By Trevor Shorte
I recently had the privilege to present a workshop on Entrepreneurship to a group of high school students. They were an intelligent, curious group that asked great questions and I was impressed by their interest in becoming entrepreneurs. When I was their age, if you had told me that I would be where I am today, I probably would have said “Of course I will!” I have always had the entrepreneurial itch and have tried my hand at all kinds of ventures since my teens. All with the same goal in mind, doing my own thing and creating the life that I wanted, not one that someone else would dictate for me. (and of course being rich and famous… but clearly I’m still working on that one!)
Along the way, while simultaneously trying to feed that fire, I ended up working in multiple corporate positions with (and was mentored by) some people who I consider to be the best in the business. Over the years, they all imparted some words of wisdom – that I shared with the kids during the workshop – that helped shape my personal entrepreneurial journey. Here are some of my top words of wisdom for entrepreneurs.
Are people willing to give you money for your product?
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if nobody is willing to give you their hard-earned money for it, you’ve got nothing. This leaves you with two options: refine your product offering or give up on it altogether. There’s no way around this one.
Nobody can buy your stuff if they don’t know you exist.
It is really hard to build a business if your entire target market consists of your immediate family and friends. That might work in the beginning but if you are serious about building a business then you need to expand beyond that. You are going to have to find your target audience and get your marketing message in their face. You need to meet them where they are so they can learn about you and your business.
If you can get in their hearts and minds, you can get in their wallet.
Typically, people buy products or services based on their emotional needs or wants, and then use logic to justify their purchase. You have to get people to fall in love with you and your brand before they will commit to buying from you. When that happens, you will have a loyal brand ambassador who will advocate for you to their social network.
Sales is about trust and building relationships.
Sometimes products can sell themselves but, in this day, and age, people want to buy from businesses they trust. So, they are going to do their research and sometimes you have to be patient and nurture them along. Your goal isn’t to make a sale though. It is to help your prospect choose the best option available and trust that you can solve the problem they have. In most cases, this is the single most important aspect of the sales process. If your prospect doesn’t trust you or what you’ve told them about your product, they will not buy from you.
Get your money right.
Understanding basic business financial concepts is important as they have an impact on the long-term financial strategy and cost structure of your company. Every business owner needs to understand them to accurately assess the financial health of the company, plan for future growth and manage the tax implications when the time comes. You have to make yourself familiar with your income statement (P&L), balance sheet and cash flow statement.
Fake it till you make it is not a viable business strategy.
This has to be the worst strategy that I have ever witnessed an entrepreneur or small business embrace. I have worked at a couple of companies that followed this adage and nothing good came from it. The premise of “fake like you know what you’re doing until you do” is arguably the most dishonest business practice that you could ever engage in. When people find your business or product, they want to know that you are knowledgeable and have the expertise to deliver. Faking competence or saying that your product does something that it doesn’t, just ends up wasting their time and yours. Have some integrity and either refer them to someone who can actually help them, or just decline their business.
Failure is not always a bad thing.
If you are learning how to ice skate, the first time you head out onto the ice, the odds are high that you will end up on your butt. When that happens, you get back up and try again because that’s how you learn. With enough practice and determination, you’ll figure it out and be able to skate. Becoming an entrepreneur is no different. In the beginning there will be areas where you will fall, and you will pick yourself up and keep trying. There’s no guarantee of success for any business. All you can do is build and execute your strategy, then measure the results. If something doesn’t work, try a different tactic. Eventually, you will figure out what works and then you just keep repeating that process until it no longer does!
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This one is the hardest to accept for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Trying to build a business from scratch is no easy feat and there are no shortcuts to success. It can take years of hard work, sweat, and tears to become successful. You are going to face challenges every step of the way and question every decision you make. Your fight or flight instincts will constantly be at odds with each other, so you have to learn how to weather the storm and find a way to roll with the punches. Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the hardest jobs you will ever have. But it will also be the most rewarding.
This is my last blog entry for 2020 and what a year it has been. The world is a much different place than it was when we rolled over into this new decade. Many people have had their lives irreparably altered, thousands of businesses (big and small) have been shuttered, and the collective psyche of the world has been put to the test. We are on the long road to recovery and I believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel. It’s not going to be easy, but we just have to get through it and be kind to one another along the way.
As for us here at SongBird, we are going to take some much-needed downtime during December so that we can rest, recharge and come back strong for 2021. Have a great holiday season and I will get back at it in January!