowing how to properly sell the benefits of their products. If you want to get others to buy into your brand, you need to know how to sell it.
Selling Helps You Move More Product
Finally, being able to sell will help you move more product. If you’re building a company, you will never stop needing to sell your product.
Even when you hire a sales force, you will need to sell your product. You will need to sell your product to the employees you hire. You will need to sell it to investors (see above). You will need to sell it to everyone you meet.
Not only that, you will need to be able to market your product effectively. This requires skill at persuasion.
These are only a few reasons why great entrepreneurs need to be great salespeople. There are plenty more. It’s clear. If you want your organization to grow (and I know you do!) you need to learn the art of persuasion.
As every small business knows, the reality is that there are dozens of issues lurking out there – however, we’ve had a look at some of those you can take definite action on and set out ways to conquer them. Let’s get to work!
Cash Flow Issues
Money problems in their various forms are top of most lists of company woes, and for small businesses the major worries are clients stalling payments, unexpected outgoings, and outstanding bills that won’t wait to be paid.
There are some tried and tested money management tools that can help you to manage cashflow, multi-talented apps that can create budgets, calculate taxes, automate bill payments, alert you to unusual outgoings and provide a free credit score.
Using online invoices and reminders is also a powerful way to persuade reluctant clients to part with money. There is great software out there that can do this for you, including Hiveage, which provides free invoicing and can accept payments and automatically charge clients.
It’s tempting to try to do everything if you’re a small business owner, and long hours add pressure. Fatigue can leave you disorganized, forgetful and cranky, not paying as much attention to clients as you should, and making mistakes.
Business owners have to pace themselves, which includes embracing strategic delegation, something that for any highly motivated individual isn’t an easy ask. Start by identifying business elements that don’t require your expertise, such as mailing, and take on an assistant, even part-time, to help out – after all, it’s an investment that frees you up to do what you do best!
You could also consider delegating tasks that are outside your skillset to specialists, such as accountants or legal experts – the results will likely be more professional and can save you endless headaches.
You could also invest in automation of simple functions, for instance by using customer service apps like Zendesk, or financial management solutions like NetSuite.
It’s important to get on top of these things, because taking time out is critical for your health and well being, not to mention family relationships. Get into the habit of segmenting your day – analyse when and how you work best, the time you’d like to put into leisure or family, and create schedules that identify key activities and how long they’re likely to take.
Finding and Retaining Profitable Customers
There is a business adage that you need customers with a problem only you can solve, and it’s for you to identify that unique selling point and communicate it clearly to your would-be customers.
You can start by researching your customer base, and identifying the characteristics of your existing best customers (those with the highest volume of sales, and the most repeat custom). Make sure you integrate into this analysis any costs associated with particular customers, so you have a clear view of their net value to you.
Once you’ve done this you can focus your energies on attracting new clients from your most profitable segment, carefully differentiating your offer to ensure it appeals directly to this type of customer.
To understand what customers want, you can ask for feedback from current best clients, which also counts as part of your follow-up engagement – another ‘must do’ when you’re looking at keeping valued partners. Find out what forums or other types of social media these customers use, and make sure you’re in there and taking notes.
Employee buy-in is very important for small businesses in particular, as there tend to be fewer of them and apathy has a greater impact. There’s a real need to understand what employees want (other than a million pound paycheck), and there are a few possibilities to boost employee engagement for when this isn’t an option.
Ensuring employees are happy and productive means communicating clearly, and being approachable. Good companies foster a relaxed atmosphere where staff feel able to talk to management. Perks like free tea and coffee, free biscuits or fruit, and staff Christmas parties cost relatively little and can really help create a favourable impression.
You should also ask for employee feedback on their needs – this is not an option, it’s a must. Too many businesses don’t look at what their employees want, assume everything is fine, then wonder why they have a high staff turnover.
Having Too Much Overhead
Overhead is a big small business issue, and excessive overhead has driven many otherwise good companies to the wall.
Resolving them involves paying close attention to what customers actually want and providing products or services sharply tailored to suit. This means working out what customers need and trimming back gold plating or unnecessary services, or elements of products that they won’t use or aren’t interested in. Analyzing your transactions and asking existing customers what they want is helpful.
Where you add value, make sure that it doesn’t increase overhead (for example through well-judged deals on less-popular products, or other offers that benefit both you and the customer). And don’t forget to ask yourself hard questions, such as whether you need that new car or printer, or whether it’s just for show…
Small business owners can be so busy they forget to keep up with what’s current in their sector. It takes so much time just to keep on top of the work that blue-sky thinking can seem an unnecessary burden. Nevertheless, you need to keep up.
When you’re scheduling your week, don’t forget to allocate time to track competitors and undertake awareness-raising activities such as reading (or writing) blog posts. Create Google Alerts, use Twitter hashtags to keep up with what’s trending, and mine the wealth of free, and very targeted online information out there on sites like newsnow.
If you can schedule days out to go to sector conferences and exhibitions, the payback in terms of contacts and potential sales can be massive. Research events thoroughly to make sure that their target audience is precisely your target client group. If an event is really important, you could also investigate becoming a speaker, positioning yourself as a thought leader among your peers.
Overcoming the main challenges that small businesses face involves a number of key actions:
What’s the top way consumers find a small business?
It’s a tie between word-of-mouth and online. If you don't have a website and/or a strong online presence, there's an opportunity here for you to increase the number of customers who learn about your business simply by developing your online footprint.
Your online presence has several components.
Armed with this information, how can you improve your business’s “discoverability” factor? Here's your plan.
In the digital age, the power and ubiquity of business tools has helped level the playing field and reduce the discrepancy between small businesses and large corporations.
Continuous innovation around cloud-based software solutions and increased competition for market share have made sophisticated technological tools available and affordable to smaller businesses. This type of technology allows even small startups to perform on the global stage in a way that has never been seen or even imagined before now.
Based on a combination of observations in the sector, the rapid growth of the number of solutions in particular areas, and the findings of corporate studies, we have compiled a list of seven business technology trends for 2016 that will help to drive performance to facilitate growth for your small business.
The workforce goes virtual
A 2015 survey conducted by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60 percent of office-based workers will regularly work from home by 2022. This trend is supported by the rise of productivity applications and collaboration platforms such as Slack or BaseCamp, with companies like social media management platform Buffer leveraging this technology to maintain a fully-distributed team.
Sixty percent of office-based workers will regularly work from home by 2022.It may not be necessary for you to split your team up, but for some small businesses, this technology dramatically increases the size of your potential talent pool when looking to outsource tasks or fill a position.
By making use of this technology, you can overcome the limitations of geography by adopting a virtual workforce.
Marketing is automated
Marketing automation software removes the need for small businesses to exhibit comprehensive marketing experience to drive success. It also allows companies to avoid the considerable fees associated with using a dedicated marketing agency.
This type of platform allows marketers or business owners to specify a goal and have the software handle the tasks involved, such as publishing a single post to multiple social media platforms.
Solutions such as HubSpot or Eloqua handle all of the CRM, funnel management, and website optimization, delivering customized messages to prospects at the right moment during the consumer buying cycle, reducing the burden on business owners.
The cost of HubSpot’s social media analytics, integrated SEO, and A/B testing of calls-to-action starts at $200 per month for a basic plan, ranging to $2,500 for the enterprise plan. Eloqua’s marketer service starts at $2,000, but the platform’s Social Suite provides advanced features, including drag-and-drop of social content directly onto landing pages from within the Eloqua editor.
Small businesses get into the app game
With marketing tools driving traffic to your business, it is now more important than ever to capitalize on mobile’s dominance over desktop, and offer local customers a dedicated mobile application.
While this may seem more appropriate for more established businesses, platforms such as Appy Pie and the recently announced Microsoft PowerApps allow even non-technical users to easily create apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle, and Windows Phone with extreme ease.
Furthermore, the advanced capabilities of the platform make it easy to embed click-to-call voice and video communications like those offered by technology company Agora.io. This means you can seamlessly integrate video chat into your app for enhanced communication with customers in a way that works for small businesses.
Another way to approach this is to have customers interact with each other. For example, startup Company HelloTalk has leveraged Agora.io’s technology to create a worldwide language learning app, which connects those who want to learn a new language with users that speak that language natively, and the two help each other. For instance, it connects an English speaker who wants to learn French with a French speaker who wants to learn English, so they can both enhance each other’s learning.
This technology can help the niche market of learning new languages, but how would it apply to your business? When integrated into your app, this technology can be your business’s customer service.
By giving the consumer the ability to show exactly what is wrong to the representative, and giving the representative the ability to visually walk the customers through the issues to resolve the problem, you are giving your business the advantage over your competitors who can’t do this. It can even give your representatives the chance to visually pitch new products and services, in a more personable way.
Creating an active and well-functioning app for your small business that lives on your customers’ phones gives your brand the prestige and credibility that was once reserved for big businesses.
Customer relationship management goes digital
Customer communication is key to the survival of almost any business.
A comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system enhances the customer experience by offering a full range of services. It also streamlines the internal processes related to customer care by offering a single location for all customer data for efficient handling of interactions.
Salesforce is probably the best-known CRM solution, but there are also simpler and lower cost packages like One Page CRM, and free products like Insightly offer comprehensive social media integration to allow businesses to learn more about their customers through public profiles. The data collected from the CRM system, such as customer demographics and response rates, should be fed back into your automated marketing software to improve the focus of your marketing goals.
Acceptance of new payment methods
In addition to revolutionizing the way we communicate, smartphones have completely changed the way we live our daily lives. We rely on them for entertainment, information, time-keeping, and increasingly for business.
All of these now happen on-the-go, and the latest trend migrating to mobile devices is payments. The growing acceptance of Apple Pay, as well as the PayPal App’s allowance for paying for store purchases and even restaurant bills from within the app, will bring this trend to the fore in 2016.
Other options include LifeLock Wallet, which turns your credit, debit, ID and insurance card information into a barcode that can be scanned at checkout. Alternatively, Google Wallet allows users to save card details to a Google account and delivers that information to merchants via Near Field Communication (NFC), and so relies on a handset that supports this technology.
Embracing this movement will not only streamline payment processes, but it will show that your business is forward-thinking and embracing the future as it happens.
Inventory management is smart
According to a 2015 study by Wasp Barcode Technologies, 46 percent of small businesses with 11-500 employees don’t track inventory.
This means that stock can lie around unaccounted for, reducing sales potential, interrupting cash flow and even affecting warehouse management. Fortunately, solutions like Fishbowl Inventory make it quick and simple to track and manage stock levels. Fishbowl is the most-requested add-on for QuickBooks, the small and medium-sized business accounting solution, and it integrates easily with various other types of accounting and CRM software, making it adaptable to many technology implementations.
Leveraging this type of smart software will reduce instances of unaccounted stock sitting around collecting dust, improving the impact of even limited budgets.
Analytics tools improve business intelligence
The knowledge of your inventory position can be turned into a powerful tool when combined with Business Intelligence (BI) tools. This kind of software leverages multiple metrics across a range of business processes, to provide real-time access to data and analysis that drives a quicker understanding of business processes, to help owners make informed business decisions.
Tableau, for example, provides detailed access to interactive data while remaining simple to use, while QlikView integrates the building of the back-end calculations with the front-end user interface, to remove the need for separate business intelligence tools for dashboards, analysis, and reports. Large corporations realize the value of data, and your small business can leverage the power of information too by implementing this kind of software.
These technology trends are set to drive small business in 2016. The more your business gets on board with, the more ahead of the game your business will be relative to the competition.
Being a successful business owner doesn’t happen overnight. We all know that success comes to those who work hard and are dedicated, but a solid business plan, hard work, and a dash of luck are not the only tools you need to bring your business to the level of success you dream of. You have to develop the habits and attitudes that inspire and cultivate success among others, not just yourself. Here are the habits and attitudes of successful business owners that you can adapt to achieve your own goals:
Hiring the right people
“I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.” – Lee Iacocca
A successful business owner realizes the value of quality employees. They will hire employees based on their potential to build the business and contribute to your vision. Don’t be afraid to hire people who intimidate you. Allow your employees to contribute to your vision and be open to their advice. Ultimately, the decisions are up to you, but a smart business owner will hire smart and driven employees who can contribute a steady stream of ideas. Learn to respect and listen to these people and celebrate their successes. A successful person understands that surrounding themselves with people who have the drive and talents they wish to have themselves creates positive growth and drive within themselves as well.
They create clear, specific goals and create timelines to get there
“Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.” –Henry Ford
Successful business owners have a vision and plan with specific goals along the way. They work backward from the “big goal” to create an honest and realistic timeline of what they need to achieve and when to get them there. But as they achieve their goals, they are constantly modifying and creating new goals.
Dream big, but be realistic
“Before making an important decision, get as much as you can of the best information available and review it carefully, analyze it and draw up worst case scenarios. Add up the plus or minus factors, discuss it with your team and do what your guts tell you to do.” – The Mafia Manager
It doesn’t take much to lose everything you have, but taking risks is a huge factor in business success. Be smart about your business decisions and make sure you always have a backup plan for what will happen if a major decision could fail. Successful business owners know that money is a responsibility, not a reward, so using it wisely is key.
Be in a constant state of learning
“Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn
You may have your own business and be considered a top expert in your field, but a smart business owner knows that they don’t know anything, especially if you’re in an ever-changing industry (which, let’s be honest, is true of almost all of them). A successful business owner should constantly be reading to stay up-to-date on their field of business, they attend conferences or workshops to exchange ideas with other professionals and learn from highly regarded keynote speakers, and they constantly follow their curiosities to become experts in their interests.
“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton
When it comes to business, you cannot underestimate the value of good karma. A successful business owner builds their business up, but also devotes time to giving back. Share what you have learned with others who are looking to make a big break, give back to charities and causes that you believe in, and reach out and give plenty of acknowledgement to people who have helped you along the way, especially those who took the time to offer you advice when your business was nothing more than a glimmer of hope.
Don’t take “no” for an answer
“There is no such thing as can’t, only won’t. If you’re qualified, all it takes is a burning desire to accomplish, to make a change. Go forward, go backward. Whatever it takes! But you can’t blame other people or society in general. It all comes from your mind. When we do the impossible we realize we are special people.” – Jan Ashford
Successful people don’t stop at roadblocks, they find new ways around them. If a successful business owner has a dream or vision and they keep hearing “no” as an answer along the way, they modify and think of new ways to accomplish their goals or they take matters into their own hands and do it themselves. Not only do successful business owners not take no for an answer, but they find better, more efficient ways to tackle obstacles and get themselves where they need to be.
Understand the importance of making connections
“If you want to be great and successful, choose people who are great and successful and walk side by side with them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Successful business owners are constantly networking with other business owners to gather and exchange ideas, and also to build relationships that can lead to future collaborations or favors in the future. Successful business owners understand that they cannot achieve their goals by themselves, so creating and fostering strong relationships opens opportunities for help, advice, and exposure. They see every level of relationship as important from people who are idols, people who are equals, people who are subordinates, and their customers and clients.
Starting a small business is a big step for anyone to take, as it may require leaving the comfort and security of a regular job for a more uncertain financial future. Small business success may also require a great deal of planning, enough initial capital to sustain the owner during the start-up period and possibly a bit of luck. These are a few key reasons why people make the decision to start a small business.
When you start your own business, you have the opportunity to earn an unlimited income based on your own efforts and the success or failure of the enterprise. This differs from working for a company where your income may be limited by a salary structure or the evaluation of your performance by your superiors.
Pursuing a Passion
Starting your own business allows you to make a living while pursuing something for which you have a strong passion. You may have a special talent, such as writing, playing music or repairing automobiles that you've enjoyed as a hobby. By turning it into a business, you may find more enjoyment and fulfillment in your work life that can lead to a happier life in general.
A Good Idea
You may have an idea for a product or service that meets an unfulfilled need in the marketplace. By turning your idea into a business, you can be the first to meet that need which can result in a profitable venture. You could profit even more by teaching your idea to others or by creating a business model, which you can turn into a franchise.
Starting a business can be a way for those who are tired of the "9-to-5" grind to leave the corporate world and enter into a more flexible lifestyle. Depending on the type of business you choose, you may be able to work a more flexible schedule, which can allow you to spend more time with family and friends. A business can also appeal to those who enjoy making their own decisions without direction from others.
Owning a business allows you to be more creative and express yourself. You are not restricted by having to follow a set work methodology, and you're free to change your work processes if you wish. You can also create additional products or services to meet customer demands.
Creating trusting relationships is crucial in all areas of the business world, and especially when it comes to customers. You could be the most passionate and knowledgeable paint and decorating retailer in your city, but if your customers and clients don’t trust you, you probably won’t receive their business.
Match Their Style. Within the first few moments of approaching a customer in your store, take a few seconds to try to gauge their communication style. Does it seem like they’re in an open, friendly mood, or do you get the impression they would rather side-step the small talk and get down to business? Every customer is different and some might not have a lot of time to politely talk about the weather before explaining what they need to purchase. They’ll appreciate if you match their style to make their shopping experience as quick and efficient or as relaxing and leisurely as possible.
Get To Know Them. From the moment the customer walks into your store, your first priority should always be to make them feel welcome and special. If the person is open to chatting (see No. 1), there is a great opportunity to build a strong foundation by asking their name and learning a little bit about them. Actively listen to their wants, needs, projects and problems in a friendly way so they’ll know you’re not only there to help, but that they can come back for more excellent service in the future with someone who knows their entire story.
Body Language. Let your customers know you’re actively engaged in what they’re saying by presenting open body language. Face your body towards theirs and nod along while they’re explaining their wants and needs. Since 55 per cent of your communication comes through non-verbal elements like gestures, facial expressions and posture, your customers can easily tell whether the salesperson is actually interested in what they’re saying. By remaining engaged in the conversation, your body language will tell your customers that you’re a good listener and value their business.
Solve Problems Before Selling Products. One of the best ways to build rapport with customers is to solve before you sell. If a person comes into your store with a particular issue and has a salesperson pushing unhelpful products on them, it could result in the loss of not only a sale, but also a future customer and the repercussions of bad word-of-mouth. However, if a customer notices the salesperson is offering helpful suggestions before and beyond a purchase, they’ll trust that you’re in the business to help them instead of simply making a sale – and likely pass along the good word.
Follow Up & Stay Connected. Building rapport with clients and customers doesn’t always happen in one visit. Take the time to send follow-up emails asking your customers how they enjoyed their product or how a certain project turned out. And if you have social media accounts, pay attention to the comments and direct messages from customers and inquirers, as most people use them as a way of communication with businesses they love. Social media engagements are a great way to not only market your business, but also maintain relationships with customers outside of the store.
BRANDING SUCCESS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Strong Brand Purpose Statement
Successful branding starts with establishing an inspiring, underlying purpose for your brand. A well-crafted vision and mission statement that connects with your core audience on a deeper level can motivate them to purchase your brand. Every component of your brand stems from it – a call to action for exceptional performance consumers will fall in love with.
Creating a distinctive brand that offers something distinctively beneficial to your customer will generate more sales. This allows you to be, do, and say something different so you are seen as the preferred choice. It means you can avoid being perceived as cookie-cutter, rubber-stamped, or carbon-copy in an era where consumers want unique, fresh, and original. It also means later on you can present your brand “marketing content” in a manner that screams how you are different and better.
Great brands like Nike, Amazon, and FedEx market and sell “me-only” value. The allure of what makes your brand innovative and the ability to say to your market you offer something others can’t (i.e. they can imitate but cannot duplicate) are incredible draws.
Everything you want someone to buy is captured in your brand promise statement. Although telling consumers about the product or services you provide is great information to share, this is not what they want to buy per se. All you want to tout are mouthwatering benefits, staggering value, and outstanding, desired customer outcomes that make a heart-connection, not a head-connection, for rapid sales to occur.
If there is any step in your branding you don’t want to gloss over is your messaging. Is it engaging or dry and boring? Does it send a lightning bolt to the heart of your targeted buyer? Your message is how people connect with your brand so you’ll want to be as emotionally-based and value-driven as possible. With the objective to load up your messaging on any communication platforms you choose (i.e. websites, social media, videos, etc.), you’ll find attracting buyers, getting leads, and more conversions easier and a lot more fun.
I truly hope that you’ll consider branding so you can join the many small business owners who are getting more customers, increasing sales, improving cash flow, and growing their bottom line.
Many people dream of starting their own businesses, but not everyone is cut out for this line of work. Being employed by someone else offers a slew of advantages, from health insurance and matching retirement contributions to a regular schedule and the company of coworkers.
If you're thinking about striking out on your own, consider carefully whether you have what it takes to be successful.
Entrepreneurs: Nature or Nurture?
Are good leaders made or are they born? No one knows for sure, but successful entrepreneurs tend to share these traits:
To be successfully self-employed, you'll need to have the discipline to set work hours, meet deadlines, pursue new clients and avoid tempting distractions like your TV.
To prevent yourself from going broke when your business is new or times are slow, you must be willing to cut back, sometimes way back, on your spending. Remaining self-employed has to be a top priority above buying new clothes or other niceties. It's a good idea to be frugal not just in slow months, but in the good ones as well to give yourself a well-padded savings account that can tide you over when your business isn't generating income.
In order to successfully sell yourself to others, you have to be your own biggest fan. If you don't believe you're one of the best at what you do, no one else will either. Business will rarely just fall into your lap, so you'll need to be willing to promote yourself and ask for work whenever and wherever possible.
Good Communication Skills
Clients won't always make their expectations crystal clear. Rather than guessing what they want, you must not be afraid to ask lots of questions. It's also a good idea to ask for feedback during and after assignments to make sure you're meeting your clients' expectations.
Few clients will expect you to be perfect, but if you can't fess up and apologize when you make a mistake, you'll get crossed off their lists.
Honesty and Integrity
When you're self employed, your reputation is crucial. You don't have the image of a company to fall back on or make up for the occasional bad employee. You are the company and you are the employee. Everything you do needs to reflect well on your business.
Superb Record-Keeping Skills
It's very important to know when you sent out invoices, when you were paid, who still owes you money, how much money your business has, how much you have made and how much you need to make. Detailed, accurate records are critical to the financial health of your business and are indispensable for tax purposes.
You won't become a successful business person by watching TV all day. Even when you think you have a day to relax, don't put your assignments off until the last minute. It's better to get as much done as you can when things appear to be slow because you never know what the next day will bring. Also, forget about turning all your work in on the due date and plan to turn some work in early instead. The faster you complete an assignment, the faster you can move on to the next one, which means more money in your pocket. Beating the occasional deadline also instills confidence in your clients that you can be relied upon. It probably goes without saying that missing a deadline is not acceptable except in the most extreme circumstances.
Some times will be busier than others, and assignments will arise unexpectedly. You have to be willing to rearrange both your business and work schedule to accommodate your clients' requests.
Ability to Set Boundaries
While it is a good idea to maintain some degree of flexibility, you also must set boundaries and realistic expectations with your clients. These things don't need to be done explicitly, but rather will become the norm as you teach people how to treat you. Don't answer your phone or email after business hours, don't accept unreasonable deadlines or insurmountable workloads and don't let clients negotiate your invoices down or refuse to pay after the work is done.
Self-employment does not offer paid sick days, so you'll have to work when you're sick, make up the hours later or accept the lost pay. You also must be able to afford your own health insurance, which may include providing health insurance for your spouse and kids, too.
Ability to Create Balance
For workaholic types, working at home means it's difficult to know when to stop and take a break. For those who are better at relaxing, it's equally challenging to get out of lounge mode and start working. Regardless of which category you fall into, when you work for yourself, you'll have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to keep your work life and personal life in balance.
You won't always have a lot of work and you won't get all the assignments or clients you want. You have to keep pursuing work, maintain a positive mindset and not take the rejections personally or you'll soon find yourself in a cubicle filling out a W4.
The Bottom Line
Personal characteristics will have a major influence on your potential to succeed as an entrepreneur. Before taking a financial and career risk, make sure to assess whether your personality will contribute to or hinder your prosperity.
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