Becoming and Entrepreneur – First Steps

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Becoming and Entreprenuer

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur is a perilous voyage, and the first motions in that direction are critical to arriving at your goal intact. The hardest step of any journey is often the first one.

I have spent the vast majority of my life traveling that road. Frequently I question the choices that lead to this course. Maybe there was a simpler, nicer, cleaner route through life. Might there be the possibility of joy and fulfillment down a route I passed by?

Questioned yes, but regretted never. It is a life not everyone is suited for, but most people can do it.

Being an entrepreneur - A warning

Being an entrepreneur, is not an easy journey. To succeed it takes dedication, commitment and a high tolerance for failure. Never should this direction be chosen on a whim. That hard step, turning the course of your entire life to a singular goal, is terrifying for most people. The serial entrepreneurs I know have never felt that fear. I am not sure if we choose to ignore it or lack the intelligence to understand the overwhelming odds and risks we face.  I don't remember any other choice. Opportunities present themselves if you know how to see them, and either you take them through, you half ass it (guaranteeing failure), or you skip it entirely.

My beginning has the air of legend, at least within my family. I was too young for me to trust my memory of the events, so I will tell it as has been reported to me.

My first ever 'business', a sign of the future course of my life, happened when I was in daycare. I had learned to make origami items, and other children were eager to obtain them, so I started selling them to the other kids for a quarter. Rapidly, the demand outpaced my ability to supply them, so I made the logical conclusion that I could pay some of the other youngsters to make them for less than I sold them to the others. I went so far as to create a catalog (pretty sure it was rendered with crayon). Evidently the overseers, frowned on me charging others for the items, and they talked my parents into helping end my fledgling operation. Undeterred, I pivoted to charging the kids to teach them how to do origami.

My next significant adventure in entrepreneurial pursuits, occurred only a few years after the first. I was at church camp that my grandparents ran. Following each camp group (roughly every week) they would have a end of term party, with balloons etc. Grandma paid my brother and I a few bucks to do clean up after the parties. As it turns out one of the items that was banned at camp, was water balloons. So, rather than popping them we untied and pocketed each of the balloons during cleanup. We'd fill the balloons and sell them to campers. As it turned out, contraband is lucrative. I used that knowledge to start a string of ventures during elementary and middle school. I bought candy in bulk and resold it by the individual piece. Occasionally some new fad would catch on and I'd repeat the process with that toy or item. Yo-Yo's, fireballs, even toothpicks soaked in cinnamon oil. At an early age I learned the value of the supply and demand curve, and developed a fairly keen sense of where the market was heading, and picking out opportunities early.

I am using my origin story to illustrate a few important lessons I learned early on.

  1. I never made a large bet, each attempt had minimal downside, and a low initial overhead. I was able to enter each market with a limited outlay, and my profit potential was high, but limited as well.
  2. I was always responding to an existing, unmet, market demand. Never did I rush in with an idea or product that was not already demonstrating a strong draw.
  3. I always knew my market and customers, never tried selling to someone outside of my peers and sphere of influence.
  4. Never, was I afraid of failing, not once did I put in place a fallback. If something disrupted the market, I adjusted to that new environment.

In very simple terms a successful entrepreneur needs to:

  1. Minimize risk
  2. Identify and respond to the market
  3. Know your customer
  4. Plan only for success but be willing and able to adapt

What should be your first steps as an entrepreneur? You should learn to identify problems that have not been solved. In my examples it was pent up demand with no outlet. Since then I have also learned that the problem can be summed up as friction in any market. Something that slows down transactions from happening at the speed of thought.

You rarely need to invent something new, often the best approach is improving an existing product. Knowing what defines an improvement means understanding the customers and the pain they have with the existing offering. To be successful, you only need to get this right, once, if it is the right opportunity. Everything else you need to learn can be developed on the fly. Chasing the wrong thing never works out, so developing the ability to identifying opportunity is a critical skill.

With my podcast coming back, the first episode of the new series will focus on the dissecting the success of the iPod and iPhone. That story is illustrative of how one brilliant entrepreneur was able to tweak an existing product and turn it into something revolutionary, and I think gives a great place to focus attention as you start your own journey as an entrepreneur.

Unique Positioning – Standing out From the Competition – Marketing Tips

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Marketing Tips - Unique Positioning

One of the best marketing tips, is the concept of developing unique positioning for your product or service. In this podcast Murray Smith and I talk about the creation of your corporate marketing plan by defining your unique positioning in the marketplace. Defining your unique aspects is a very important part of the sales process, and is a great online marketing tip.

Marketing Tip - Differentiate

Without the ability to easily and quickly differentiate yourself from the competition you diminish the ability of the prospective customer to understand your value.

Here are some of the direct links that Murray had referenced during the many podcasts we recorded with him;  The free PDF’s downloads (see below), links to the business growth makeover contest with millions in prizes, and Get the Answer site that references more about Murray and the business growth system he built called Attract more Clients. This system is the summation of 30 years of his life’s work and everything he learned about growing business put together in a simple, user friendly format.

-       http://gettheanswer.com

-       http://www.businessgrowthmakeover.com

-       http://accessmainstreet.com

-       The Test your EQ button on the Mainstreet website has the following Free PDF Downloads for all Success U listeners:

  • Unique Selling Proposition Examples from many industries
  • Client Profile – Match what you want with what your clients want
  • 3 Ways to make money in business
  • Map the Gap – Helping business owners map the distance from where they are to where they want to be
  • How to think like a Business Millionaire – Vision, Focus and Action


 

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life

Additional Marketing tips resources

ADVANCE DIRECT MARKETING: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

Do-It-Yourself Secrets for Creating a Profitable Website or Blog

55 Twitter Tips - How to Maximize the Benefits of Using Twitter!

Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day

25 tips For Marketing Your Blog

Online Marketing Blog Tips

Building a Strong Customer Relationship

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Strong Customer Relationship

Determining who is your ideal client is the first step on the long road to developing a strong customer relationship. Murray Smith, best selling author ("The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life") and super successful Serial Entrepreneur joins us on this podcast to explain how he identifies your ideal customer. Murray gives us a great example of how the perception of who our clientele is, and who they really are might not coincide.

If you are struggling to find your clients, or marketing with poor results this podcast will likely give you some insight into the problems you currently face. The biggest mistake we entrepreneurs make is often overconfidence in our understanding of the market, and a need to compete that stops us from asking for help when we need it. This also tends to sometimes we neglect to develop a strong customer relationship with our ideal clients, who are more than willing to help us improve our business.

Throughout our lives we have had parents, teachers, bosses and friends who gladly mentor us. But the moment we enter into a new enterprise we stop asking for that advice.Ask your customers how they found you, ask them what they are looking for, ask them if they found it. Ask, ask ask questions. Have a friend who is a gifted artist, ask for help with design. We do not stand alone and the myth of the self made man is just a myth. Every great success is a team effort.

Strengthening Our Customer Relationship

Recently Innovocus has made a focus on this aspect. When we approach a new client the first thing we do is contact their customers with a survey. But there is more to understanding your clients wants than just asking questions.

Here is the link to Murray's book on Amazon.com:

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life


 

Here are some of the direct links that Murray had referenced during the many podcasts we recorded with him;  The free PDF’s downloads (see below), links to the business growth makeover contest with millions in prizes, and Get the Answer site that references more about Murray and the business growth system he built called Attract more Clients. This system is the summation of 30 years of his life’s work and everything he learned about growing business put together in a simple, user friendly format.

-       http://gettheanswer.com

-       http://www.businessgrowthmakeover.com

-       http://accessmainstreet.com

-       The Test your EQ button on the Mainstreet website has the following Free PDF Downloads for all Success U listeners:

  • Unique Selling Proposition Examples from many industries
  • Client Profile – Match what you want with what your clients want
  • 3 Ways to make money in business
  • Map the Gap – Helping business owners map the distance from where they are to where they want to be
  • How to think like a Business Millionaire – Vision, Focus and Action

Resources for Building a Strong Customer Relationship

Building Customer Relationships - Successful Selling [VHS]

Recipe for Disaster

Creating Customers for Life - Relationship Management and Sales Training DVD Video

Model Sales & Marketing Letters

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers

The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage

Entrepreneur – Tapping into your Hidden Reserves

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You the Entrepreneur

The life of an entrepreneur, is the tale of many triumphs and long hard work. Knowing how to push past the negativity and find your hidden reserve of strength is a valuable tool in your struggles for success.

We as entrepreneurs are a unique breed. We thrive in challenging situations and we seek out the difficult. This can often put us in a place seemingly impossible to succeed. Pushing past your own limits to find greater heights is often the only way out, well that or giving up, but you wouldn't be a true entrepreneur if you seriously considered that.

In this podcast I talk with serial entrepreneur Murray Smith. This is Part 2 of the Podcasts series with Murray Smith co-author of "the Answer". Which you can win a copy of my joining Success U for free:


 

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life

Here are some of the direct links that Murray had referenced during the many podcasts we recorded with him;  The free PDF’s downloads (see below), links to the business growth makeover contest with millions in prizes, and Get the Answer site that references more about Murray and the business growth system he built called Attract more Clients. This system is the summation of 30 years of his life’s work and everything he learned about growing business put together in a simple, user friendly format.

-       http://gettheanswer.com

-       http://www.businessgrowthmakeover.com

-       http://accessmainstreet.com

-       The Test your EQ button on the Mainstreet website will have the following Free PDF Downloads for your listeners:

  • Unique Selling Proposition Examples from many industries
  • Client Profile – Match what you want with what your clients want
  • 3 Ways to make money in business
  • Map the Gap – Helping business owners map the distance from where they are to where they want to be
  • How to think like a Business Millionaire – Vision, Focus and Action

More Resources for you the entrepreneur

Small Business For Dummies

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

More Entrepreneur Podcasts

Entrepreneur.com Podcast Directory

Great Free Start Up Tools

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When starting a new business keeping the costs down is the key to your survival. To help with your quest for success we have compiled a short list of software and services that, even though not all are free, they all will help you save money.

Zoho has a huge list of software and services available, including reporting, a CRM and Invoicing.

Dropbox is a virtual hard drive service.

Mozy we use to save important documents. It is a safe secure online backup service.

Google Docs is another great resource, as are all of the google tools.

Portable Apps allows you can carry your favorite computer programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings, email and more with you. Use them on any Windows computer. All without leaving any personal data behind.

Mail Chimp makes it easy to send email newsletters to your customers, manage your subscriber lists, and track campaign performance. It is a free online email marketing solution.

Fulfillment by Amazon is an innovative service, you send inventory directly to Amazon where it is stored and managed in a secure, climate-controlled facility. When orders are received, Amazon will professionally pick, pack and ship the product directly to your customer.

Skype you should already know about, but if you don’t it a free online phone service and chat application. There is a pay service as well. But primarily we use it to track and record conversations for free.

Business Nation has a library of free and fee based legal forms such as lease and sales agreements. It also has directories of services, opportinities and a business library.

Open Office is the Free and open productivity suite. It has software that mimics all of the Microsoft Office applications.

GIMP according to their website

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc. GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, if you know of a valuable free tool for business users please share it by leaving a comment

Content is King

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Take the time to create value with your content. Optimizing your content to provide the maximum value will have many positive long term effects, and is well worth the effort put forth. Keep readers coming back by giving them a reason to. Post quality over quantity.

It still amazes me how often I find a site, that obviously had some money and time spent on the design. They also took the time to SEO the site and chose relevant keywords. And then they did nothing with it… They wasted all the effort by providing no value in the actual content.

A major mistake many bloggers make is thinking that quality is less important than quantity. It gets compounded by the fact that the search engines see quantity as valuable. it might even increase your traffic to post constantly. However it dos you no good if the traffic you gain simply comes once, never to return. Instead make your site important to the viewer by adding real value.

Building a Successful Start-up Team

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The success or failure of most start-ups can be determined even before the company is formed, just by looking at the founding team. So how do you create a team that is likely to be successful?

Young smiling business people isolated on white
First "Know thy self". Without really knowing yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses and what drives you. You cannot hope to build a team that will motivate, encourage and strengthen your short-comings.
There are a great many tools for "defining" personality types such as the Jung Myers Briggs, Kiersey and the EQ. Each of these have their strengths and weaknesses. And they all do a good enough job for what you need.
Determine where you fit and find people that are strong where you are weak.
To use Basketball as an analogy, if you are a great Center, building a team full of other centers will not be as strong as a team made up of a Center, a couple of Guards and a couple of Forwards. And the best team will have great players at all positions.
You cannot be the master of all trades, bu from time to time you might need to be everything from Chief Cook to Bottle Washer. When I build a team I look for well rounded people that can handle multiple jobs but who are expert at one.
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