This is really a fantastic time to join the ranks of the self-employed, and start your own business. And we don’t mean that in a Pollyannaish, “Rah-rah, you can do it!” way, but rather, as a very serious business proposition.
Of course, the economy has been tough lately; no doubt about that, and yes, that is a challenge. So what does it take to successfully start a business?
Here are six keys to startup success…
1. Passion is good, but business skills pay the bills.
This may seem obvious, but I don’t think so. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of any entrepreneur is their passion. It is passion that leads any solopreneur to start their own enterprise in the middle of an economic slowdown. Anyone who takes the time and energy to start up their own business is passionate about the process — and they better be!
But passion alone is not enough.
One error far too many small business owners make is mistaking passion for business acumen. There are two parts to any business: 1) The part you love to do, that thing that got you in it in the first place, and 2) everything else — the hiring and firing, doing the books, advertising, and all the rest.
If you want to stick around for the long haul, be passionate, yes, but also learn all of those other things. That is what makes you a real business person.
2. Look for vacuums and waves.
To succeed in your business, you must strike a balance between being relevant and being different.
With so much competition out there, it is important to find vacuums — areas where your competition is not as strong. For example, I recently met a business person who started using posters and flyers to advertise; his thinking was that few people do that anymore, so he stands out.
Similarly, catch a wave when possible. If everyone is tweeting, there may be a very good reason for that. Stay relevant.
3. When you’re self-employed, you must have a great online presence.
People today now spend as much time online as they do in front of a television. You have to go where the eyeballs are, and if they are online, then you have to be there in a big way. That establishing and maintaining a robust online presence is so affordable makes it even smarter.
And notice I didn’t say you need a “good” online presence. You need a great one: A great website, a great social media presence, a great e-marketing strategy — the whole great enchilada.
4. Take advantage of the available technology.
Technology can be your competitive advantage. Whether it is software, outfitting your mobile workforce, or some cool gadget, technology can make the difference. So, for instance, don’t just buy some program and learn the basics, but really figure out how it can be used to your advantage… because it can.
5. Don’t lead.
Especially in the beginning of your enterprise, especially as you are just learning the ropes, following can beat leading. You don’t have to invent the Next Big Thing, or create some brand new scheme. It may work, but it may not, and in the beginning there is little room for error. So learn about business, learn about your business, learn what works, and do that. Later on you can go for your big idea, but probably not yet.
And second, remember that there is a lot of free (or almost free) help out there. SCORE counselors will help you learn areas of your new business where you may be a little weak, as will the SBA. There are tons of great websites, magazines, and books that can help. Social networks can offer free support too.
6. Market and advertise.
And then do it some more: Become a marketing expert. Period. And good luck!