Have you ever thought of starting your own business? Perhaps you feel you can do things much, much better than your current employer. Or you are an academic or a student with a great idea and a path to commercialization by participating in an entrepreneurship program or entering a business competition.
Then again, some of you are unemployed. Or, as I like to say, “displaced,” due to the economy and, perhaps, some gaps or shortcomings in your skill set as well as the ability of your former employer to generate revenue.
You become an unintentional entrepreneur. Then again, you view your displacement from the labor pool as an opportunity to become your own boss and follow your own vision.
With passion, commitment and discipline.
Here are five items which should be at the top of your to-do list when starting your own business. And revisited at least annually as you move forward.
- Your Business Model is critical to the future success of your company. Although you may have started your entrepreneurial endeavor from your kitchen table, garage or basement, start with the end in mind. What is your exit strategy? Are you going to license your technology, franchise your idea, start a small and enduring business, or get bought out by a larger entity?
- Your Business Model is yours, not theirs. Many older entrepreneurs base their business on companies they worked for in the past. You have an opportunity for a fresh start. Make sure your business model isn’t based on the dysfunction, workarounds and baggage rampant in many mature small businesses. What is going to make your small business successful involves what works for you and your business goals, not what was present (and possibly not working) at your former employer’s facility.
- Participating in business plan competitions with your local business incubators can provide a means of polishing your messages and value propositions. These competitions are also a means of receiving some timely pro-bono consulting from the mentors who are assigned to your company. And learning what matters to investors is a valuable experience in growing your business acumen.
- Where are your customers? While it’s great to hang out your shingle and start your own business, you need folks to purchase your products and services. Avoid being seduced by former customers who tell you they look forward to working with you at your new company. They won’t. Not because they don’t like you. Because change is uncomfortable and disruptive. You are changing venue and, as a result, are asking them to change their choices as well.
- Learn how to have customer conversations that provide value to prospects. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of entrepreneurism that most people have. And it’s because of their personal experience with the sales process in their former lives. Sales and selling comes at the middle to end of the business development process. Business development is part of everyone’s job description, technical or not. And it starts with customer conversations that focus on industry, trends, technology and economics – you know, the subjects you are most comfortable with anyway. Business development doesn’t sound like a door-to-door peddler. So get rid of that mental image and take responsibility for learning to have those conversations yourself. Don’t leave the most critical part of the success of your business to someone else who may be coming from an outmoded sales paradigm with a status quo sales spiel.
Have I just described you? Let me know.
Keep in mind: you may be an unintentional entrepreneur. However, you are not alone.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.