one. do what you love: If you chose your business because you read that this niche was the next hot thing, or because your favorite uncle (or best friend) thinks you would be a good fit for this business, you can pack your bags now and save time and money. If you don’t love what you do, it will show…potential customers will know and go elsewhere. Is it possible to succeed anyway? Sure, but it won’t be easy and it won’t be fun… and isn’t that why you want to have your own business anyway?
Instead, choose what you love. You’ll know what that is when you realize you’re incredibly productive, you forget about time passing, and you can’t wait to get up in the morning to get more done! At Solo-E we call that being full of juice… but whether you call it being in the flow, or in the zone, or whatever, FIND IT!
2. WRITE DOWN YOUR BUSINESS PLAN: As a small business owner or individual, you still need a business plan. Even if you are not receiving a loan! Would you invest thousands of dollars of your own money buying stock in a company that doesn’t have a written prospectus? (I hope not!) So why would you spend thousands of dollars AND hours of your valuable time on a business that doesn’t have a written plan?
Write down your plan, have the professionals critique it, and most importantly, BE PREPARED TO CHANGE IT. This may seem counterintuitive…why bother writing it if it’s just going to change? Because writing it down makes it clearer…and helps you move to the next stage of learning, planning, and reviewing. It’s critical: 67% of failed businesses did not have a written business plan. Do you want to play the odds?
3. Multiply your expected startup costs by two, or maybe three: When I started my business, an honors MBA graduate with 15 years of solid business experience under my belt, I thought I was smart enough to estimate my startup costs accurately. I knew all the things I needed and made conservative estimates and was still WRONG! That’s right, I was still wrong by a factor of almost three. Don’t make this mistake! One of the main reasons small businesses fail is a lack of capital. Give yourself the best possible start by saving or acquiring enough seed money NOW. Before you start!
Four. Make your niche market as small as possible: Again, this is counter-intuitive: shouldn’t you be trying to attract as many people as possible? The paradox is that the more you try to attract EVERYONE, the less you will attract ANYONE. Let’s say you’re selling your home…would you rather list it with the agent who operates in 14 counties, sells both commercial and residential real estate, and sells everything from cottages to farms? Or would you choose the agent who specializes in her community and sells only houses in a well-defined price range that she knows very well? Ruthlessly define her niche, make it as small as possible, and stick with it. You’ll thank me later!
5. Marketing your way: The temptation is to choose all the marketing methods that the competition uses. To stay with the tried and true marketing channels. To place ads you know nothing about creating, or make cold calls that give you heartburn. Why? Because (all together now) “it’s always been done that way.”
It’s hard to stand out from your competitors when you’re doing the same type of marketing! So instead, look at your strengths. What do you like to do? What are you good at? Then pick three marketing methods that take advantage of those strengths. If you need ideas, check out 136 Ways to Market Your Solo Business, another article at http://www.Solo-E.com.
6. Remember the most important ingredient in your business: YOU: Entrepreneur: know yourself. Spend some time learning about who you are and the uniqueness you are. Then let that uniqueness shine through in your marketing, in the way you run your business, in everything you do. Don’t hide your quirks, celebrate them!
Customers flock to small, reclusive businesses primarily because they are looking for a personalized experience. They want a relationship with you as the owner of your business. If you try to look like who you think they want, they’ll sniff through it and not come back. Be who you are and trust that who YOU are will be attractive to the right people.
7. Build your business by building relationships: Being a small or lonely business owner is not about sitting alone in the corner. Actually, it can be, and that isolation is what puts many out of a job and back to a “job.” Build relationships to survive! Start with your peers – other people you know who are at the same business stage as you are, or who are further along and willing to mentor you.
Next, build relationships with potential customers. Ask them what they want! Then create products and services based on their input and go back and show them what you’ve made. Get feedback, modify, and maybe make your first sale. Stay in touch with your customers even after they drop you off.
Last but not least, build relationships with your competitors. You may be able to do this early on, just by asking their advice. Surprisingly many ARE willing to share their secrets if you just ask them. Later, create cross-reference relationships, joint marketing alliances, and other relationships that are beneficial to you, your competitors, and your customers.
8. Do not accept a client just for the money: This is probably the hardest tip for new business owners to apply. Especially when there’s a job, a project, a lead, just outside your niche, that could keep your business solvent for the next six months. Do not do it! Taking on a client outside of your niche inevitably results in frustration for you, dissatisfaction on the part of the client, and in the end, usually costing you more than you earn. Ask any successful business owner and they will tell you this is true!
9.. Don’t do everything yourself: It’s so tempting to fall into the self-delusion that “it’s cheaper to do it myself”. IT IS NOT! If you’re not good at something, say accounting, it will probably take 2-3 times as much time that you could spend doing things that are essential to you personally, like writing. your business plan or decide your marketing strategy. Put enough capital into your business up front so you can hire help early on. Your business will get off to a faster start because you won’t be distracted by time-consuming tasks that drain your energy. .
10 Assemble your support team: Start with the people who will help you do the things you are not good at. Some examples: bookkeeper, marketing writer, web designer. Then add the people who give you professional business advice: a lawyer, an accountant, a business coach. Finally, include the people who support you personally: your family, friends, and colleagues.
Don’t forget to be part of the support teams of others as well. Share your Solo-E experience, start a networking group where business owners support each other, share a referral with a colleague. Individual entrepreneurs supporting other individual entrepreneurs is what will make us all successful!
Copyright 2004, Terri Zwierzynski, Accel Innovation, Inc.