According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 report, more than 25 million Americans have initiated entrepreneurial ventures. Being an entrepreneur is synonymous with being a risk taker, and one of the best ways to minimise this risk is by starting on the side, from home. In fact, according to the same report, more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses from home.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to start a business due to lack of funds and business knowledge. The truth is, in most cases, none of that is required. Entrepreneurs get rewarded for solving people’s problems exactly the way employees get paid for their services. Starting a business is about creating value by solving problems and addressing needs, therefore, capturing an opportunity to serve others and getting compensated for your work is entrepreneurship in its purest form.
Especially for service-based businesses, this does not require a website, marketing campaign, business plan, round of investment funding or any other assets but your existing skills, knowledge and a laptop.
In my experience mentoring entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and visions, I found that most aspiring entrepreneurs worry too much about their 100th customer when they haven’t even acquired their first. Most entrepreneurs worry about growth stages before building a foundation.
This article shares three simple steps to help you clear your thoughts and focus only on the activities that matter in the beginning of a business venture.
1. Define your service
The key is to stick to your area of expertise. While you may have plans to start a thriving business with many products, services and customer segments, thinking too big too soon will have failing consequences. The challenges entrepreneurs face trying to run before they walk is overwhelming, and this causes failure.
What is it that you do today? This will be your service. If you were hired to do a job, chances are you are good at what you do. If you are a social media marketer, other companies need your services and consulting. The same applies to project managers, designers, programmers, teachers, engineers, researchers, assistants, scientists, coaches, speakers, etc.
Grab a piece of paper and write down your solution – “I offer X.” Before defining your ideal customer, start by writing down your service. It’s fine if your solution is as general as, “I offer social media, consulting, accounting or research services.”
Defining your ideal customer in the next step will help you become more specific and targeted.
2. Define your ideal customer
Service providers are often challenged with the ideal customer definition. This is understandable because virtually speaking, using some of the services mentioned earlier, many companies of different sizes need project management, design, programming, teaching and coaching services. Focusing on the ideal customer doesn’t just save time and money in finding and serving the customer but more importantly, it helps in the outcome of your contribution and your results. An ideal customer is “ideal” because you know how to help them get results. They need people like you.
The ideal customer definition process starts exactly like service definition. Start with the company that trusted you to do a job — your existing or previous employer. Chances are, many similar companies need your help and expertise. You may want to avoid serving your employer’s competitors, however, using them and their needs as a benchmark will quickly help you identify similar companies in different categories or industries.
No matter how competitive your space is, the barriers to acquiring the first customers will still be much lower than learning a new skill to serve customers in less competitive industries. Stick to your background. Especially in the beginning, focus on customer segments with the least players. The bigger the company, the longer the sales cycle. In this case, even if your experience is in helping Fortune 500 companies scale, you may want to focus on smaller companies with similar profiles and help them grow as big as your current or previous employers.
Your value proposition combines service and ideal customer definition. I help [ideal customer] with [your service], and I do it differently or uniquely by [how are you different].
For example, I help professionals leverage their skills to launch service-based businesses by providing them with a clear roadmap to paying customers, and I do it uniquely through a tested and proven framework that aims to minimise costs and reduce time to acquisition while bringing clarity and trust in the entrepreneur’s journey.
3. Define your acquisition channel
This step is simply about connecting the first two steps. In other words, how do you convey your service to your ideal customer? Use this as a rule of thumb. Your first customers are hand picked. Yes, social media, SEO, funnels, affiliate marketing and all other marketing strategies can help, but you must get your hands dirty to close your first customers quickly.
When you start and don’t have proof or case studies, people will invest in you, therefore, presenting and selling yourself is your best bet. From experience, here are the two best channels to accomplish this goal.
- Cold emailing, including using the power and network of LinkedIn. Drafting a personalised email or message that goes directly to your potential customer’s inbox is one of the best ways to grab their attention, especially when you are addressing businesses. Keep your message short, mention an interesting fact about their industry, comment on one of their recent posts or accomplishments, and present your services and how it can help them drive results.
- In-person events, especially smaller conferences, meet-ups or social events. Defining your acquisition channels is essentially about finding a way to signal your availability to your ideal customer. Local and national events are a great way to build personal relationships that can soon turn into business partnerships. Spend time developing and nurturing relationships and the rest will follow naturally.
Finally, and above all, the world needs your skills and expertise, and people are ready to compensate you for your contribution. We are all entrepreneurs in one way or another. Entrepreneurship is about creating value through solutions. You do that already, so it’s about time you capture other opportunities on the side or full-time.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Don’t Victimise Your Mind: The 6 Keys To Develop Yourself And Your Business
This writing offers six keys to self and business development.
“Plan your work and work your plan” – Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder
Considering the plethora of permutations within the self and business development fields it is truly hard to develop yourself and your business. The good news; however, is that it is possible for all to achieve fulfilment and sustainable business success should we consciously choose to and act on our choice with a mountain of good old-fashioned ‘grit’ to underpin our efforts.
This writing offers six keys to self and business development:
1. Find your purpose
It is highly probable that a number of readers might roll their eyes when they read again that they have to find their purpose and brand such a suggestion as cliché. Well the thing with clichés are that they are mostly true but they require investigation and reflection beyond surface judgements and thoughts in order to have true practical meaning in your life.
Finding your purpose for yourself personally and for your business means that you attach a lot of positive and transformative meaning to what you are doing. This meaning transcends yourself and adds value to society. Having sincere purpose is a source of inspiration and can get you through severe challenging times.
2. ‘Stack’ your inspirations
I prefer the term inspiration over the use of the word motivation. Motivation is as fickle as your will power and is finite. True inspiration mainly fuelled by a strong and enduring sense of purpose has the power to help you overcome the most challenging circumstances.
For the purposes of enduring success and fulfilment you need to connect the dots between whatever inspires you which will create a powerful and symbiotic effect that will give more meaning, confidence and improved results to what you are doing.
In practical terms this means to:
- Listen to music daily if music inspires you.
- Workout daily if well-being is a source of inspiration to you.
- Read the work of others daily if knowledge inspires you.
- Sing in the shower if your own singing inspires you.
- Meditate daily if seeking within for answers inspires you.
- Sleep deeply and at least six to eight hours if deep rest inspires you.
- Look at images of great works of art if art inspires you.
- Daily look at your written Vision and goals.
- If dancing inspires you dance every day.
The above are just a few examples of what might inspire you. You need to ‘stack as many inspirations’ as possible in one day in order to experience a great day.
3. Unlearn the victim mentality
The victim mentality presupposes an inclination towards a life of excuses and justifications however valid or invalid they appear to be. Several ancient teachers have taught us to look deeper into our own trials and tribulations and shift the paradigm of suffering them to honestly learn from them and become stronger as a result:
“I take pleasure in my infirmities” – St Paul
“The wound is where the light seeps in” – Jalal ud din Rumi
Reflect on the challenges in your life purely from a learning perspective and stop assigning blame to others or even yourself. Changed behaviour is the only true apology. Past guilt and less than desirable past results can weigh us down within a state of fear and anxiety within the present moment.
Direct your energy towards actionable solutions to challenges as opposed to diluting your finite energy reserves by overthinking on past negativity.
4. Unlearn the desire to always be right
Do not get stuck in the perpetual cycle of frustration caused by you thinking that everybody thinks or should think like you. Yes, you are mostly right but only within the realms of your own perspective.
Be open to other alternatives, truly listen to opinions and learn from others. Instead of holding on to an opposing view for the sake of defending your ego and the desire to be right attempt to ‘connect the dots’ between opposing philosophies and find the common ground between them. This attitude builds relationships and slowly but surely builds bridges between enemies.
5. Unlearn your need to ‘do something in order to get something in order to be something’
For most an expectation is to do well at school, then university, find a great job and build a family. All of this has to be done to truly be someone in society. A key and paradigm shifting realisation for me in life was that ‘you don’t get what you want but what you are’ – This means that you attract both your empowering beliefs and your limitations of who you are to yourself not what you want.
Therefore if you want more love in your life, first be more loving. If you want more money first truly develop an abundance mentality and not only pay lip service to the idea of abundance.
6. Take swift and confident action, daily
Procrastination is the top enemy to success. Overthinking leads to more anxiety. Yes think but do it rapidly and effectively by asking and answering key questions such as:
- Will this serve my purpose?
- Will this be worth it?
- What are the potential risks and what can I immediately do to counter act them?
- Does this resonate with me and does it align with my values and mission?
- How can I build capacity for this?
If I am unsure I should immediately take action on quickly finding out more and then execute. Procrastination reduces productivity by a great deal and builds your level of anxiety.
5 Healthy Habits Businesses Should Adopt In 2019
Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019.
When we think of adopting healthy habits, we usually think in terms of our bodies or our personal lives. But as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you be adopting healthy habits for your business too? After all, like our bodies, businesses perform better – and are better able to withstand the occasional storm – when they’re functioning at an optimal level. So how does the concept of “health” translate in a small business context? Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019:
1. Streamline your cash flow
You can have all the impressive clients you want, but if they’re not paying you on time (or at all), your cash flow will suffer – making it very hard for your business to function. Similarly, if you don’t strategically keep money in your business (for example by only paying bills when you need to), you can also run into trouble. Since cash flow is so important to a healthy business, take a high-level view of the money that’s coming in and the funds going out on a regular basis. Then, make sure that the two work in tandem, so that your bottom line stays as stable as possible.
2. Apply the KonMari method
Author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has exploded in popularity in recent years, and her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been published in 30 countries. In a nutshell, the KonMari method is all about keeping only those things that spark joy in your life – whether it’s clothes, books or furniture. The result, Kondo believes, is a happier, calmer, more contented life.
You could apply this principle to business too. For example, which clients are more trouble than they’re worth – and conversely, which ones give you joy that you could find more ways to work with? Or, what services does your business provide that your heart’s really not into – and which ones are you passionate about? This mindset could apply to almost any business context, from a branding refresh to streamlining your service offering, or even just clearing the clutter from your office.
3. Use tech to get organised
Admin tasks can often be overlooked in a small business, because employees are typically wearing so many different hats: they’re salespeople, account managers, the HR department and more. But if you let the admin slip, your business can suffer, and this can spill over into your dealings with customers. Luckily these days, there’s lots of tech available to help you with almost every aspect of business administration, from invoicing and budgeting, to timesheets and project management. Most of these are available at a minimal cost (or even free), so they don’t require a huge outlay. Making this small investment can pay for itself many times over in helping your business run more smoothly.
4. Get the pipeline rolling
The key to keeping your business healthy is to keep the momentum going, which means keeping the flow of new customers. Even if you’re in a comfortable position right now, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of your industry, new competitors or the economy in general. That’s why it’s important to keep stoking your sales pipeline by looking for new leads all the time. Be proactive: go to networking events, ask to be introduced to companies you want to work with, or even just try and upsell to existing clients.
5. Keep your people healthy
When it comes to the health of yourself and your employees, the personal and business worlds definitely merge. After all, if you or your employees are constantly sick, they can’t be giving their best to your business. Several medical schemes, such as Fedhealth, have a medical aid offering specifically for corporates and their employees. Besides helping to lower absentee rates and improve productivity, you’ll also boost employee morale by the improved benefits you’re offering.
By adopting just a few healthy habits within your business, you’ll make sure that in the long run, it’s as successful as it can be. It works the other way too: A successful business will have a positive impact on you as the business owner – you’ll enjoy going to work and be happier in general, which will go a long way to keeping you healthy too.
How Your Business Can Succeed In 2019
From marketing strategies that will capture your market’s attention to how to keep top talent engaged, our experts weigh in on what you need to do in 2019 to drive growth in your business.
Don’t hunt attention; attract it
If anyone knows marketing’s future, it’s Seth Godin. The long-time guru of the subject and author of 19 books, including This Is Marketing — preaches a kind of invisible marketing. “The word marketing should mean ‘What do we call it when we make something people want?’” he says. That’ll become increasingly important as 2019 brings more digital noise. His challenge: Be relevant, not loud.
How will marketing continue to change in 2019?
Attention and trust are the two most valuable elements of our economy going forward, and big companies have a long history of just burning it, wasting it. The alternative is to be the kind of organisation that markets with people instead of at them.
What do you mean?
The mindset of pop-unders, pop-overs, spam, interruption, demographics, targeting — these are all hunting tactics. Like, We have something we want to sell and gosh darn it, we’re going to find someone to sell it to.
That stuff always makes me feel like the marketer is aware they’re unwanted.
Exactly. What we’re seeing over and over again is that the organisations that are succeeding don’t do that. They’re the ones that would be missed if they were gone. When you act in a way that helps the person achieve their dreams and goals and desires, then you don’t have to bully and elbow your way in. We’re entering this stage where everyone knows there’s no privacy left, everyone knows there’s no data security, everyone knows you can’t trust anyone. But when someone we can trust shows up, people go, “Oh, that person’s different. They’re one of us.”
Where does new technology fit into this? Entrepreneurs have a lot of tools available to them.
Online technology that’s free is generally working when you’re welcome, like emails people want to open or websites people want to visit. Online technologies you have to pay for, like programmatic advertising, snooping on people’s privacy, boosting things, are interactions that were invented to make social media money, not to help people who are making products that would be found anyway. It makes more sense not to worry about getting big but worry about being important — seeking out the smallest viable audience will demand you make something special. And if it is special, they’ll tell their friends.
That’s very back-to-basics.
Yeah; the basics of a century ago. And the reason this is hard is not because it’s scary. The tools of industrial marketing let the big companies off the hook. You just write a cheque and it’s not your fault anymore. But if you’re going to make it human, it means you’re going to put yourself out there and say, “I made this,” and someone is going to see it and say, “I don’t want it.” And it’s easy to hear that and say, “You don’t want me. I failed.” But that’s not the right answer. The right answer is, “Oh, I didn’t make this for you. I made it for someone like you who believes something different, who wants something different. Let me go find that person.”
Own your audience
Recently, the New York Times reported on a new layer of Facebook’s role in our current climate of toxicity. This same viral loop that catapulted Facebook into every corner of the earth is slowly turning the other way, towards its unwinding. Facebook isn’t going away tomorrow, but audiences are shifting their attention. When only 1% of your audience sees the content that you’re producing, it’s time for an alternative.
For us, that alternative was podcasting — a great way to own your audience. As a podcaster for the past three years, I’ve built a personal brand and a successful business brand without spending a cent on advertising. The lesson is simple: Own your audience. It’s no longer a viable strategy to rely on distribution sources such as Facebook when the economies underlying those platforms no longer make sense for content creators.
Instead, start looking at alternatives like podcasting to secure the attention of the audiences you’re trying to reach. Today, it’s all about attention. Consumers don’t want to know what products or services you offer. They want content that speaks to their needs and interests.
Podcasting is disrupting the distribution of mobile content. Simply open the app that’s preinstalled on an iPhone and off you go.
To illustrate the power of podcasting from a content creation and distribution perspective. we released an episode with Brent Tollman and within 60 minutes we generated a lead from a listener on the other side of the world — and it didn’t cost a cent.
The lesson is simple: Re-evaluate the mediums you use as an entrepreneur. Either choose a beach-head strategy where you focus on one medium only and monopolise it, putting all of your resources into creating the best execution of your brand and story, or the ‘be-everywhere’ strategy. Here you recycle your content from a podcast to create scale across social media platforms — but you must always own the attention of your audience. That is where the market for content creators is shifting.
To get started quickly and at no cost, download Anchor, an app for brands and entrepreneurs who want to start their own podcast. — Matt Brown, founder, Matt Brown Media
Building relationships is a two-way street
Growing your business network is about extending your access to great customers, employees, suppliers, mentors, investors, and other people who can help you grow your business. Start today by drawing up a list of the people you need to see and why, and allocate some time each week for networking.
Make use of your existing network to reach new contacts. A personal introduction or recommendation from a mutual acquaintance can be a powerful icebreaker. To make the most of each networking session, prepare an elevator pitch for your business — a 30-second description of who you are, what you do and how you can help the person you are meeting with.
Networking isn’t a one-way street. Where and when you can, act as a connector who introduces people to others who may share their goals and interests. This can place you in the centre of a growing business network. And don’t forget to follow up with people after the initial meetings to keep those relationships alive. — Andrew Wood, CEO, The Unlimited
A collection of diverse people in a room drives performance
We often consider diversity in the workplace as a ‘nice to have’. It’s not. Science proves that there’s a business case for diversity.
Diverse teams that are inclusive are proven to be higher-performing teams. They have higher achievement of goals and better retention of staff, which can result in higher degrees of creativity, problem-solving and social intelligence. To make diverse teams work though, we need to understand why they also make us feel uncomfortable. Our brains feel under threat in diverse teams because we aren’t surrounded by people who are ‘just like us’. If we can consciously overcome this default wiring, we can leverage the performance power of diversity.
Be aware of unconscious biases at play, and allow your teams to feel challenged by each other, because challenged teams excel. Research has proven it: A diverse team may feel uncomfortable, but they look at issues from all angles and find innovative solutions together. They’re more productive and they perform better. — Rob Jardine, NeuroLeadership Institute
Hire the best and pay them what they’re worth if you want to drive growth
As a start-up, we needed to cut down on operational costs, and human resources was an obvious place to start. It was also a huge mistake. Initially, we built 80% of our team around intern graduates. We disregarded their fields of study and used empathy instead of logic. The more an intern fumbled during an interview, the better their chances of getting placed with us.
We ended up with a workforce that wasn’t driving our business growth, with far too much of the business’s day-to-day operations resting on our shoulders. We’ve had to learn the hard way that we’re not in the business of saving the world but making money, and we’ve become deliberate about it. HR is much more than hiring, firing and training. It’s a living, breathing organism that works inside the culture of our company, which directly impacts our success.
One of the best pieces of advice we’ve received is, ‘Hire people smarter than yourself’. By following this advice, we’ve become more selective in who we hire. You should also pay your employees what they’re worth. We now have extremely high-quality individuals working on our behalf, and we give them the freedom to play to their strengths. — Relebohile Moeng, founder, Afri-Berry