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Signs the Time Is Right for You to Become an Entrepreneur

Signs the Time Is Right for You to Become an Entrepreneur

Are you the type of person who can’t sit still? Every time you go out with friends and family, do you start talking with everyone you see and meet? Do you love to read the news, books and articles of people who inspire you? If you identify with some of these statements, you’re a natural entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur in detail.

Being an entrepreneur can have different meanings to people. Some people imagine starting up their own shop. Others dream of starting a large business chain. Either way, you would be starting your own business. But in order to have that business, you need to have an idea behind it that fuels forward movement. Although having a great idea is just one part of becoming an entrepreneur, there is a misconception that an idea is all you need. When launching a business from scratch, one of the many things you need to know is who your audience is and who will be interested in what you’re selling.

An article published in Business News Daily explains it best — “An entrepreneur is someone who can take any idea, whether it be a product and/or service, and have the skill set, will and courage to take extreme risk to do whatever it takes to turn that concept into reality and not only bring it to market, but make it a viable product and/or service that people want or need.”

Characteristics of an entrepreneur.

There are a variety of different articles, like the one mentioned above, and books regarding entrepreneurship. All of them agree that there are many common traits that all entrepreneurs share. Some of these traits are:

  1. You’re self-motivated, confident and proud of yourself.
  2. You don’t like it when people tell you what to do because you like calling the shots.
  3. You’re very competitive and like setting deadlines for yourself.
  4. You negotiate whatever you can, and you follow up with people when you want something.
  5. You don’t dwell on the past, and remove things that don’t work for you.
  6. You come up with ideas and point out flaws in other ideas.
  7. You are not afraid of working hard and like to get involved with different things.

Time management is the key skill set.

Having a great idea and executing it at the right time is crucial. This is one aspect of becoming an entrepreneur that most people overlook. What if you have the right idea, but it’s the wrong time to start working at it. You need to measure out, take baby steps, and assess your position into starting a new business. As part of owning a business, risk management is an essential factor — and having a strong balance is the most important.

Dedicating your full attention to starting up a business is another factor that is often ignored. You need to be fully willing to commit some “me time” and “family time” in order to nurture and grow your business. It will be a great sacrifice that you will have to take, but in order to have a successful business, you need to make this commitment.

You can’t slow down. This is a 24-7 job you want to have, and that means procrastination is not in the cards. When an important decision comes up, you need to assess strengths and weaknesses, make a conscious decision, and move forward. Remember to always trust your instincts.

It’s never too late to start in the entrepreneurship game. Author J.K. Rowling started the Harry Potter craze later in life. She published 7 books, and all of them became box office films. Starting a business later in life offers numerous benefits. You’ve had experience, and experience that comes with age can help you see different situations under a new light.

Entrepreneurship is not a maybe thing. You know when it’s time to stop working for that company or that job that you don’t like, and create the job that you love. Taking the first step by deciding that you want to have your own business is easy. What comes after is a learning curve that all successful entrepreneurs know. For you, failing will not stop you. You will take it as a learning experience and will find a new challenge in doing so.

It’s important to remember that age is not a factor in starting your own business, but time is. Timing in this industry is everything. You need to have a plan, and set out to accomplish each task you give yourself. Having a support system is very important for those crucial and desperate situations you will encounter.

 

 

Originally posted on entrepreneur.com by Rocco Baldassarre

What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

For many entrepreneurs, the process of launching a company begins with the light bulb moment when they conceive of a breakthrough idea for a new product or service. Very often, they are so passionate about the idea that they believe its merits will be self-evident to prospective customers—that the innovation is so obviously superior it will sell itself. Entrepreneurs who avoid that delusion may think of their initial sales as a chicken-and-egg problem: They realize that getting buy-in from potential customers is a top priority, but until they design and build the product (which often requires securing funding, assembling a team, and many other tasks), how could they possibly make a sales call?

Both attitudes fail to recognize a simple fact: Salesmanship is central to the success of any young company, and entrepreneurs ignore this at their peril. Yet many do ignore it, in large part because they have little sales experience and have probably not taken classes in how to sell, even if they have formal business education (as Suzanne Fogel and colleagues explained in “Teaching Sales,” HBR July–August 2012). For those in search of guidance, the research and advice on salesmanship may not offer much help: The vast majority of techniques, models, and strategies are aimed at large, established companies, not start-ups, which tend to face a unique set of objections from prospects. And when entrepreneurs get around to making those crucial first sales, they often make common mistakes, such as not considering the strategic advantages of a particular customer or extending a deep discount just to make the sale.

In our study of entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States, we shed light on how they approached the task of making their first sales and what they wished they’d done differently. In all, we spoke with 120 founders, more than half of whom had previous start-up experience. In this article, we examine the mistakes they cited most frequently, explore the objections they faced when they began making sales calls, and present an alternative sales model uniquely suited to a start-up’s circumstances.

Regrets, We’ve Had a Few

The founders we interviewed cited the following five missteps most frequently:

Starting late.

More than half our interviewees fully developed their products before getting feedback from potential buyers. In hindsight, most viewed this as a mistake, echoing one of the mantras of Eric Ries’s “lean start-up” philosophy: Get in front of prospects from day one. As one CEO told us, “You’ll learn more from talking to five customers than you will from hours of market research [at a computer].” The goal should be to gauge customer reaction to the general concept you plan to build. “Don’t make anything until you sell it,” advised one entrepreneur. “Get people really interested in buying it before you invest too much time and effort.”

Failing to listen.

Even founders who started selling early said they were too focused on convincing prospects of the new product’s merits and not concerned enough with finding out what prospects thought of the idea. Some realized that their passion and ego made them respond negatively to criticism and discount ideas for changes that they later saw would have increased the marketability of their offerings. “Listen to the feedback from the customers and reshape your idea and your product to fit what they actually want,” one interviewee advised. Another described the process this way: “It’s really all about understanding what the pain point is in the marketplace, and the best way to do that is to talk to prospects and validate, validate, validate your idea.” As one U.S. entrepreneur who had approached the task correctly said, “The goal of our demo was not only to explain what we do but also to give the illusion of explaining what we do, while we really tried to extract information about their business and how we could help them.”

Some founders realized that their passion and ego made them respond negatively to criticism and discount ideas for improving their products.

Offering discounts.

Faced with pressure (from themselves or their VCs) to make early sales, many founders offered price discounts in order to close initial deals—often establishing unsustainable pricing precedents with those customers. Worse yet, news of the discounts spread around small industries, crippling the ventures’ long-term pricing power. In retrospect, the entrepreneurs wished they had found alternative sweeteners to close early deals—free shipping, say, or a discount on orders placed before a certain date. And if you’re going to offer temporary discounts, they told us, it’s smart to put the terms in writing.

Selling to family and friends.

Making early sales to family members was especially common among entrepreneurs outside the U.S. and for those in the restaurant, clothing, and wealth management industries. But you never know why relatives are buying from you—often their motivation is love, pity, or a sense of obligation, not compelling product quality. In retrospect, founders believed those sales created a false sense of validation and that they would have been better off pursuing arm’s-length transactions with customers who would have given them candid feedback.

Failing to seek strategic buyers.

For cash-strapped entrepreneurs with no sales record, the thrill of getting the first “yes” can blind them to other considerations. Can this customer open new doors or provide referrals? Can the customer supply usage data that could make my value proposition more compelling? Some of the founders we interviewed wished they had conducted a strategic assessment of their first buyers. Others chose their first clients deliberately in order to get feedback, perform beta testing, get referrals, or guarantee repeat business. These strategic first sales often led to long-term success.

Sorry, You’re Too Small

As they looked back on their nascent sales efforts, the entrepreneurs we spoke with described a long series of hurdles. Many had problems developing lists of prospects. Once they had identified likely targets, they faced obstacles in getting past gatekeepers or securing appointments. (This is especially problematic in Latin America and Africa, where most people won’t pick up the telephone if they don’t recognize the number displayed. In those situations, founders needed to find acquaintances who could make referrals simply to secure an appointment.) Some entrepreneurs described difficulty articulating precisely what made their product or service different from the alternatives. When they did make a sale, several suffered because no one in their venture was responsible for accounts receivable. “I realized I had to collect when I ran out of cash,” reported one Mexican founder. “At times, three or four months would pass without invoices being sent to customers, because I was not well organized.”

The biggest problem with the actual mechanics of selling, however, was handling the objections of potential customers. Our interviews revealed five categories of objections, most of which are different from those faced by salespeople in established firms.

Efficacy.

Potential customers were consistently skeptical about the ability of new products to deliver on their value propositions. Some entrepreneurs could show results from beta tests or independent lab results, but that wasn’t possible for all products and services. In those cases, offering samples or free trials often proved effective. One of our subjects, the founder of a furniture reupholstering business in Mexico, made an early sale by eating lunch in one of his market’s largest hotels. At the end of the meal, he asked the restaurant manager to introduce him to the facilities director, who came to the table. The entrepreneur showed him the worn fabric on the chairs and offered to refurbish two of them for a small fraction of the replacement price. Once the facilities director saw the finished chairs, he talked the business up at meetings of his professional association, leading other big hotels to place orders.

Credibility.

Prospects also expressed doubt about a new company on the basis of the founder’s age, gender, personal background, or experience level. Founders with relevant experience highlighted that; those who lacked it touted partners or board members with solid industry reputations. The founder of a Nigerian outsourcing company described the process: “The first resistance had to do with the company being very new, but I conquered that by showing that I’d been in this kind of business for years before venturing out solely. Then they looked at my board composition and felt the directors were credible enough—and they had confidence in this young company. That gave them the needed boost to say, ‘OK, let’s just have a go.’”

Size.

One founder we spoke with summed up this pervasive concern: “How do you make the prospect comfortable with the fact that your company is small?” There is no easy answer. Many founders highlighted a key benefit of their company’s size: the fact that customers were dealing with the CEO instead of a sales rep. For companies selling physical products, quality and value helped dispel concerns. Ultimately, though, overcoming objections about size required founders to develop trust with prospects and to take steps to reduce the risk of dealing with a start-up. For instance, some founders did not ask for a deposit from their earliest customers but instead used a pay-on-delivery model until they achieved a track record.

Price.

Salespeople from established businesses often field complaints about price, of course, but start-ups reported that their prospects were especially likely to push back on pricing because they knew the entrepreneurs were eager to make early sales. In fact, several prospects stated directly that they expected significant price cuts for becoming early users. Some entrepreneurs walked away from those deals, some gave discounts, and others pushed back.

Price objections often stemmed from prospects’ incomplete, biased, or subjective cost/benefit analyses, so savvy founders developed tactics to counter these. For instance, a Mexican start-up pitching digital record keeping to large organizations consistently met with executives who failed to account for the real estate and labor costs of storing a large amount of poorly organized records in a back office. Over time, this company’s founders became adept at calculating those costs to illustrate the value of their service. For entrepreneurs who believed their prices were fair, a price objection could indicate that they were failing to adequately describe the offering. “Usually when prospects said they couldn’t afford our service, I interpreted it as they didn’t want it or didn’t understand it,” a founder told us. “That meant we had to go back and do a better job explaining our service and how we could add value.”

Switching costs.

To adopt a new product or service, prospects might need to modify their routines, procedures, systems, or internal or external relationships. Making such modifications to switch to a new, untested offering can seem especially costly, but buyers do not always verbalize these concerns. To address tacit objections about switching costs, the entrepreneurs we interviewed took it upon themselves to ask questions that would lead prospects to talk freely. One U.S.–based start-up that produced a mobile app to help people make restaurant reservations recalled a key problem at the time: “Most restaurants don’t have a computer at the front desk, and so we had to address that. The managers said, ‘Well, we’re not really looking to change the way we do things.’ Restaurants are pretty slow to change.” The founders won managers over by showing them projections (based on beta tests) of how revenue would increase as customers became able to manage their own wait times.

A Sales Framework for Start-Ups

Existing frameworks for selling are focused on established companies. They almost always assume that the salesperson has a fully developed product, and they have a simple goal: to make a sale. While these models advise reps to listen to prospects in order to anticipate objections or gain insight into the organizational dynamics that drive decision making, they generally do not account for the fact that information gleaned during the sales process can be crucial in designing (or redesigning) the product itself.

On the basis of our interviews with company founders, we have constructed an alternative model that’s far more suitable for start-ups (see the exhibit “An Entrepreneur-Friendly Sales Model”). It calls for engagement with prospects as soon as an idea is conceived—and long before the product is actually created. The goal of these meetings is to obtain market intelligence not only about product design but also about promotion, distribution, and pricing strategies. After a round of these meetings, an entrepreneur should ask if the idea really has strong and broad appeal. The answer to that question should determine whether the entrepreneur jettisons the idea, returns to the drawing board, or proceeds to develop a prototype, obtain conditional commitments from prospects, generate more leads, and engage in other traditional sales activities.

Research has shown that it’s easier to get people to commit to an idea if they are involved in its creation. By engaging with prospects early, founders can not only gather feedback to improve product design but also increase prospects’ involvement in the process, thus raising the odds that they’ll purchase the offering.

This model may also ease the challenges entrepreneurs face in getting appointments with prospects. If founders present the appointments as occasions to discuss products that don’t yet exist—not as sales calls—prospects may be more open to them. In general, people are more willing to give advice than to listen to a sales pitch. Entrepreneurs can use that dynamic to their advantage.Start-ups face many challenges, and entrepreneurs must wear many hats during the process of launching a company. It’s no surprise that they often postpone selling (or otherwise engaging with customers) until they’ve already created and begun producing their offerings. Our research demonstrates, however, that early customer feedback is essential and that founders who fail to consult with customers soon after the light bulb moment will ultimately come to regret it.

 

Originally posted on Harvard Business Review by Vincent Onyemah, Martha Rivera Pesquera and Abdul Ali

 

How To Stay Focused As An Entrepreneur

How To Stay Focused As An Entrepreneur

The part of every entrepreneur’s DNA that allows her to dream big and envision a world where her creation impacts countless lives and generates incredible wealth is the very thing that can lead to failure. Especially in the early days of working on something, every new opportunity can feel like the one that will change everything. Many founders get caught in the cycle of chasing shiny objects, but when resources are limited and it’s a race against time this can be detrimental. Here’s how you can avoid this classic entrepreneur’s dilemma.

Stay focused on the path of least resistance

Some problems are inherently harder to solve, some markets are more difficult to compete in, and some customer segments take longer to educate and convince of your value proposition. Serial entrepreneurs know this all too well. You can spend months, even years trying to generate revenue for one business and then start another business with money and customers in the first 4 weeks.

Paypal started off as a company called Confinity that allowed people to send IOUs from Palm Pilot to Palm Pilot. The relatively niche market didn’t adopt their technology fast enough, so they pivoted to creating a payment system aimed specifically for the web so that one person could email money to another. People were just starting to spend more money online with the rising popularity of ecommerce sites like eBay, making this demographic an easy target for Paypal.

Especially if you’re trying to gain early revenue traction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of attempting to sell to any customer that will buy. The truth is, some customers are a better fit, both in terms of revenue opportunity and cost, and thus are more important to spend your time on. Others can seem promising but will never actually materialize into real revenue. Double down where you think you’re likely to have the most traction and ignore everything else – it’s a distraction.

Stay focused on where you can build value the fastest

Surviving the early days means creating massive value for a specific customer segment whose pain is not being addressed. You might have a big grandiose vision of how your company will change the world, but you will not win by trying to solve everyone’s problems.

Apple didn’t start by creating products that can be used by anyone – they first built for computer hobbyists that loved to tinker with electronics. Amazon wasn’t always a place where you can buy almost any product imaginable. They first focused on disrupting the online book sales market.

Almost every successful business started off doing something niche. Figure out an area where you can quickly create value for your customer that your competition is ignoring, and avoid working on things that aren’t critical to this goal.

Recognize When Something Isn’t Working

This sounds contrary to the idea of staying focused on one main path, but it’s equally important to recognize when something just won’t work. Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs, and it is true that sometimes you can spend months grinding away at something without a reward. However, if you go too long without experiencing any ‘wins’ it can be very difficult to keep moving forward. More importantly, it can be a sign that you need to course correct.

It’s difficult to admit that you’re wrong, especially when you’ve invested a lot of time into trying to make something work, but it’s even harder if you’re forced to admit defeat and close your business because you’ve wasted too much time doing the wrong things. Change something about your approach if you’ve been fighting an uphill battle for too long, whether it’s your core value proposition, target customer base or customer acquisition channel, and hopefully you’ll finally start to see some positive indicators.

Simon Sinek wisely said that “vision is a destination – a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route – an adaptable path to get us where we want to go.” Your strategy will change as you learn new information while working toward your goal, but your vision should stand firm, unaffected by distractions that might come your way.

Originally posted on Forbes by Sergei Revzin and Vadim Revzin

 

7 Ways to Be Utterly Unforgettable in Business and Life

7 Ways to Be Utterly Unforgettable in Business and Life

If you think that your product, service or stellar reputation is going to stick in your client’s or customer’s mind forever, you may want to think again.

Being forgettable can be toxic when it comes to success, says cognitive scientist Carmen Simon, author of Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions.

“[People] will likely forget up to 90 percent of what you communicate, and that means your brand, your message, your call to action, everything you want your listeners to act on, will be disregarded,” she says. “To be on people’s minds, you must become part of their reflexes, habits and/or goals they consider valuable.”

So how do you break through and leave a lasting impression? Instead of being known for something businesswise, strive to be more purposeful about the things you do and say.

Here are several ways you can stand out among your competition, and stay top of mind.

1. Truly connect.

A salesperson is programmed to sell their product by focusing on benefits and features. Create a twist on this doctrine and sell yourself with a true person-to-person connection. Begin by asking questions. Learn more about your client’s problems, concerns and needs before you ever mention your product or service. Think like a doctor; first you have to find out what ails your client before you can prescribe a solution. Don’t try to use a one-size-fits-all approach. Customizing builds memorable relationships.

2. Tell stories.

Many a prospect’s eyes have glazed over during a presentation chock full of charts, facts and numbers. While the bottom line numbers are important, stories are the most basic tool for connecting us to one another. People attend, remember and are transformed by stories. Offer true-life examples of how your product or service helped others, like case studies or testimonials. Or use your personal experiences to enhance your human-to-human bond. Even in the world of business, stories have a unique power to move people’s hearts, minds, feet and wallets in the storyteller’s intended direction.

3. Tell the truth.

Your credibility is based on your ability to be honest in all situations. Always tell the truth, even if it costs you the sale. Your client will appreciate your candor and remember your honesty. As a result, he or she is more likely to recommend you to another potential client or use your services in the future. The truth may occasionally hurt, but dishonesty is always destructive.

4. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

A sure way to be forgotten quickly is to be known as a yes-man (or woman). Besides, it frustrates others when you agree with them all the time, especially if critical decisions are involved. If you see a problem, speak up. If you know a proposed solution won’t work, say “no” and offer your opinion as to why. It’s better to be distinguished as a trusted advisor rather than someone with a milk-toast personality.

5. Surprise someone.

Do something out of the ordinary that your client or customer would never expect. For example, instead of sending a text or an email, send a handwritten thank-you note, a gesture that is becoming more and more rare. Or stand out from the crowd by dressing differently than everyone else. Dress up and choose flattering colors and patterns. Wear a fashionable pair of shoes, socks, scarf or bowtie; anything that adds a bit of refinement, elegance and a splash of style to what might otherwise be a nondescript outfit.

6. Always do your best.

In today’s competitive business arena, just about anyone can match or beat prices and everyone promises great service. But one of the best ways to be remembered is to perform at levels that consistently go above and beyond normal expectations, often coming in under budget or ahead of deadlines. Try to look for ways to constantly improve your client or customers’ experience and be ready to interact in the highest professional manner.

7. Be helpful.

Zig Ziglar once said “The way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” Be a mentor, make introductions, and recommend others. Go out of your way to share information and help others succeed, without being asked, and they will remember you and be grateful for years to come.

It’s called karma — if you want people to share with you, share with them. What you give away will come back to you tenfold.

In summary, it’s the small touches that will set you apart and make it practically impossible to be derailed by your competitors.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Jacqueline Whitmore

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