Everbody wants to be an entrepreneur today. It is the new glamour profession. We are inspired by the stories of the 20 year old who sleeps under his desk, working 80 hours a week. Investors throw money at him and he is a billionaire by the age of 25…But what must you actually do to become a successful entrepreneur?
If you want a fantasy of wealth just happening, read a novel. The fact is that entrepreneurs need to follow a disciplined road map as they move toward success. Here are key steps on the way:
1. Know what your customer needs
This isn’t about you and waiting for the world to recognize your genius. Give people something they need. Preferably something they need and you can supply better and/or cheaper than anyone else. Give them confidence in you as a business. One of the first steps to do this is to form a corporation, a limited liability company or another business entity in a well respected jurisdiction such as Delaware or Nevada. This sends a signal that you are serious about serving your clientele. Inc. Plan (USA) is expert in company formations, and provides a wealth of useful information on this aspect of establishing customer confidence.
This means understanding your personal strengths…and your weaknesses. Your team should be diverse. If you are a great businessman, find talented tech and creative people. If you are a tech genius you may need a partner who is gifted at human interface/user experience. Remember, no matter how smart you are, no one is good at everything. And conversely, do not have team members who merely duplicate your strengths. Make sure your positions, particularly with respect to ownership of the venture are clear. It can be very useful to issue stock in your company to the original team. This rewards their efforts and also make the issue of who owns how much of the enterprise clear.
3. Define your target market
Your target market is that part of the market of customers who need your product who you can uniquely serve. The reason you can serve them may be geographic, cultural, or economic. You need to know where market affinities lie so that you can exploit them.
4. Know the special value of your product
At the same time you need to understand not only to whom you are selling, but what you are selling them. This sounds like a no brainer…the product after all is your baby! You understand it better than anyone. Maybe. You need to see it with all its strengths and weaknesses. A clear assessment will allow you to promote and market it effectively. And it will allow you to make necessary improvements, or compensate for its deficiencies as necessary.
5. Define and develop what makes your company competitive in the market
There is your product, and there is the way you provide it. Look at your organization. What is it that you have uniquely? What is it that it would be hard for your competitors to duplicate? It may be super service, it may a deep understanding of your market, it may be low cost, it may be your fantastically loyal users. Whatever it is, it is yours to know, understand and build upon. And since you are building so much value into your company, it is crucial to protect it through legal organization. Take the time at the outset to establish, via filing articles of formation, the legal corporation that results from your efforts. One of Apple Computer, Inc.’s first acts was to file articles of incorporation!
6. Grasp the hard facts of your business
For most entrepreneurs, time and money are scarce resources. To maximize them, you need to grasp hard realities: cost of production, the need for the legal and tax protection of incorporation, logistics, internal systems, billing and collections, cost of customer acquisitions. Those are considerations that often get dismissed as “for the beancounters”. But they are important. Very important. Without considering all those areas and many more, you will not have a business. You will have a case study in what happens when a good idea is not implemented in a orderly and rational framework. This is also called chaos.
7. Have a plan for ramping up to meet success
When you take all of the above steps (and when the moon and stars align in just the right way) and you find yourself in the happy position of being bigger and busier than you ever dreamed..what do you next? One sure answer is not what you have been doing, because that is what a small growing company did. It is no longer enough to meet the growing demands of a successful operation. This is something you need to consider long before you are an “overnight success.” Start planning for that moment now.
Although our culture views it as a semi magical experience, being an entrepreneur is a goal that is achievable, like other goals, by taking a number of disciplined steps. Naturally there are more than 7 steps, but the ones outlined are key. Take your efforts beyond listening to inspiring stories. Be thoughtful and thorough in your quest for entrepreneurial success. And remember, there are many great resources for the practical side of entrepreneuring. A company like Inc. Plan (USA) has over 20 years of experience in serving the needs of start ups and entrepreneurs!