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8 Vital Training Steps For ‘Treps, Pre-Launch

Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Like a race, entrepreneurs will flop without proper preparation.

Paul Andruss

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Starting-a-race

Everyone in the startup world has heard the adage: “Launching a business is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” But really, the comparison isn’t kind to entrepreneurship. A marathon at least has an ending point, a place you know you can reach and then rest.

A business just…keeps going. (If you’re lucky!) But here’s one way in which a marathon really is like a business: Without proper training, you’ll definitely fail. Shin splits from the marathon, employees splitting from your business. Stress fractures from running, stress from ruminating. You might even puke from both.

Passion and adrenaline will only get you so far. Way too many entrepreneurs show up at the startup starting line without so much as a stretch, and those folks may barely make it past the first mile marker.

Seasoned entrepreneurs and advisers agree: Before you jump into the race and hope to go the distance, you need to go through basic business training. Here, your guide from a wide range of coaches.

Related: 10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time

Step 1: Train in your off-hours

You know the saying “Don’t quit your day job”? OK, seriously, don’t quit. New businesses can seem instantly promising and exciting and full of potential, but they are almost never going to pay you a living wage immediately.

“So often people say, ‘We had this bit of momentum, and we all quit our day jobs and jumped into the company,’” says Duncan Logan, CEO of San Francisco co-working space RocketSpace.

“And then the momentum died off and they realised they’d made a terrible mistake — that it wasn’t a business yet. It was still a hobby.”

Logan’s advice: The best way to prepare for a launch is to run your new business as a side project and stay in your current job for as long as possible.

Sure, this means you’ll be juggling two jobs and potentially stressed out of your mind – but that’s good training for when your new startup takes over your entire life anyway. (Of course, this also means you may be building your business on your current employer’s dime, so be mindful of that: If you keep your day job but are too distracted to actually focus on it, you’ll quickly lose it.)

Step 2: Know why you’re launching

beginning-a-race

Do you know why? It sounds like a stupid question, but take a moment to really ponder it. Why are you about to devote your life to this startup? Why is this a business the world must have? Do you believe that strongly in it – not just in its potential, but in what it stands for?

If you don’t have a good answer, stop right now. Don’t restart until you’ve figured it out.

“When you have a decision to make and you don’t know what the right answer is from a financial or traction standpoint, you’re supposed to lean on your values,” says Blake Smith, CEO of Cincinnati-based online personal stylist Cladwell. But in the early days of his business, he says, he realised he’d never fully clarified his values. “Instead, I would ask other people what they thought and lean on them, which really caused me to spin my wheels in my business.”

Eventually, he says, he figured it out: His core business values were about authenticity and a desire to represent transparency in the clothing industry. That was his north star; every decision he made could be based on staying true to those ideals. “You have to be able to lead from your own values,” he says. Clarify yours at the start.

Related: 10 Steps To Starting Your Business For Free (Almost)

Step 3: Write it down

The written-out business plan: It used to be a standard part of launching a business. But many ’treps today are dismissive of it, says Donald F. Kuratko, executive and academic director of the Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. They tell him that a business plan is old-fashioned and ineffective, a holdover from a simpler economy.

Wrong move, Kuratko says. No matter the business and no matter the industry, every entrepreneur needs to study the market problem they’re addressing – and that means understanding the market, and developing a concrete strategy for how they’re going to land that first customer. There’s no room to wing it.

“If you can’t articulate those things clearly, you’ve got a problem right off the bat,” Kuratko says, and the exercise of writing a business plan reveals those issues. “You want to make sure those points are addressed before you start, like making sure you have the right shoes for running a marathon.”

Step 4: Take your benchmarks seriously

Benchmarking

You don’t begin training for a marathon by running 26.2 miles. You set your goals more modestly — start with a few miles, work up to 16, and so on. The same principle holds true behind the desk: Begin by laying out your interim goals, to ensure that you grow in a timely manner (you know, before the money runs out). These can be quarterly, six-month or even annual goals; it doesn’t matter, so long as you decide what success looks like and are realistic about whether you’re achieving it.

And that’s the easy part. Now you’ve got to stick to them.

Logan, the co-working-space CEO, is a cautionary tale in what happens if you ignore your benchmarks. When he started his previous company, he set some hurdles for the first year – and decided that if he missed them, he’d fold the company. Then he missed them…and instead of taking action, he says, he created excuses.

He set new benchmarks and gave it another six months. Those weren’t met, either. Ultimately, he dragged the company along for two miserable years before finally shutting it down. He could have saved everyone a lot of time and just quit when he knew things weren’t working.

“You need to have a very honest set of metrics and know that if you don’t meet them, you have to reevaluate before you’re broke,” he says.

Step 5: Enlist key critics

A running coach will be your greatest cheerleader – up until the point where it’s clear that you won’t reach the finish line. When you’re stumbling, a good coach will tell you to quit before you hurt yourself. Now it’s time to find your business coaches.

Logan recommends creating a “trust circle” of two or three people who can give you brutally honest, critical feedback on your business. Few people will provide that once you’re up and running – because they know how hard you’re working – so he recommends assembling this group before you start.

“As much as it might hurt, you need someone who will tell you, ‘Your baby’s ugly. We know you love it, but it’s just not going to happen,’” Logan says. “You need those people in place early on, because it’s so hard to see it as an entrepreneur.”

Related: 10 Businesses You Can Start From Your Dorm Room

Step 6: Prep your personal life

locker-room

Just like with marathon training, the hours spent away from home during a startup launch can wreak havoc on your work-life balance and spur resentment among loved ones. But Scott Bailey, managing director of the startup accelerator MassChallenge Boston, has some good news for you: It’s OK – important, even– to leave work and see your family!

“That feels like it goes against everything almost everyone else expects of entrepreneurs, because people – especially investors – want to know you’re full-time focused and dedicated,” he says. But nobody wants to see you friendless and alone. That’s bad for you, and bad for your business. “Sacrifice other things,” says Bailey – but not your relationships.

How? Set limits at the very start. Talk to your family about what’s most important to them. Maybe it’s your doing chores around the house, or attending kids’ ball games, or not checking your phone at dinner, or staying away from the computer while on vacation (as much as is reasonably possible, at least). When you stick to these agreements, your family will feel appreciated; you may be busy, but at least they know when they have you.

Step 7: Build a home budget

when training for a marathon, you cut back on pizza and beers. But when you prepare for your startup, well, you might just want some cheap pizza and beer. The rationale is the same: It’s time to monitor your intake — less junk food for the marathon, and less-expensive food for your budget.

Your startup may take a toll on your finances, which can put stress on your relationships. So before the business gets going, you should run the numbers on your personal finances and set up a strict budget.

“It’s OK if you don’t put a dollar into savings for a while, but you can’t be upside down a dollar every month, either,” says Walter Knapp, CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based advertising technology firm Sovrn. He knows it well: He’s helmed four startups and keeps a careful budget to make sure he’s always able to pay his fixed costs at home. Otherwise, he says, you’ll create “too much stress on you and your family, as well as your employees and their families.”

Step 8: Find your people

Running-group

Like a running group that trains together, a community of other entrepreneurs can help keep you on pace. Incubators, accelerators and other entrepreneur centres may provide an accessible network. Join them.

Reach out to entrepreneurs in similar situations to yours, and try to develop relationships with more experienced people who can serve as mentors.

Related: The 5 Biggest Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

“You can gain a lot from other entrepreneurs, even if they’re in entirely different industries or have totally different ideas. What they’re trying to achieve and the struggles they face are so similar,” Bailey says. “It’s a great way to gain insights and spark new ideas, and everyone in the entrepreneurial community needs support.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Paula Andruss is a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to hundreds of articles to national consumer, business and custom magazines and websites, including Woman’s Day, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Parents, Parenting and more.

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How The Sanlam Enterprise And Supplier Development Programme Is Helping Start-up Businesses

The balance between funding, business development and mentorship can make or break an enterprise development programme

Francois Adriaan

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Sanlam Enterprise and Supplier Development

165 new employment opportunities, 172 SMEs developed and 1046 jobs sustained. These are some of the numbers recorded by Sanlam as the company prepares to wrap up the fourth year of its Sanlam Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) programme.

The flagship incubation scheme has turned around loss-making enterprises, helped some participants get critical accreditation and funding, but most importantly, R12.6 million was spent procuring goods and services from the participating businesses by the end of 2016.

Related: Enterprise Development Programmes For Black Entrepreneurs

Receiving funding isn’t the secret to start-up success

Francois Adriaan, head of Sanlam Foundation says the secret to a successful enterprise development programme is not the amount of funding big corporates can give SMEs: “It’s having the right mix of mentorship; business intervention and procurement spend flowing from your corporate to small businesses.

You have to show the entrepreneur you are mentoring that you trust them enough to do business and walk the journey with them instead of giving them a once-off grant and leaving them to their own devices,” says Adriaan.

Financial support that’s timed to business need

Like in many other ESD programmes, participants in the Sanlam ESD programme also have access to funding. But what sets the programme apart from others, says Adriaan is that the amount of funds disbursed to each participating businesses is directly linked to its need, its commitment and progress record.

“Financial support is timed according to the specific needs of each SME. Those who qualify for funding are then provided with a further seven years of SME growth support through the ASISA Enterprise Development Fund.”

The Sanlam ESD programme

The Sanlam ESD programme was launched in July 2013 in collaboration with the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) to empower SMEs, create jobs and contribute to economic growth in South Africa. An independent evaluation shows that participating enterprises have grown their annual revenue by 19% on average.

D&P Auto participants

One of the programme participants is D&P Auto, a panel beating business based in Retreat. For two decades, the owners of the business (husband and wife) poured their life savings, bank loans and even pension policy pay-outs into the business to keep it afloat because it was not making profit. Three years of focused business incubation and mentoring under the Sanlam ESD programme resolved D&P Auto’s 20-year loss-making battle.

“Our business has grown from a non-profitable business to the extent that we now have to pay provisional taxes to SARS for the first time in 24 years,” said Pam Douglas on their business maiden profit.

Successes of the incubation programme

The incubation from the programme has helped other participants brush up their bookkeeping skills, file successfully for tenders and get accreditation that took their businesses to the next level.

G&T Auto, the only fully accredited Major Structural Repairer in the programme, bagged Mazda accreditation last year, a rare accolade that will see the enterprise repair Mazdas that are still under warranty. The owner, Thembi Sithole says the programme has given her confidence to approach bigger clients as she now understands the requirements to get big contracts. She has also become more knowledgeable about financial statements and their impact on obtaining funding.

Related: Why Employee Engagement Programmes Backfire And What You Can Do About It

Adriaan says enterprise development initiatives of this nature give big corporates an opportunity not only achieve their business objectives, but also impact broader South African society.

“This commitment is around impacting issues of inter-generational poverty, unemployment and inequality. It is also about aligning around public-private-civil society partnerships in sustainable ways,” concludes Adriaans.

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Are You Ready For A Side Hustle? Here’s How To Know

We talk to side hustle pro Susie Moore about who should jump into entrepreneurship and when is a good time to take the leap.

Andrea Huspeni

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side-hustle

It seems like everyone has a side hustle. Indeed, 1 in 4 millennials have a side hustle, part of the  54 million Americans making money outside of their pay cheque.

But are you ready to get your hustle on?

According to Susie Moore, a life coach and the founder of Side Hustle Made Simple, you are always ready to begin a side hustle. You just need to know where to begin.

Related: 3 Ways To Set Your Side Hustle Up For Success

Moore has helped thousands of people take the leap from concept to creation in making their entrepreneurial dreams a living, breathing reality by launching a risk-free side hustle. She left her $500,000 job after her own side hustle took off within just 18 months.

She’s also the author of What if it DOES Work Out? How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life released this fall, speaker and adviser to startups. Her work has been featured on the Today Show, Marie Claire and more.

To help aspiring entrepreneurs understand what it takes to be a side hustler, Moore is joining us for this week’s episode of Tough Love Tuesday, our Facebook Live series that connects experts with side hustlers for real-time advice and support.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

Specifically, she’ll share:

  1. The qualities all side hustlers need
  2. Advice that turns great ideas into action
  3. Strategies for making money right away
  4. Ideas for perfect side hustles
  5. Productivity hacks that prevent burnout.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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(Video) Why Your ‘Great Idea’ Actually Sucks

Don’t get caught up in coming up with the next big idea.

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bad-business-idea-starting-a-business

Everyone wants to come up with the next Uber, Facebook or Tesla. But, if Entrepreneur Network partner Patrick Bet-David has to choose between someone with a great idea and someone with great sales skills, he’s taking the salesperson every time. Why?

Related: The 3-Step Approach For Testing Out Your Business Idea

Well, look at the history of great businesses. Ray Kroc didn’t start McDonald’s, but he learned how to sell the fast food restaurant and made far more in his life than the actual McDonalds brothers. Steve Jobs couldn’t code like Steve Wozniack, but he knew how to sell Apple, and his estate is worth far more now than Wozniack’s.

Facebook, Tesla and more. Each time, it seems like the great salesperson ends up earning more than the person who created the great idea to start with.

Watch the video to learn more about the relationship between great ideas and great sales techniques.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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