1. Be Passionate About Your Big Idea
Examine your motives for wanting to launch your business. Successful entrepreneurs don’t look first at how full their bank accounts will be if they’re able to get their new business off the ground. They want to make a difference in the world through their Big Idea’solving a common problem, offering an easier way to do things, developing a new product that fulfills an unmet niche.
Passion is the underlying thread for success. There’s no doubt about it, starting a business is a lot of hard work. It’s your passion for your Big Idea that will see you through any obstacles that will come your way.
Just look at eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, who followed his passion for computer programming and saw a unique niche that could be filled on the Internet. Writing code for the launch of his online auction site while still working full-time, Pierre was focused on creating software that would benefit people, rather than solely on making money.
‘You have to really believe in what you’re doing, be passionate enough about it so that you’ll put in the hours and hard work that it takes to actually succeed,’ Pierre said.
Passion’it’s the driving force that you just can’t ignore. It’s what will make your new adventure seem more like fun, than work. It’s the difference between wanting to start a business and craving it.
‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’
‘ Albert Schweitzer
2. Let Quality Differentiate Your Product or Service
Maintain the quality of your product or service. Your product or
service is your calling card…and your business reputation. Like Mary Kay, who built her business on the ‘Golden Rule,’ you should create the same type of experience for your customers that you would like to receive.
For Kemmons Wilson, his commitment to quality spawned the idea of giving families an alternative to the second-rate motels prevalent during the early 1950s. That alternative standardized amenities travelers now take for granted and differentiated the Holiday Inn motel chain in the travel industry.
With all of the competing interests and expenses a start-up company faces, there may be a temptation to lessen the quality of your product in order to cut costs, but it is your relationship with your customers that will suffer. And that’s a relationship that all entrepreneurs cannot afford to damage or take lightly.
3. Select Your Company Name Carefully
Your company name is your identity, so choose it carefully to best communicate your mission and your brand. From Spanx creator Sara Blakely to Jeff Bezos selecting Amazon.com rather than Cadabra Inc., successful entrepreneurs know that capturing customer attention is a key first step to launching your business.
So take the time to brainstorm and try on the sight, sound and connotations of various names. Choose a name that’s short, memorable, has a positive feel to it and as much as possible, one that captures what your business does. Think about how your business name will look on your business logo and if people will remember how to spell it when searching for your website. Be sure to check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and domain registers to see if your suggested name is available to do business under.
Let your company name make a great first impression for your new business.
4. Believe In Yourself
As you begin to put your Big Idea into action, there won’t be a shortage of naysayers who may think your idea has no merit. To create a business where there was none before, you have to steadfastly believe in the benefits your business idea will bring to others.
In each of the success stories listed in this book, the entrepreneur listened to what others around them had to say, but believed that what each of them felt in his or her gut was right…and then acted on it.
Cookie connoisseur Debbi Fields is a great example of following through on instincts. Everyone around her told her the cookie business would not be a success, even as they devoured her chewy delights. But she knew in her heart that she was on to a great idea…and more importantly, followed through on that idea.
Entrepreneurs see opportunity where others do not. Listen to the concerns of others. (They may have thought of something you haven’t.) But, trust your own judgment and believe in your own idea. If you don’t, who will?
‘Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.’
‘ Mary Kay Ash
5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Entrepreneurial is another word for risk. But for successful entrepreneurs, starting a business is a calculated risk, one they investigate thoroughly before taking the leap. It is that leap which differentiates entrepreneurs from would-be business owners. Every entrepreneur with a Big Idea has some trepidation about leaving the security of a salaried income.
Starbucks’ Howard Schultz took a huge pay cut to get his ‘feet wet’ initially as Starbucks’ head of marketing. But, he really stepped out of his comfort zone in launching his own company, betting that Americans would enjoy espresso served right in stores, as he had during his trip to Italy. He knew that making the decision was a milestone moment’one that would affect the rest of his life, and that of his young family. He also knew that he had to try.
The fear of regret is a powerful motivator for moving beyond any qualms…and taking action. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit don’t want to look back on their lives and regret not stepping out of their comfort zones, missing the opportunities that could have changed the course of their lives for the better.
6. The ‘Devil Is in the Details’
Everyone knows that if you eat at a McDonald’s in New Jersey or New Mexico, you’ll experience the same quality…thanks to Founder Ray Kroc’s commitment to detail. Ray understood that if you focus on the small stuff’the myriad of details it takes to construct a burger in an assembly-line fashion’you’ll be rewarded with consistent quality and efficiency.
Regardless of what your product or service is, as an entrepreneur you’ll be faced with a long ‘to-do’ list’from developing a business plan, defining your customer niche, securing capital, laying the groundwork for your infrastructure, deciding your marketing plan, building relationships with suppliers, planning cash flow to hiring staff and launching day-to-day operations.
That ‘to-do’ list is often longer than there are hours in a day. But each element of a business is important and deserves its due because the ‘devil is in the details.’
Take the time to do the research and legwork, reaching out to experts (accountants, lawyers, marketers) for advice, when you need it. The more time you put in up-front, the smoother your transition to owning your own business will be.
7. Experiment and Listen to Your Customers
Landing your first customer is only the first step in making your business successful; you need to continually exceed your customers’ expectations to keep them coming back for more.
Outstanding customer service will help differentiate your business from the competition. Respond quickly to customer issues and resolve them with respect. Listening to your customers about what you are doing well and not so well provides an opportunity to fine tune products and processes or to uncover additional customer needs that you can fill with new products and services.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Sam Walton continually tinkered with pricing, promotion and distribution strategies before hitting upon the combination that made Walmart the global success story it is today. Experimentation is key to finding the winning formula for success.
8. Select the Right People for Your Team
As an entrepreneur with a Big Idea, you already have a number of skills that you need to succeed’innovation, commitment, and confidence. Another part of being successful is recognizing the skills that you lack and then hiring the right people to complement your team.
‘I experienced this first hand when I started Successories. My former Creative Director, Mike McKee, brought not only his creative talents, but also his ideas and enthusiasm for my new venture. Together, we created an unstoppable team.’
They say that the ‘whole is the sum of its parts.’ That’s never been more true than in business, where someone else’s passion may be just what’s needed to do what you cannot do well.
Look for those who share your values and your vision. Working together, with a passion for the same cause, will prove to be an unbeatable combination.
9. Value Your Employees
Southwest Airlines’ former CEO Herb Kelleher said it best, ‘You have to treat your employees like customers,’ he told Fortune in 2001. ‘When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right.’
While there’s no arguing that equitable compensation and benefits are at the top of any employee’s list, to keep your employees motivated, you need to make them feel valued and recognized for their contributions. As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position to offer life/work balance perks, seek input on business tactics, provide opportunities for people to grow in their jobs, express appreciation for a job well done, and most of all to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
10. Persistence Wins the Race
Launching your Big Idea is just the beginning of your success as an entrepreneur. There will be many obstacles along the way, some of which you expect to encounter…and some which will blindside you. Each entrepreneur profiled in this book held the courage of his or her convictions and didn’t give up when times got rough.
Fred Smith had to overcome a number of hurdles to get Federal Express off the ground, literally! Whether it was governmental regulations, rocky starts with investors or cash flow problems, Fred hung in there. Despite taking 26 months to break even, Fred knew his overnight package delivery business model was a winner. Each day, millions of individuals and businesses prove him right.
Perseverance is the real test of success for new business owners. You’ve already created your Big Idea, so plan your strategy, surround yourself with those who are as passionate as you are, and work through the challenges one by one. Success is there for the taking…if you persevere.