Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

By Jennifer Beaucage

Thousands of books are available on building a small business and becoming a successful entrepreneur. If you are considering your first entrepreneurial venture, you may feel overwhelmed by all the information and resources, not to mention all the self-described experts who are clamoring to give you advice.

However, most business experts will agree on some basic principles that apply to any successful venture. These principles have proven invaluable to me as a self-employed business owner and manager. Whether you are already self-employed or still in the planning stages, these tips can help to increase your results.

Flexibility & Focus

One of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur is maintaining the balance between flexibility and focus. Watch market trends and continue to do research after you have completed your business plan. Staying in tune with your market and your clients will help you prepare for change and anticipate economic and purchasing changes that may affect your business.

In an ever-changing marketplace, be prepared to make significant adjustments to your business plan and operations - while maintaining your original goals. This is a difficult balance to strike, but it will separate you from your competition. When your clients need a new service or product you'll be prepared to deliver!

Skill Transfer

Know your skill-set, and understand how those skills can transfer to any job or opportunity. Do you excel in sales? Is your ability to organize your best asset? Work to understand your skills - especially those that apply to every job.

Some of your best assets may not seem business-worthy. For example, someone with a lovely smile will win more contracts than someone who is negative in their dealings with people.

One dimension of knowing your skills is to understand what skills you do not have. For example, if you are not good with numbers, then you must include hiring accounting services in your business plan. Invest some time in learning: when to ask for help; where to get that help (use your network); when to use a lawyer; when to make a contract; and where to go for funding.

Organization

You must be organized if you want to be an entrepreneur. Consider investing in a good database to keep track of clients and contacts. Develop organized and clearly understood order forms and define procedures for handling orders. Create a good filing system for both paper and electronic documents - then USE THEM! When opportunity knocks, you'll be ready to answer!

Sales Skills

One of the most important skills you will need - as a sheep farmer, real estate agent or a graphic designer - is your ability to sell. It's a myth that great products sell themselves. Get to know your sales style and learn how to negotiate. You will have happier clients and will close more sales (which equals more money!). Some good books for learning and developing sales skills include: Secrets of Power Negotiating for Salespeople; Sales Dogs; 13 Secrets of Power Performance (all of these books can be found on Amazon.com).

Planning

You can never over-plan! Planning allows you to determine weaknesses in your overall business approach and marketing plans. It will clarify your financial requirements, help you learn about your target market, and help you avoid over-spending. Resources for business plans include: Business Plans for Dummies; there are also several Coles Notes booklets on writing business plans and planning small businesses.

Networking

Relationships are the backbone of any successful business; they will help you to discover clients and resources you may not otherwise find. When developing your business plan and approach, your network will be an invaluable source of information and experience. Contacts will increase word-of-mouth advertising and bring you new opportunities for sales.

But always watch what you say - you never know whom you are talking to! The person at a supplier's BBQ might be a friend of your biggest client. Never speak negatively of yourself, your clients or your suppliers!

Remember to thank people in your network for their help. Avoid e-mail for this process - send a card or a hand-written note and you will be remembered for your manners and your attitude. Use your database to keep track of your network, including the 'little things'… if you remember that the last time you spoke with someone they had just had a baby, it will make an impression if you ask how the baby is doing the next time to you talk to that client.

Documentation

Written documentation protects your interests and captures your intentions. You will often hear people say 'get it in writing'. They're not kidding! Research the specific document you need and cover all aspects of the partnership, transaction or contract.

Get to know a good business lawyer and find out how they can help you and when. Clearly state your ownership and the restrictions and requirements of that ownership (always clearly define any partnerships for your safety and theirs, you may love them now, but in three years things could be very different). Protect your products with patents and trademarks - there are many people who will think your product is great, they won't hesitate to steal your idea if you give them the chance.

Faith

The belief in your product is important, but …the belief in yourself is monumental. Never underestimate the power of attitude - if you believe you can do it, you will! Learn the traits of successful salespeople and business people, but stay true to yourself. Your personal beliefs and convictions will stay with you through every business venture. Nurture your beliefs and integrate them into your business approach - they will provide the strength and determination you will need for the tough times.

 

Jennifer Beaucage has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Operations and works as a self-employed new home builder. Successful past business ventures include the start of the Calgary & Edmonton Pet Expos, as well as a website design business. Visit Jennifer online at http://members.shaw.ca/jennifer.beaucage/

 


 
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