The Right Trajectory
The 9-to-5 job just doesn’t cut it. You’re creative, self-motivated and energetic. You like challenges and the potential for big rewards. Sounds like you’re an entrepreneur in the making. Before jumping in, however, study up on these entrepreneurial tips to get your entrepreneurial engines started right and your business headed in the right direction.
Profile of an Entrepreneur
Successful entrepreneurs share similar identifiable characteristics. From passion and creativity to relationship-building and networking, an entrepreneur’s skills must be many and varied. Experts list the following characteristics as key to building a successful new business:
- Creativity. Chances are your product or service was born of your creativity. Make sure you keep creativity at the forefront of your business, as it will help keep you inspired and your idea mill fresh.
- Ambition. Business owners must have drive and determination. They must be willing to take calculated risks to advance their business and its bottom line.
- Initiative. Entrepreneurs don’t wait for things to happen; they make things happen.
- Communication skills. Clearly and effectively communicating your ideas and expectations to others - verbally or in writing - is key to establishing a healthy business. In business, there’s no such thing as over-communication.
- Knack for Negotiation - As they say, “You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em.” Knowing how to negotiate deals while understanding the position of those you’re dealing with will help you leverage your business in advantageous ways.
- Good judgment. Objectivity is often an entrepreneur’s best friend. Consider all perspectives before making a final decision. Try not to let emotions get the best of you.
- Endurance. Starting a company often means saying goodbye to evenings and weekends. To fuel your entrepreneurial endeavor, be sure to eat right, exercise regularly and get restful sleep. If you tire or get distracted easily, take scheduled breaks to move around and re-focus.
- Self-reliance. The buck stops with the boss. As a business owner, you will experience countless challenges in building your business for which you will have to find solutions. Have confidence in your ability to problem-solve and be resolute in the decisions you make.
- Support system. The first years of a new business are fraught with ups and downs. Be sure to surround yourself with people who can support and encourage you during this time. You may even benefit from having a mentor or similar advisor. Organizations like SCORE (http://www.score.org/), consisting of retired business owners and professionals, often fill these roles by offering free guidance to entrepreneurs in a range of industries
Be honest in your self-assessment of these characteristics and be willing to work on ones needing improvement. Remember that many successful entrepreneurs often hire staff with the characteristics that they themselves lack.
For more help on business readiness, The U.S. Small Business Administration (http://www.sba.gov/) provides a comprehensive questionnaire (https://eweb1.sba.gov/cams/training/business_primer/assessment.htm).
Attitude Is Everything
No matter your skills, education or background, one qualification solely in your control is attitude. Your attitude as a young entrepreneur permeates every aspect of your business and can just as easily contribute to your rise as it can your downfall. At every turn, try to maintain a positive, focused attitude that allows for constructive criticism. Encourage positivity in those around you as well. To stay positive and forward thinking, use these motivational tips:
- Set goals. Establishing goals - and meeting them - allows us to see the results of our hard work. We feel accomplished, motivating us to do even more.
- Have a plan. Each day is valuable in the life of a business. Use your days wisely by scheduling tasks and appointments in a day planner or appointment book. This will keep you focused and motivated.
- Deadline it. "Deadline" may be a nasty word in some circles, but deadlines help keep a business moving forward. Without them, we fall prey to procrastination and inertia.
- Act now. Procrastination is human nature, but try not to let it become the nature of your business. Delaying or putting off important tasks can stall progress and kill momentum. Experts recommend breaking down chores into smaller increments to avoid procrastination.
- Move swiftly and efficiently. Problems and obstacles arise in business, but it’s how you respond to them that makes the difference between a good and bad outcome. Address problems swiftly, and don’t linger or dwell on decisions once they’ve been made.
- Avoid negativity. Negative thoughts affect actions, which in turn affect results. As a business owner, avoid negative thoughts by making a weekly list of things that are going right. Keep this list in sight at all times.
- Live in the Moment. Business is about as futuristic a profession as can be had - anticipating market trends, trying to read customers’ minds and predicting a competitor’s next move. Despite feeling the future’s undeniable tug, try living in the moment as best you can by enjoying the people and things right in front of you.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with positive people. Find these people - whether friends, family or employees - and keep them close to you.
Leading the Entrepreneurial Way
Leadership in the context of small business entrepreneurship has multiple roles. You are at once guide, tactician, spokesperson, number-cruncher, cheerleader, role model, and, at times, even confidant. The various operational demands placed on business leaders may be equally as daunting - monitoring finances, hiring talent, delegating responsibility, ensuring project turnaround, working with clients, and sometimes even taking out the office garbage.
To preface with words of one famous bard, “To thine own self be true.” If as a leader you let employees, customers and others see and experience the real you, then chances are they will follow you and champion your cause. Be something different or act in a way inconsistent with your brand, and you may hazard losing the very people helping you build your business.
As a young entrepreneur, you will experience success and failure. Both conditions have their lessons that will grow your business. Other business-growing practices leaders can initiate include constant reinforcement and praise of employees or staff; clear, effective communication; willingness to adapt to new or unforeseen circumstances; admitting to mistakes when they happen; and empathy.