Your role as a business owner – entrepreneur – is often a lonely one. But, that doesn't mean you have to go it alone!
Aligning yourself with a trusted business advisor/mentor is one of the most valuable pieces of advice that anyone can give you. Entrepreneurs are by nature mavericks—--daring, inspired, “idea-people" with the grit to overcome extraordinary obstacles. They are visionaries who are empowered by an innovative idea, a passionate drive to set out on their own, and a burning desire to succeed. This independent, pioneering spirit is not only the power that drives entrepreneurial innovation, but it is also the perennial Achilles heel for entrepreneurs seeking the help of others.
Research in both educational settings and in the world of business indicates that students, employees, and CEOs are more likely to succeed if they had a mentor. Fortune 500 CEOs were asked what contributed most to their success. Many listed an effective mentor as one of the key factors. As a result, more and more entrepreneurs and business owners are following the lead of their corporate counterparts by engaging the services of professional business mentors.
Is your business suffering from a shortage of capital? Would you like to know how you can compete with larger competitors without draining your financial resources? Niche marketing may just be the answer to your problem.
Are you looking for ways to grow a sustainable business? If so, building your brand should be a top priority for you. Branding is what creates that distinctive and enduring impression in the minds of your customers. A strong brand makes investors want to invest their capital in order for you to continue to grow your company.
Do you feel like David fighting Goliath? Well, don’t let that discourage you. Being small doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at a disadvantage. There are distinct advantages to being a small business competing against much larger players.
Entrepreneurs do three things: they turn ideas into businesses, they create new jobs, and they provide wealth. Among the three entrepreneurial roles, providing wealth for society is the least understood. While it is true that entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin have become very rich. However, the fact is that they have only taken a tiny fraction of our wealth (less than one percent) for themselves as compared to the wealth they have created for the society.
Creating wealth versus giving wealth away
Entrepreneurs are not philanthropists—although they can be.
Every entrepreneur is imbued with genius and the ability to execute with great precision and efficiency. In a consumer society like ours, entrepreneurs pave the way to economic growth and national prosperity. From food products, to entertainment, to technology, entrepreneurs are the pillars of our country’s economy.
If we are to continue to grow as a nation, we need an economic structure that serves to stimulate a financial process that follows through toward improving the lives of individuals in our communities and society as a whole. This is where entrepreneurship comes in.
We live in tough times. Money is hard to come by, and opportunities for employment in larger companies are diminishing each year. Despite widespread government intervention, layoffs continue to mount. However, we are left with a few good reasons to maintain a positive outlook. Here is one of them: As long as entrepreneurial people walk this planet, jobs will be created!
The important role entrepreneurs play in job creation
Entrepreneurs are an indispensable catalyst for change in a market economy. They stimulate and support the efficient use of resources that bring parties together that otherwise would have conflicting interests and preferences.
In a country with a population growth of three million a year, a high degree of entrepreneurship will help to soften the impact of the economic crisis. As older, larger companies continue to reduce their workforces, young entrepreneurial start-ups are creating new jobs and new advancement opportunities.
Throughout the country, these entrepreneur-led small emerging businesses are hiring and training a new workforce to help them bring forth innovative products and services. Of the three million jobs that are created in the United States each year, almost all of them were created by small entrepreneurial businesses! This year-in, year-out job creation is the reason why entrepreneurs are such an important agent for economic growth.
Since man’s early beginnings, the entrepreneur has taken on many different roles and characters to address the various needs of the marketplace while helping to improve the society in which they live. One of these roles is that of the innovator. The entrepreneur/innovator exploits new concepts and methods leading to the birth of new products, services, or processes. However, their more important contribution is in the actual introduction of these innovations in the market.
In other words, the entrepreneurs' creations eventually result in new products, services, or processes that add value or enhance the quality of life which benefits people and society as a whole.
Four major types of Innovation:
- Product Innovation – pertains to the creation or introduction of new or considerably improved products or services.
- Process Innovation – refers to the development or creation of a new or a greatly improved delivery or production methods.
- Supply Chain Innovation – happens when innovators implement or introduce a system or device that significantly improves the chain of processes from raw materials to finished products.
- Marketing Innovation – means the discovery and implementation of new marketing methods that highlight improvements in promotion, packaging, product-design, or pricing. It reflects how a specific industry is adapting and changing in the face of new technology and communication media. This type of innovation is aimed at retention of existing customers as well as attraction of new customers.
“Our interest will be to throw open the doors of commerce, and to knock off all its shackles, giving perfect freedom to all persons for the vent [sale] of whatever they may choose to bring into our ports, and asking the same in theirs.” - Thomas Jefferson
Our Founding Fathers had the vision, the courage, and spirit to usher in independence at a time when the accepted model of government was monarchy. They faced enemies on all fronts, but never gave up. They fought very hard for the principles of independence until they brought forth a new nation—one that is “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
As we celebrate Independence Day, we remember our Founding Fathers and their pioneering efforts.
Despite our relatively short 236-year history, we, the people of United States of America, enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of other nations. The prosperity we enjoy today wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our Founding Fathers who paved the way for a society based upon the principles of Free Enterprise and Limited Government.
How fortunate we are to have the freedom to direct our own lives and the opportunities to make our dreams come true. Our freedom is unique and wonderful because it allows us to choose our own destiny and offer us the resources to achieve it. It is really up to us to make it a reality.
The best answer to this all-important question can be found is a three-minute, sketchbook video entitled, Entrepreneurs Do Three Things from the Kauffman Foundation. This video presentation illustrates just how important and indispensable entrepreneurs are to our economy.
Job creation is mandatory in order for us to turn around our economy. Entrepreneurs are crucial for stimulating economic growth because they create jobs and they are the source for new innovation. They provide the wealth that fuels our society!
Entrepreneurs INNOVATE + CREATE + PROVIDE which translates into a healthy and robust economy!
I'm confident you will enjoy this short, yet informative video. And, my hope is that you will share it with all of your stakeholders, friends, and fellow entrepreneurs!
No business, no matter how small, is immune from the need to train employees. If you want to provide your employees with the essential skills required to deal with changing technologies and to make them more productive, then you need to train them regularly.
The quality of employees and their skills are vital components in determining the long-term success of a business. Focusing on your employees' skills development is a wise investment. That’s why successful companies participate in high-quality training programs that boost their overall productivity and help them to maintain a competitive edge in market.
With the increase in competition the need to train employees has increased more than ever before. However, training employees the conventional way can be a problem for small businesses as they cannot afford to have employees away from work even for a few days, not to mention the additional costs they incur for the actual training material and instruction.
The good news is that more and more high-quality online business training is now available through the Internet. Online learning, often referred to as e-Learning, is not only more economical and less time consuming than conventional training, but it can also produce better results.
The following are a few of the benefits that you can derive from online e-Learning:
One of your company’s strongest assets is its ability to assemble an Annual Operating Budget and Cash Flow Estimate and to determine financial requirements for achieving revenue goals. In order to make wise, financial decisions, it is imperative to know your breakeven point, your direct labor costs in relation to your cost of goods sold, and your monthly cash requirements. Acquiring operating performance data, on a timely basis, strengthens your ability to better manage your business.
Reliable operational plans, budgets, and forecasts --that are accurately produced--are integral elements for growing your business. With systematic processes in planning, budgeting, and forecasting, your staff shifts its scope from data collection to meaningful data analysis. Planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes connect your company's budgets to your company's strategies. The connection between budgets and strategies ensures that the financial resource requirements are available to support the anticipated future growth of your company.
A budget is a plan of activities expressed in monetary terms of the assets, equities, revenues, and costs that will be involved in carrying out your company's plans. A Master Budget is a set of projected or planned financial statements. The Master Budget consists basically of a pro forma income statement, a pro forma balance sheet, and a statement of cash flows. As a management tool, the Master Budget is used for both planning and controlling.
In many ways an entrepreneur is not unlike that of the gymnast. The act of balance is critical to the performance of each individual. The gymnast needs to counteract the forces of weight and motion; while the entrepreneur needs to distribute their time and resources between risk and reward. Without the ability to adequately balance the elements of weight, motion, time, and resources the entrepreneur and the gymnast would be hard-pressed to succeed in their particular endeavors.
The entrepreneur needs to seize opportunities and to minimize risk. To accomplish these tasks the entrepreneur must clearly specify the objective of his/her business venture or project. And identify the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective.
An effective tool to assess and identify opportunities and risks is a SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in a business venture or project. If a clear objective has been identified, SWOT analysis can be used to help in the pursuit of the objective.
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s an assessment technique that paints a vivid picture of how your business stacks up when you consider these four factors. SWOT is a simple, popular way to gather and use information in preparing or amending your business plan. It’s also useful in solving problems, making decisions, and educating staff when change is necessary.
In brief, SWOT means identifying:
- Strengths—internal factors such as expertise, innovation, and resources.
- Weaknesses—internal factors such as a high level of debt, labor shortage, etc.
- Opportunities—external advantages such as a rapidly growing market where demand outstrips supply.
- Threats—potential external risks such as competitors undercutting your pricing, natural disasters, changes in the general business environment.
Businesses review their financial performance at different times of the year: monthly, quarterly, and annually. These reviews typically focus solely on the numbers. Though the financial performance is the barometer of accomplishment in business, performing a little self-examination at this point in time can pay lasting dividends.
As an entrepreneur, the shortest distance between you and your dreams is your ability to set and accomplish objectives in a timely fashion. An action plan can help you stay organized, coordinate your activities, and keep your projects on schedule.
The action plan specifically outlines the steps or tasks that are necessary to achieve objectives. It includes a schedule with deadlines for significant actions, resources necessary to achieve objectives, and methods to measure these objectives. Preparing action plans addresses potential problem areas, considers the cross-functional impact of the actions, and ultimately increases productivity.
Creating a strategic business plan is a great first step. However, if your business plan gathers dust on a shelf, its value is lost. This is where the action plan comes in. It’s the place where the rubber meets the road—the catalyst that transforms your business plan into actionable results.
Your action plan sets priorities and describes the specifics of implementing your business plan. The key components of your action plan are long-term and short-term objectives. Define your long-term objectives and then set short-term objectives—baby steps—that break the larger goal down into easy-to-achieve chunks. Review these mini-goals every three to six months, and keep checking to see if you’re meeting your objectives.
Use your action plan to define how you’ll operate your business on a day-to-day basis. Address issues such as how and when you’ll manage research and development, hire employees, serve customers, market your offering, publicize your company, and work with partners and vendors.
Success sometimes hinges on elegant simplicity. Many times, when companies expand as a result of rapid, unplanned growth rather than a carefully orchestrated plan, complex inefficient operations result. Organizations find themselves with staff, resource, and equipment redundancies, lack of formal systems, duplicated efforts, and no clear line of sight to the strategy driving the business.
There are three key processes in operating a small business—management, strategy and operations—all of which are tightly integrated. The management process provides a framework for hiring, training, and managing people to produce results. The strategic process defines your short-term, as well as, your long-term goals---where you want to take your business (earnings, sales, and revenues) and how you will get there. The operational process provides the roadmap, tools, and resources for getting there.
Effective business processes depend on standardization--- setting standards of how things should be done and formalizing processes for getting things done to meet those standards. With basic systems in place, jobs, tasks, and decisions are easily performed rather than becoming confusing challenges.
One of the most common causes of business failure is the lack of standardized systems. Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants management generates chaos and inconsistency. However, if you create basic systems and processes for performing day-to-day tasks that can be easily replicated, then you are well on your way to building a business that produces consistent results.
One of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories is that of McDonald’s, a complex, well-run business system that is operated by ordinary employees who serve over 45 million people every day. Its founder, Ray Kroc, didn’t invent the McDonald's concept, but he did revolutionize the food service industry through automation, attention to detail, exceptional efficiency, and the highest standards of safety and cleanliness.
Your role as entrepreneur can be a lonely one. Although you may be surrounded by a good staff, it would not be uncommon for you, at times, to experience a feeling "isolation." It's normal during these periods of isolation to wish that you had an individual with whom you could brainstorm new ideas and/or strategies.
Too often, you, as the budding business owner, may be reluctant to share problems with your employees because you do not want to cause them undue concern or worry. Or, since you yourself, perhaps, are not necessarily confident in your own solution to a particular problem, you may have a tendency, therefore, not to communicate with your employees openly about the problem. It is also easy to become entrenched in a situation where you may not “see the forest for the trees,” thus making it difficult to think of solutions or innovative ideas.
There are many business challenges you, the entrepreneurial business owner, can handle on your own. However, with the daily distractions of owning and managing your business, putting out fires, and dealing with the crises, many times the challenges seem overwhelming.
As a business owner, one of your responsibilities is stimulating creative thinking among your staff to ensure the continued development of fresh perspectives and strategies for achieving short-and long-term goals. People are your organization’s most important resource. But like any resource, it is only useful if you can tap into it and put it to good use. How much effort do you really put into encouraging your people to come up with ideas and to follow them through to a successful implementation?
You need to make the best use of your people and harness their natural creativity and genius. Your people need to focus the power of their brain and apply the knowledge, expertise, and experience they have to address the challenges the face. .
Unfortunately, this situation just doesn’t happen as often as we would like. It may seem contradictory but, people need a structure or process to follow in order to help them be more creative as well as productive. Such an approach is brainstorming.
Brainstorming sessions are a proven group approach to generate ideas relating to a specific subject matter by allowing the participants to voice their ideas, no matter how strange, weird, far-fetched, or impossible they may seem. This process generates a large number of ideas in a short period of time and allows you to whittle down the ideas that warrant further analysis and possibly implementation.