When you get started in business you will typically be bombarded with a thousand good ideas from hundreds of people who may or may not know a thing about how to succeed in business. Taking their advice may do you great harm. One must always ask themselves, “why would this person give me this counsel?” If they make their living by selling advertising of course they will say their advertising is the best. If they offer a gadget or an app that is supposed to save you time, they will want to convince you that theirs is the best.
A good question to ask a salesperson is, “Have you ever owned a business?” And close behind that question should be another, “As a business owner what differences did this make for you?”
So what do you really need to succeed in a start-up venture?
While it varies industry by industry there are a few common things that everyone needs. Here are 5 essentials:
- Good mentorship. Real mentorship can be had and it should be pursued. One mistake that new entrepreneurs make is that they believe they are the only one who ever had this kind of business so they do not seek advice. That is a mistake that could cost you everything. One poor decision can take you out. So find someone who has succeeded at anything at all and that is a better mentor than not having one because you can’t find a person in your industry. Entrepreneurs are busy people but they typically enjoy the stimulating conversation of someone who is earnestly looking to learn. Ask questions and listen more than you talk. Build the relationship and don’t ask for their business. That may come later after you have won trust but it is not the purpose of the friendship. You need their wisdom to survive.
- Capital or cash flow. You either need a lot of up front capital or you need to produce a solid and consistent cash flow. If you are producing widgets part-time and working at a job, keep the job until you have enough consistent orders or you will die. Your family will suffer. You will hurt. Cash flow is king.
- Marketing, marketing, marketing. Sales cannot be properly supported unless you have invested either time into marketing or money and in many cases both. Never wait to start marketing. Your sales staff needs to have brochures to explain your service and they should have business cards and whatever else it takes to support a sale. It also takes months to produce a legitimate following online with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. So don’t wait until your product launches to get started or you will shout about your new business to an empty room. Start building a small following online and take them with through the journey. By the time you launch you will have an active group of engaged cheerleaders who are excited about your new offering!
- Website and online presence. Today is a different world than it was even 5 years ago. These are not just about marketing these are essential to your survival and your success. Your credibility will be judged by a prospects ability to find information about you online. While branding is important do not wait to have it all perfectly aligned in the heavens to get started. You can set up a website for anywhere from $100 to $10,000 and you need to either have it done for you or get to work on it late at night. Remember that after they look at your website they then go look at you the owner. So develop a personal profile on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Don’t delay if you want to succeed.
- Accounting and tracking. Entrepreneurs often lack good bookkeeping skills. Get over it and get help. Use an online program or hire someone for a few hours a month to just keep you on track. An unpaid GST bill or a badly done tax return can destroy you. One also needs to know the numbers to improve the sales ratio later. If nothing is tracked success will be lacking. Find systems that work and implement them sooner rather than later.
Kerry George is the owner of the Canadian Imperial Business Network which is currently the largest business network in Alberta and rapidly expanding across the country. She is a serial entrepreneur/author and speaker with a zest for life and a passion to help others succeed in increasing their potential and their bottom line. Kerry has several publications and blogs that you can follow and welcomes most interaction online.