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As a business mentor, marketer, writer and storyteller, along with a successful stint as an entrepreneur, I get asked this question many times: “Can you share the most important mantras for becoming a successful first-time entrepreneur?”
Here are my half-dozen tips for building a successful new business:
1. Timing is everything
Many people think that money and a good idea are all it takes to create a successful new enterprise. Money helps, but the lack of it is not necessarily the reason for a new endeavor to succeed or fail, otherwise entrepreneurs with deep pockets or startups flush with cash would never have failed.
Of course, it helps to have a good idea and money in the bank while starting, but realistically the most important thing is good timing, particularly for fintech, martech, edtech, retailtech, healthtech, foodtech, autotech and cleantech businesses.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which you have a theoretically brilliant business idea, a robust model, a remarkable team and adequate funding. But if that big idea, product or service is ahead of its time or comes too early and consumers aren’t ready for it, acceptance simply won’t happen. Alternatively, if they are behind the times or come too late in a highly competitive market, you will likewise struggle. If you get timing right, you can afford to get a few other things wrong.
2. Have the best new ideas
Winning new business concepts are those that offer solutions to problems or meet consumers’ unfulfilled or unserved needs. The important thing to remember is that an idea is successful only if people are willing to pay for its associated products or services, problem-solving solutions, passion, purpose, skills and expertise.
3. First hire right, then Build a Team
A successful enterprise is built around an able or strong team, and that means hiring right. Astute entrepreneurs hire those who are brighter, smarter or more talented than they. And they don’t just hire for skills or experience, but bring on people who are adaptable, solution-oriented, farsighted, helpful, willing to learn, unlearn and relearn and can deal with chaos and ambiguity. To those ends, strength of character is an important attribute. If a person has turned failure, rejection, adversity, crisis or setback into a comeback, or an opportunity for growth and change, employ him or her! Skills are gold, but resilience is platinum.
Extraordinary businesses do not rely on individual brilliance. They draw upon the collective wisdom of their team members. By running a business through such a team, you’ll spend more time on what you’re good at, develop new skills and make more money.
4. Relationship Sales Is the Heart of a Successful Business
Sales is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship, and sales that are relational and not transactional help a business forge meaningful connections with customers or clients and turn them into word-of-mouth marketers. Relationship sales should be the absolute center of what your company does, every single day.
Add value to your customers or clients lives through your product or service offerings. That might mean providing relevant content, reaching out with tailored advice, resolving objections, making a valuable introduction or anything else that benefits them. Focus on creating win-win relationships by exceeding their expectations. This will help a business build trust and credibility. Believe in yourself, your enterprise and your customers, and treat each day as an opportunity to grow by leveraging the power of relationship sales to acquire and serve customers.
5. Blend Data, Intuition, Observation, and Marketing to Build the Extraordinary
Coalescing the power of observation, perception, deduction and marketing will enable businesses to tap into consumer emotions, tell compelling or engaging stories, strengthen customer relationships, provide answers to customers problems or concerns and blend the art of intuition and the analysis of data science. Prudent marketing, communications, and branding is about understanding consumer and human behavior, increasing self-awareness and listening to the consumer. It is about unearthing insights that will enable deeper client or customer engagement and a smarter return on investment.
The most effective ways of promoting your business or expertise are word-of-mouth marketing, influencer marketing, public relations, media coverage and data-driven content and digital marketing, particularly through video storytelling, podcasting and writing a book. The last is a powerful marketing medium to promote expertise or a business, build or strengthen a brand, create an impact or leave a legacy to be remembered. First-time entrepreneurs should write a book or an ebook, or create an audio book to share their story, skills or experience — the hopeful outcome emergence as a thought leader or a recognized authority in a chosen field. And if you don’t have the time or the ability to write a book, get your content marketing or communications team to create a book for you, or engage a nonfiction writer or ghostwriter to do so. I can tell you from experience that each time a new or existing entrepreneur has followed my suggestion to write a book, it has boosted their company’s credibility, visibility and profitability.
6. Hire a Visionary Mentor
Behind every successful entrepreneur, there is a mentor — one who helps smooth the roller coaster ride of a business journey. Arguably the biggest benefit of having one is the fostering of challenging or difficult conversations; a mentor is someone who will give you the unfiltered, unbiased advice you need, even if it hurts. He or she can help keep a business innovative and relevant and improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Mentors also have the ability to help turn challenge into opportunity, in part by guiding you through concerns or worries.
Research proves that mentored businesses survive longer than unmentored ones, and that entrepreneurs and other leaders who received mentorship saw their careers propelled. The valuable connections and timely advice gained will leapfrog you to success.