I started a global marketing firm 16 years ago so have plenty of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or ones who have already launched and may be looking for some advice and inspiration.
First, make sure you have a strong idea:
- When real customers are willing to pay real money for your product or service, you have a real business* If the days (and nights) fly by and you have more ideas than time to address them all, you’re moving in the right direction.
- If the days (and nights) fly by and you have more ideas than time to address them all, you’re moving in the right direction.
- When you believe in your core that a bad day on your own is better than a good day at your desk job, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Once you establish you are ready to launch, here are a few tips from my experience as an entrepreneur:
- Be original. What makes you unique or special?
- Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competitio n?
- Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.
- Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.
- Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.
- Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting.
Once you go live, my advice is to go on a Listening Tour! Politicians do it all the time and it is great for business too. Make a list the movers & shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open ended questions then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. If you listen to what they share with you there will be plenty of opportunities to help them. I did it when business slowed and picked up several new clients but you can do it any time. It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun too. Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed what you find. It does not cost much, for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful. I had no idea what to expect and got a lot of new work as a result. I did my listening tour the old fashioned way by sending out e-mails & picking up the phone then brought a pad & pen, asked a few open ended questions then shut up and started taking notes.
Beware because the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The biggest mistake and hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers.
I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have. It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were the re. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned!
Prospective customers can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behavior & make a great lasting impression. Be nice to everyone & make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help! It is true you should never burn a bridge, that really is great advice and I can tell you dozens of stories over the years where that has served me well. You just never know when your paths will cross again with old colleagues, former bosses, etc. Kill them with kindness an d don’t ever burn that bridge, trust me it pays off! Also, be the best prepared at every meeting, work your butt off and smile. It has worked for me at least!
I love working for myself! Being an entrepreneur allows me to do work with and for people I admire and respect. I get to apply my expertise to help organizations grow and tell their story with the right words and pictures. I feel very lucky that I have been able to build a career from work I enjoy and get energized by. I do have an MBA but I do not think it is required to be successful as an entrepreneur. It as helped me especially the contacts I made there. Good luck and have fun!