6 Key Lessons From an Entrepreneur
By R. Kay Green, Ph.D., Adjunct Faculty
As we've all heard, when it comes to the definition of entrepreneurship, there are varying definitions of what this term really means. Some experts think of entrepreneurs as people who are willing to take risks that other people are not. Others define them as people who start and build successful businesses. According to the Small Business Administration (2013), an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and manages a business undertaking, assuming the risk for the sake of profit. An entrepreneur sees an opportunity, makes a plan, starts and manages a business and receives the profits.
Regardless of how we define an entrepreneur, one thing is certain: Becoming a successful entrepreneur isn't easy. In fact, it takes 110% hard work and effort. So, how does one person successfully take advantage of an opportunity, while another equally experienced person does not? Do entrepreneurs have a different genetic makeup? Or do they operate from a different perspective, which directs their decisions?
Having been an entrepreneur for several years now, I can tell you that entrepreneurship is very challenging. However, it is also very rewarding. Throughout the years I have realized that there are certain strategies that must be implemented in order to achieve success as an entrepreneur. Consider, then, the following strategies that highly increase the likelihood of success in your entrepreneurial endeavors.
#1 - Find Your Niche
For your entrepreneurial venture to be successful, you must choose a singular path. Nothing stops progress quite like spreading yourself too thin. So before you begin, pick a passion and commit to it. Figure out how to define yourself as an entrepreneur and determine where your strengths and entrepreneurial aspirations fit into the market, rather than the other way around. The key is to find out what you are inherently good at.
#2 - Understand the Power of You - Sell Your Brand
A brand is the power of ‘you’ on paper, in person, on the airwaves or on screen. It is the extension of yourself that your marketing materials try to project. Because it is representing you, it must also differentiate you. A brand must always come from the heart. It must define who you are. If it's inauthentic, it will never get off the ground. Your brand is a direct representation of you as well as your promise about what you will deliver to your customers or clients. You can't achieve if you're not in tune with what you have to offer. Create a brand that delivers.
#3 - Develop a Strong Online Presence
Any discussion about online presence starts and ends with social networking. I have built up a substantial following on Twitter and Facebook because I offer something that people can identify with. I am authentic, honest, direct and unique. These are things that drive followers to your Twitter handle or Facebook page.
Google is king. If you can't Google yourself, you don't exist. If you're not on the first page of a Google search for keywords that describe your business or brand, how can you expect to reach people? It might cost a little money to optimize your search presence, but every dime is well spent if it helps you reach your potential customers.
A strong online presence can be simple to build. Create your website according to the three C's: Constancy, Consistency and Clarity. Optimize your website on search engines. Then keep your brand consistent and powerful across the landscapes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever other social networking sites you can access. Your online brand is what people think of you when you're not there. Make sure they're always thinking the right thoughts.
#4 - Build and Maintain Long-term Customer Relationships
Good customer relationship management is the strongest and most efficient approach in maintaining and creating relationships with customers. Customer relationship management is not only pure business; but it also facilitates strong personal bonding within people. Development of this type of bonding drives the business to new levels of success. Remember, like anything valuable in life, business relationships take time. Start slowly.
#5 - Always Craft Contingency Plans
We know that even the best-laid plans have a way of coming unraveled at times. There are so many variables in life that it is often quite difficult to foresee every potential roadblock standing in your way. Sometimes those roadblocks can be mere annoyances. Other times, they can render your original strategy irrelevant.
That's why contingency planning is so important. I never do anything without first plotting a plan A, B and even C. You have to expect the unexpected in business and in life. Once you have your initial strategy in place, plot out at least one more that takes into account potential disasters. If you plan ahead, you'll be that much more prepared to overcome them when they're here.
#6 - Make (and Take) the Steps
Once you have identified and begun to research your entrepreneurial venture, you may begin creating a detailed, step-by-step plan to follow over the days, weeks and years to come. Assemble all of the information you’ve obtained through research and your relationships with any key decision makers who will help you along the path. Now, based on that information, set your goals in a reasonable fashion.
Don't set yourself up for failure by expecting to make too much progress at once. Remember, one notch at a time. Don't be the kind of person who does the research, makes the connections, creates the plan, and then doesn't do anything about it. Far too many people have the tendency to not implement their strategy because they're too afraid or overwhelmed to take that first step. Yes, starting out can be the hardest part, but once it is behind you and you begin checking steps off your list, you'll find that initially overwhelming feeling fading.
As a final point, when you achieve beginning success as an entrepreneur, you have not reached the end point. Life is a constant and ever-evolving journey. Work hard and achieve, and by all means, be sure to enjoy your success along the way. Celebrate your successes, but always look toward the future. Never give up on your entrepreneurial aspirations, and be sure to realize your ultimate vision.
This post was originally published on huffingtonpost.com.
R. Kay Green, Ph.D., is CEO and president of RKG Marketing Solutions. She earned a doctorate in business administration and marketing, completing coursework in leadership and organizational change. She also holds an MBA in marketing and management and a bachelor’s in marketing. She serves as an adjunct marketing professor with Colorado Technical University.
Image Credit: Flickr/ul_Marga