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No matter how you look at it, starting a business is hard. One of the hardest things you may ever have to do. There’s the business plan to think over, a name, government policies to consider, how it will affect your family, finances and the list rolls on from there. Some hardened entrepreneurs suggest spending a long time thinking about if that’s really the path you want to take. If so, there is plenty of advice floating around to help you with the grueling journey. Entrepreneurs are always willing to lend their words to the younger generation of business seekers and give them assistance when the time comes. Below we have asked entrepreneurs for their best business advice.
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Photo Credit: Lida Citroen
Protect your reputation at all costs
In challenging economic times, many businesses try to be everything to every possible customer. They mold and modify their product, service offer, and solution to whatever the customer needs and they forget the importance of building brand recognition for a set of values. In an effort to satisfy customer needs and capture market share, these companies are watering down their reputation and value to the point of being seen as generic, and then they compete on price alone. Reputation and perception of value are the most valuable assets most businesses have. Along with human capital, bricks and mortar facilities and intellectual property, reputation is what makes customers feel connected to the company and leads to loyalty, sales and employee engagement. When companies fracture their reputation either by ignoring it, or by diluting its value, the impact is often hard to recover from. I recommend companies develop a set of beliefs, goals and guidelines — a common “playbook” from which all internal teams, vendors and partners operate … and then stick with it at all costs.
Thanks to Lida Citroen, LIDA360
Photo Credit: Rhonda L. Nails
Serve instead of selling
SERVE instead of SELLING and you will never have to worry about your SALES. This is the fundamental principle that rules a successful business. The best product in the world is nothing without good, quality service. Phenomenal service will turn a mediocre product into a bar-none, must have.
Thanks to Rhonda L. Nails, Project P.U.S.H
Photo Credit: Ebony Grimsley
Marketing is a must
You cannot get away from spending money on marketing activities. Word of mouth is free as there is no up front expense, but even that has a cost associated with it, called time. Be sure that you know how much you should be allocating to marketing per unit sold. If you do not have this information, you’re already doomed to not have a budget or to blow it. Remember, marketing is a must and you cannot afford or thrive in business without investing in it.
Thanks to Ebony Grimsley, Above Promotions
Photo Credit: Liz Blake
No sustainable success is due to one thing
My best business advice is a composite as no sustainable success is due to one thing. Know your personal strengths and purpose (which are closely related), crystallize your vision and the reason for the business beyond money. Be truthful to yourself and set aside time to refresh and reflect. Have unyielding faith in the great future you are creating while being ruthlessly honest about the present reality. Be firm in financial discipline and always give away a portion of your revenue to something you believe in but don’t benefit from. Make your business about service – serving your clients, employees, and part of the greater world. Believe in yourself but surround yourself with a group of mentors or colleagues who will hold you accountable to your word. Love what you do, stay with it only while you still believe in it. Regularly check you are still on the path you desire and not losing the precious things you said you were working for.
Thanks to Liz Blake, Lateral Insights
Keeping in contact with clients is the most important thing
Keeping clients is a lot less expensive than gaining new one and therefore building relationships with your clients should be your top priority. Why do companies like IGA, Big W, Kmart, Harvey Norman spend million of dollars per year for letterbox brochures. Why does McDonalds advertise every night on TV. The average small business operator finds it difficult to keep in contact with their clients because of several reasons – 1- always working in their business so they have no time to do any advertising. 2- it is to expensive in both time and money to organise products to send to their clients. 3- most small businesses do not have any programs that they can use to help them market to their clients. What Is there is a marketing product that would help solve the problem above. A) Sending a simple greeting card in the mail that has a simple thank you message to your clients will keep your company name at the forefront of your clients mine when it comes to coming back or referring you to their clients and friends when asked ” do you know someone who does —–”. To further build your relationship slip in a gift card – a $5.00 coffee gift card -saying have a coffee on me. B) Designing a calendar with your own photos showing what your company is all about. These can be sent to your clients every year. C) Send your clients birthday and anniversary cards to show the that you care. D) Set up campaigns that will automatically be send to your clients every month,3 monthly, 6 monthly etc. E) Have a client management software that you can input all your clients details into. This software will them email you a reminder of your clients birthdays and anniversaries on month before so you can organise a card and or gift to send them.
Thanks to Ed Storey, iPrimus
Photo Credit: Amanda Bracks
You need to understand three things
If you want to succeed in business you need to understand 3 things. What is your why? Why do you want to run this type of business and what is the long term impact you wish to see. This is critical to allow passion to fuel your energy levels and drive it in good times and in the bad ones. It also allows you to have focus which is really important in getting things done. The second thing to understand is the importance of systems. Without systems your service or product is just that, a service or product which anyone can replicate and its delivery is short term. Your systems give your company structure, depth, direction, consistency and a future. Lastly, you must be ok with making money. Many people fail in business because they say they are not good at sales or marketing. If you are passionate about what you do and your personal ‘why’ matches your business objectives then you don’t need to force yourself to sell because you will be naturally do ing it. Money is the lifeline of any business even if you started your business to help people. Help your business and your sanity first by being ok with making money which will assist you in helping more people in the future – employees with a solid future and customers with your product or service.
Thanks to Amanda Bracks
Photo Credit: Heidi Gorell-Hay
Just keep going and be flexible
I have two pieces of advice that might seem contradictory: just keep going, and be flexible. Change what isn’t working, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Maybe you need to find a niche, or your niche is too small and you need to diversify. Maybe you need new systems, products or services. But keep trying different things until you figure out what does work. Keep putting in the effort – you need action and momentum to succeed. Just make sure that your going in the right direction. If not, try another direction.
Thanks to Heidi Gorell-Hay, Mirror Professional Development
Photo Credit: Yulia Drummond
Measure seven times and cut once
During my childhood I spent a lot of time with my mom making patterns, sewing, and designing. I grew up in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Union republic, and realized quickly that local fashions were lacking in style, design, and quality. My mom gave me a lot of knowledge and many techniques that I still use on a daily basis. There is one thing that she would say over and over that has stuck with me to this day. It is a very old Russian saying, “Measure seven times, and cut once.” This taught me to be a perfectionist when it comes to my designs and to check my patterns and measurements completely before going into production. Of course, this saying can be applied beyond the fashion industry! The saying reinforces the idea to always do your research, check your work, and make sure you have all the facts before executing anything. In other words, be over-prepared in order to be prepared! This enables you to approach anything – whether it be a new business meeting, a new advertising campaign, or even a job interview – with the utmost confidence and efficacy, both highly attractive qualities in any business person. The fit of our suits is incredibly important and being a perfectionist in pattern making has allowed me to create suits that both look good and feel good on. I am very thankful to my mom. Without my mom there wouldn’t be me, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. Advice from my dad: There is one experience that happened between my dad and me that I still remember to this day. I was still a child, my mom was at work and we were out of bread, so I decided to bake some bread by myself so my Dad could have some. I was so proud that I was baking my first loaf of bread. I made the dough, let it rise, and I put it in the oven. When it came out it was a burnt black brick that you couldn’t eat even with a hammer and chisel. I got very upset that I’d spent so much effort and energy, but I couldn’t make a loaf of bread for my dad. He came over to me, patted me on my head and said, “Yulia, I am so proud of you that you baked this bread. Even though it is burnt, I am very happy that you made the first step towards creating it; you started it and tried it. 90% of the hardest work is actually starting something, and only 10% is completing it. Most people don’t even try to achieve something, and that’s why I am so proud of you.” That experience with my dad taught me that it is OK to try something new that you haven’t tried before. It also taught me that if you never try it, you will never do it. So why not at least try? That moment from my childhood stuck with me forever, and it was my inspiration when I was creating Voda Swim’s first ever prototypes…I just started, tried, failed, tried again…and again and again and again. Now four years later my husband and I have a successful business that is inspiring women everywhere to feel sexy in a swimsuit.
Thanks to Yulia Drummond, Voda Swim
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Bates
Don’t be an entrepreneur just to be an entrepreneur
I did not like my first business. Was it successful? Yes. Was I working the hours I wanted to and receiving an income while the business was run for me? Yes. BUT, I didn’t enjoy it. When I first started it five years prior, I was so excited just to start my own business – *that* was my goal. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I thought the ambiguous “being an entrepreneur” was what was going to give me satisfaction, despite not being passionate (enough) about what it was I was doing on a day-to-day basis. So, *my best business advice? Don’t be an entrepreneur just to be an entrepreneur. You MUST be passionate about what you are doing – especially if you’re going to start a business doing it. Exiting your own business is not nearly as simple as giving your two weeks’ notice at a job. I got lucky and was able to sell my first business pretty quickly to someone who *was*really passionate about it. I was also lucky that I was able to leave before my own negative energy started taking the business down with me. Now, I’ve taken my own advice and have started ThePetiteShop.com<http://www.ThePetiteShop.com>, which was something I could only dream about while I owned the first business. I’m 200% passionate about it, so when I work *who knows how many hours per week* at *who knows what time*, I don’t resent it – I LOVE it. THAT makes all the difference in the world.
Thanks to Elizabeth Bates, The Petite Shop
My best business advice is to never stop. You don’t need to be smart or talented – you just need to never give up on the important things that will drive business success. That means you never stop learning, never stop building relationships, never stop taking care of your employees and never stop monitoring your finances. As a bonus, it’s important to do everything in moderation, even moderation itself. And that means you don’t stop spending time with your family as well.
Thanks to Eric Siu, Single Grain
Photo Credit: Izzy Goodman
Make sure you enjoy and understand what you sell
This is my best business advice for someone starting a business: make sure you enjoy and understand what you sell or provide. Too often I find posts on forums “where can I get stuff cheap to sell on ebay?” If all you are selling is “stuff” and you don’t even care what it is, you won’t be successful. You have to choose an area with which you are already familiar and enjoy discussing. Start off with your hobbies. Do you enjoy collecting stamps, coins, baseball cards? Do you like trying out the latest technology? My hobby was advising people on how they could save money on technology. I set up a website for that purpose. A visitor advised me to stock and offer the items I was recommending. Today that hobby is a full-time family business.
Thanks to Izzy Goodman, CCS-digital.com
Photo Credit: Charley Polachi
No man (or woman) is an island
Too often, the hopeful entrepreneur thinks that they need to recreate the wheel to succeed in business. The fact is, there are many other entrepreneurs that have been in the same position and have made mistakes that we can learn from. My advice is this: get a mentor to assess your current skill set and work with you on a long term career plan. Note a mentor is very different than your current boss- the former is motivated by current department demands vs your long term career goals.
Thanks to Charley Polachi, Polachi
Photo Credit: Edie Raether
You must constantly think differently
The world is changing, but ARE YOU??? What got us to where we are is NOT what will get us to where we want to be. You must constantly think differently and leverage technology. I was reluctant to start another private practice as a psychotherapist because it takes so many years to build relationships for a prospering business. Not today. LivingSocial filled my calendar overnight for an instant business. A good SEO technician who gets you at the top of GOOGLE can do the same.
Thanks to Edie Raether
Photo Credit: Ashley Schwartau
Always say yes
Even if you have no idea how you’re going to accomplish what they want, put on a smile, nod and say yes. You’ll figure it out, get the job, make the client happy, and probably end up with a repeat customer. Plus you just learned how to do something new. It can be scary to jump off the cliff by saying yes, but usually, you find a parachute in your pocket, figure out exactly how to do what you need to do, and land on your feet.
Thanks to Ashley Schwartau, The Security Awareness Company
Photo Credit: Jennifer Byrne
Building strong relationships with people in the same field
I’m constantly asking my team to look at what other travel leaders are doing and how we can build on their success, explains Byrne. “In fact one of the best moves I’ve made in my career was to build strong relationships with about a half dozen other travel presidents and CEO’s. Sure we probably compete for some of the same business at times but we don’t let that stop us from coming together around a central goal of promoting the use of travel consultants among consumers. There’s really more than enough travelers out there for us all!”* *“Lastly, my advice is simple to CEO’s looking to get un-stuck – get out of your own way,” Byrne concludes. “After you’ve defined the exact problem you are trying to solve reach out to your team and even trusted industry connections to think through solutions. Ask them what they think and really listen to what they have to say without judgment. Once you’ve gathered feedback talk to your team again and encourage them to talk through each suggestion. You’ll be amazed what comes out of those second discussions!
Thanks to Jennifer Byrne, The Tropical Travelers
Hire out what you don’t do well
I hire out everything I don’t do well, want to learn or have time for. I am a solo-prenuer and my CPA does my books, my internet web host does my blogs, newsletter, maintains and updates my Facebook, Pinterest and Linkedin. I have a graphic artist and a college student who is doing marketing analysis. My product is plant labels for botanical gardens. They are made from laser imaged aluminum. I own the metal but outsource the cutting of it and the laser imaging and assembly, all here in town. What do I do? The initial customer contact and followup, plant marker design, file management, packing, shipping and billing. And managing all the above folks and processes.
Thanks to Karl Miller, Lark Label
Quit comparing yourself to others
QUIT comparing yourself to others! Quit reading and obsessing about individuals making their dreams come true and feeling inadequate and unsuccessful yourself. YOU are YOU! There is no one like you and you were put here to do something special. Focus your time and energy on figuring out who you are, what you want, how you can use your talents to help others. Don’t worry about money. It will not only kill you, but it will force you to live a miserable life chasing it, probably not getting it and wasting your entire life.
Thanks to Tyler McGauley, Dealetin.com
Photo Credit: Mike Richardson
Be a student of agility
Be a student of agility – it’s the only competitive advantage which has any permanence. Everything else is temporary. That’s always been the case, but these days it gets revealed increasingly quickly. We must be developing an agility advantage, as a leader, a team , an organization, a business and a corporation. It separates the winners from the losers, the victors from the victims and the best from the rest. I first learned about the criticality of agility working on offshore oil and gas drilling rigs for Shell International – we saw from the BP Gulf Oil spill what can happen if your agility gets tested and you fail the test. It served me well as an Executive and CEO through my career in Aerospace. Now, as a coach, mentor and facilitator for entrepreneurs and CEOs, agility is the #1 driver of success
Thanks to Mike Richardson, Sherpa Alliance Incorporated
Photo Credit: Paul C. Burr
Build relationships based on truth
Only four things hold you back in business and life: anger, sadness, shame and fear. When you look inside these negative emotions, they’re all fear. The opposite of truth is falsity. Behind all falsity lies fear. Build relationships based on truth and you drive out the falsity that would otherwise hold them back.
Thanks to Paul C. Burr, PhD
Photo Credit: Mickey Boodaei
Look at your team, the industry and be
When starting a technology business, it’s important to first evaluate the team, the industry and the idea – in that exact order. Especially as entrepreneurs look to obtain funding and attract investors, one must establish the many parameters which determine what traits an “A team” business should possess. For example, investors want entrepreneurs who are extremely dedicated and would do everything they can to ensure their company’s success. For a business to be a success, entrepreneurs need to understand the market they are entering, the way it conducts business and be able to adapt offerings in order to fill the needs of the industry. These entrepreneurs have to be good listeners and always think about the real goal, which in the technology industry, is selling products, not necessarily building technologies. The technology is a tool and businesses are tasked to build it in a way that it will sell – which may not be the ideal technical design.
Thanks to Mickey Boodaei, Trusteer
Photo Credit: Ronnie Ram
Know you business and product and excel at it
In today’s competitive environment, we come across hundreds of companies that try to be everything to everyone. The greatest advice I can offer in business is to know your business and your product and excel at it. We have all heard of the old adage, “you don’t go to a foot doctor for a headache!”. Well, the same thing applies in business today. Customers want to deal with an expert day in and day out. They don’t want to deal with a company or person who know a little bit about this and a little bit about that. They expect and deserve to get the best advice from the most knowledgeable person. So if you sell widgets, sell widgets and if someone asks you for a recommendation on insurance, refer them to the best people that you know. My company sells advertising and puts together clear and powerful media plans. That is what we do. We are in the client satisfaction business, not the “we do everything business”!
Thanks to Ronnie Ram, InspiriaMedia