We recently spoke with a member of our co-working space who owns a PR/marketing company and is the only employee of his company. His firm is successful and has been in business for more than three years since he left a large organisation where he was the head of PR.
Our conversation got around to the issue of extra help. When he needs additional skills to fulfill assignments, this man told us, he contracts with other professionals. That was interesting, we thought. Because, although our PR friend is talented and able to support his growing family, his comment about contracting out work raised a question for us.
“Was he trying to build a company or create a job for himself?” we wanted to know. It was a question that struck a chord with this man – one that he later came back to discuss.
In that context, we want to state that we think that we consider either choice a valid one, but one that should be a specific choice, nonethless. We work with and mentor dozens of small start-ups. And many start as single-person firms completing short assignments for a variety of other small or midsized companies.
There are more than 28 million small business in the United States. Of these, single-person companies are in the majority, representing three-quarters of all small businesses. These individuals, whether they planned it or not, have created a job for themselves. They will not hire employees or scale their businesses. Of course, this need not be negative.
Done right, a one-person business can actually make good money. It can give the owner the flexibility to choose assignments that are interesting and fulfilling, and to enjoy the flexibility of working when and where he or she chooses.
The “micro-business” category
A person working alone, or essentially alone, is a business category we call a “microbusiness.” The defining characteristic of a micro business is that the owner or principal is doing the primary work of the business, whether that means providing PR services or baking cookies. He or she may have helpers in the form of other freelancers, vendors or assistants, but the preponderance of the revenue comes directly from the work of this principal.
The key to the success of a micro business is how well the principal does its primary work, which includes selling. We find that the biggest challenge in a micro business is finding a steady stream of work. By the way, our consulting practice is a successful micro business. We have one paid full-time employee, our marketing assistant, but we do the primary work of our business – consulting.
The small business structure
Many people who own micro-businesses choose to stay at this size. However, if you want to build a business, you will need to grow, at least to what we call a small business structure, where the primary work is delegated to others. The owner might keep his or her hand in it, but others do the preponderance of the work. At this point, how well the principal does the primary work of the business is not nearly as important as it was when the enterprise was a micro business.
Personally, we found it difficult to transition to a small business structure in our consulting business for a couple of reasons. First, when people hire Doug and Polly to consult to their small business, they want Doug and Polly, not an associate. Second, we are limited in the amount we can charge to the very small businesses we serve. The fees we charge are not high enough to pay talent at the level we would want and still provide a sufficient markup for our firm. Therefore, Whitestone Partners has stayed a micro business.
It’s important to note that the role of the entrepreneur changes dramatically as a business moves from micro to small. In fact, at the point of transition, the principal has to let go of doing the very thing that made the company successful at the prior step. In a micro business, the business lives or dies based on how well the owner performs the primary work of the business. This makes sense. You have created a job, and you keep it or lose it based on how well you do the work.
But, if you choose to grow to a small business structure, success depends on how well the principal hires and manages workers. If you are the principal, your role will change. If you want to bake cakes, stay a micro business. If you want to run a bakery, you need to build a business. This is a scary step and one that can cause the principal sleepless nights.
Many people we mentor balk at this transition when they realise they will be responsible for the livelihood of others. However, to grow a business, yourself,, eventually, you will need to hire and manage employees.
Next . . . the midsize business
If you’re successful at the small business stage and choose to continue to grow, you will become a midsize business. The business has transitioned from small to midsize when at least one layer of management has been inserted between the principal and those doing the primary work. The principal has gone from managing workers to managing managers. This might sound like a small change. It is not.
To effectively utilise managers, the principal must delegate decision-making authority to them. This means giving up a measure of control, which is often difficult for entrepreneurs who are used to making every significant decision in the company.
This also is the transition with which growing companies most often struggle. Letting go of some control is a scary thing for entrepreneurs, and they are right to feel trepidation. Ineffective delegation can lead to the ruin of the business – we’ve seen it too often. To enable effective delegation, the principal will need to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place. This means making certain that the business has the right managers, that processes are well-documented and that appropriate metrics are in place.
Meanwhile, if you want to create a life that has flexibility and autonomy and allows you to work when and where you like, you should probably choose to stay a micro business. As we like to say, you can create a great job for yourself. If you want to build something more, you will need to move to a small business structure. You will know that you have transitioned from micro to small when you have delegated most of the primary work of the business to others.
To truly scale a business, you will need to transition to midsize or larger. You will have done this once you’ve delegated day-to-day decision-making authority to a layer of managers that is between you and those doing the primary work of the businesses.
Each choice is valid and comes with its own challenges. However, we believe that it should be a conscious and specific choice. If you are unsure which direction to take, find an experienced consultant or mentor with whom to explore your options, skill sets, and desires. Then move forward with purpose in the direction that works for you.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
12 Entrepreneurial Traits That Will Tempt You To Quit Your Job Immediately
Unhappy in your job? It’s possible you’re an entrepreneur.
You’re sitting at your desk one day, and a light bulb goes off for a business idea. After a couple of days spent contemplating the idea, you decide it’s not worth pursuing.
While the idea might not have been as great as you initially thought, the reality might be that you’re uncertain if you are cut out to be your own boss. After all, starting and running a business isn’t for the faint of heart.
You may actually have what it takes to be an entrepreneur but you have been focused on providing for your family or just need a little spark to ignite that fire. If you’ve been on the fence about entrepreneurship, see if you have the following traits.
1. Your “business mind” began spinning at a young age
Think back to when you were young. Were you the type of kid who was making money with a side gig? That’s one of the most common denominators linking successful entrepreneurs.
For example, Daymond John created customised pencils for girls in his first-grade class. Mark Cuban sold trash bags in his neighbourhood as a 12-year-old. Richard Branson bred and sold parakeets. Juliette Brindak designed a website at age 16 that went on to be worth $30 million.
Simply put, the gears of an entrepreneur’s “business mind” start spinning at an early age. If you’ve always been looking for ways to make money, you’ve probably been an entrepreneur your whole life – you just didn’t realise it.
2. You’re a self-starter
Entrepreneurs are known for carving their own paths. They don’t follow others, wait for permission or let distractions get in their way.
Reflect on your life. Did you start an organisation in college? Have you volunteered for a local charity? When there’s a project to complete at work, have you been the person to take the reins and rally the troops?
These are signs that you have a get-it-done personality, which is essential to making your vision a reality. This is a very good sign you’re an entrepreneur.
3. You think like MacGyver
Back in the ’80s, there was an amazing TV show called “MacGyver“ – there’s a reimagined version currently on-air. The series was about Angus “Mac” MacGyver, who was a troubleshooter with unconventional problem-solving skills. One time, he made a hot-air balloon out of a soccer ball, kerosene, newspapers and cotton.
Entrepreneurs are also troubleshooters who develop innovative and out-of-the-box ideas to solve problems. They are resourceful and think quickly on their feet.
4. Losing gets you fired up
No one likes to lose. But there’s a big difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else – they’re motivated by setbacks.
They don’t make excuses, complain or give up. Instead, they use setbacks as motivation. Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. He loves losing. It sounds a bit out there. But, as he explains, “I’m obsessed with losing.” The reason? “I love losing, because I know what you’re thinking about my loss, and I can’t wait to stick it in your face when I come back.”
5. You’re driven by passion
Passion: It drives us to take risks and pursue our dreams. For entrepreneurs, this also means focusing only on the goals they’re passionate about. It encourages them to see those goals through – regardless of distractions or hurdles.
If you’re the type of person who works out when you’re in pain or completes a project at your current gig before the deadline, you’re driven by passion.
6. You are easily bored
Do you find yourself easily bored? Some people might think that’s a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being bored with activities that don’t use your abilities or aren’t challenging.
That’s why throughout school, you couldn’t stand most of the classes you attended. They either weren’t difficult enough or you just couldn’t sustain any interest – you knew you wouldn’t be using the information presented to you.
7. You’re able to delay gratification
Few successful entrepreneurs experienced overnight success. The reality is that it may take years, if not decades, for entrepreneurs to develop and launch a business. Even after they start their business, it takes a decent amount of time to start turning a profit. It takes many around three years, but this can vary.
Because of this, entrepreneurs must be patient and willing to delay gratification. At the same time, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
8. At work, you’re a super connector; at home, you’re a loner
When you’re at work, are you a rock star? This means you excel at your job, and people flock to you. When you get home, are you more of a loner?
That’s not exactly shocking. Entrepreneurs place a huge emphasis on their work. Even bigger on having productive habits at work. It’s their priority – even at the expense of close personal relationships.
Richard Branson has said that “Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships.”
9. You can spot trends
When entrepreneurs are out and about, they’re taking stock of what’s going on around them. It’s not some strange safety precaution. It’s because they’re looking for trends and analysing what customers are demanding.
Take Beanie Babies, for example. The craze started when a community in the Chicago suburbs started trading the stuffed animals. After it went national, Peggy Gallagher noticed it hadn’t reached Germany. Gallagher contacted a distributor in Germany and placed an order for $2 000. She brought the box of hard-to-find stuffed animals back to the States and made an impressive $300 000.
10. You go big or go home
“We’re often told not to ‘bet the house’ on anything,” writes Lauren Elmore, president of Firmatek. “It’s generally good advice. But the best business advice I’ve received is actually the opposite: Bet the house on it.”
“Betting the house is the best piece of advice I’ve received because it’s not a singular thing to do,” explains Elmore. “It’s a way of life and a mentality that promotes taking risks and giving everything you have to make it work.”
Of course, just because you go all-in doesn’t mean you do so carelessly. Entrepreneurs minimise risks by surrounding themselves with the right people, being resilient and addressing their fears to let them go.
11. You’ve had a history of losing jobs
Have you bounced from job to job because you got fired? Don’t be embarrassed. You’re just too creative, driven and self-motivated to work for someone else.
I’d even say you may be a bit selfish – why should someone else reap the benefits of your hard work and talent?
12. You’re never satisfied
In school, did you best your classmates in academics or sports, but still feel disappointed? Do you have more sales than your colleagues, but it’s still not enough?
You’re constantly striving for more because you realise victories are short-lived. That’s why you see a lot of entrepreneurs start a thriving business and move on to another – they want to tackle new challenges and setbacks.
You may not have made the entrepreneurial leap yet, but if these 12 traits sound familiar, it’s more likely a matter of “when,” not “if.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Want To Get That Side Hustle You’ve Been Dreaming Of Off The Ground This Year?
Stop dreaming. Carve out 30 minutes a night after the kids are in bed, and start putting together something tangible.
Want to make extra income? Who doesn’t? That’s why so many people in recent years have been taking their talents and skills and turning them into a side hustle. In fact, according to a recent survey from Bankrate, nearly four in 10 Americans polled (37 percent) said they have a side hustle.
Unfortunately, though, a lot of people get stuck in the “dreaming” stage. They sit around brainstorming ideas and dreaming of the day they have a successful side hustle that brings them joy and money but never actually get started. Well, scratch that: This is the year to turn it all around.
And to do that, and get one step (or multiple steps) closer to turning your side gig idea into an actual money-maker, check out these five tips for how to get your side hustle off the ground this year.
1. Change your mindset
A lot of people never get their side hustle off the ground because they have the wrong mindset. I know it seems simple, but believing in yourself and thinking of yourself as a business owner and not just a hobbyist will make all of the difference when it comes to starting a successful side hustle.
Even if you’re nowhere near to being a successful business owner yet, act like one. In fact, the “fake it until you make it” strategy actually works. According to a study in Psychology Today, people gain influence by acting dominant and confident. This strategy has the ability to convince people you’re serious about your side hustle and can win you customers, too.
2. Create an agenda
You can’t expect your side hustle to take flight on its own; you’ve got to put in the hours to get it off the ground. I know it’s hard to feel motivated to do that when you’ve already got a full-time job and a ton of other responsibilities, but you’ve got to set time aside.
Luckily though, you don’t have to fear burning out to get it done: Chris Guillebeau, founder of the Side Hustle School and author of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, says that you can develop a successful side hustle by carving out just 20 to 30 minutes of your day. If you’re a parent, you might choose 30 minutes each evening after the kids are in bed; or you could even use your lunch break at work.
Whatever time you choose, put it in your calendar, set an alarm for it, stick to it and don’t let anyone drag you away from it.
3. Join a community
Sometimes we all need a little bit of inspiration to give us the push we need and some good solid advice to help us improve. That’s why you should join an online community for side hustlers. Joining with like-minded people can help you build a support system of buddies who have been where you are now and can provide a wealth of information to get your side hustle going.
There are tons of such groups onlines. Simply search for them on Facebook and LinkedIn and you’ll discover numerous groups for every niche. Ask questions, bounce ideas off other members, learn from others’ mistakes and get inspired by stories of success. All of this community interaction will push you in the right direction.
4. Build a tangible brand
Branding is the personality that identifies a company to its customers. Even if your business is only part-time, you still need to build a brand in order to attract customers and present yourself as a professional business. This means creating a logo, coming up with a tagline and developing a theme for your website, including a colour scheme and personality. All of this will work together to show your target audience who you are as a business.
If you’re thinking that all of that sounds expensive, don’t worry. For side hustlers who are strapped for cash, there are a number of ways to create a stunning brand while still saving your pennies. If you set up your website with WordPress, for example, you’ll find many free and affordable website themes to help you build a brand with just the click of a button. You can also use a free tool like Canva to create a gorgeous logo, business cards, flyers and more for your side hustle venture.
5. Start marketing your side hustle
The final step to getting your side hustle off the ground is to start putting yourself out there. So, whatever you do, don’t keep your side hustle a secret! Start telling all your friends, family and neighbours about your side hustle. One of them could become your first client or customer or could recommend you to someone he or she knows.
Next, get online and start marketing your side hustle on social media. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are particularly great for marketing product-based side hustles. Other free ways to market your side hustle online include joining forums like Quora, blogging and building an email list and cold-emailing potential clients to offer your services.
Over to you
Don’t sit around again this year wondering if your side hustle has what it takes to make money. Get out there and make it happen. With the new tips you’ve learned, this year will finally be the year you hit the ground running.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Should Adopt Today
There are certain skills that any entrepreneur can adopt to help build a business and shape their future.
The road taken by the entrepreneur used to be the one least travelled. The one where only the bold dared to tread and few understood the risk or benefitted from the reward. Today, the road may be one travelled by many but it still comes with challenges and obstacles that can trip up the unwary. The best way to thrive, is to learn from other entrepreneurs, using their learnings and mistakes to sidestep the challenges and embrace the opportunities.
Here are seven skills that any entrepreneur can apply to their journey today:
1. A vision
Know exactly what you want. Have a clear idea of your end goal. Write it down, verbalise it, embrace it. This is how you know exactly where your steps will take you. Your vision is what defines the strategic goals of your company and what helps you create a business plan that will get you where you want to go.
2. Ask questions
Question yourself, your plans, your strategy, your business plans and your decisions. This is a critical skill that will ensure that you are constantly driving yourself to be better tomorrow than you are today. By challenging yourself at every turn you will refine your vision and ensure you are always on the right path.
3. Passion and energy
Nobody else is going to be passionate about your business. Nobody else has the energy to take it where it has to go. It is entirely up to you. This may sound extreme, but without these two key qualities you will battle to take your business through the complexities that lie ahead and onwards into long-term success.
4. A work ethic
Like passion and energy, a work ethic is critical. This is your business and your vision so you need to put in the hours. And there are a lot of hours.
If you’re not prepared for the weekends, late nights and unexpected holiday disruptions, then you may not be ready for the demands of being an entrepreneur.
5. Create opportunity
While you may be the vision, the passion and the workhorse of your business, it is important to remember that your company can only go so far with only one person behind the wheel. Learn how to build a team and focus your energy on building something bigger than yourself. Your drive should not be just about building a successful business, but creating opportunities for others.
Throughout your journey you will need to share your vision, ideals and business plans with your employees and your executives. They have to buy into what you are planning, to be fully engaged with the work that they do. This means you have to learn how to communicate clearly and create a transparent culture so people feel part of something and committed to what it represents.
Ultimately, you want your business to grow and this means mastering the art of selling. Regardless of your business proposition, it is likely you need customers to buy into your product or service. So, learn how to sell. A large part of this magic formula is made up of the passion, energy and work ethic you’ve already mastered, the rest is all about relationships, communication and hooking the clients.