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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 20, 2015 3 years ago

12 Steps to Successful Entrepreneurship

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Entrepreneurship is a goal to which many wish to aspire. But, why do so many fall short?
by: Cheryl O’Neill Staff Writer

Entrepreneurship is a goal to which many wish to aspire. But, why do so many fall short? In my two decades of helping small business owners to grow their businesses, here are 12 things that I often see overlooked.

1.) Know what you want personally before you get started (personal goals).
When people start a business they do it for a reason. It's what I call their “why.” Over time with all the demands of a small business, many owners lose track of this “why” and they become dissatisfied by their business and their life. If you know what you want from your life before you start it, makes it much easier to build a business to get what you want from life!

2.) Make sure your business vision is tied directly to your personal goal (passion motivates).
You have to do a lot of things that you don't know how to do or don't like to do while building your business. If your business foundation is built on your passion, you'll always be motivated to do whatever it takes to be successful. This means creating goals that motivate.

3.) Know the difference between thinking strategically and tactically and learn how to execute both.
Frequently I find small business owners who can think big, but can't put the details together to make their big ideas a reality. On the other hand, I find many that want to talk about all the details, but can't tell you how they all fit together. A successful entrepreneur needs to be able to think both strategically and tactically, or you need to have a partner who can do whichever one you do not do well.

4.) Know your strengths and weaknesses, both personal and professional.
Nobody does everything well, but an entrepreneur needs to do it all. So, knowing your own capabilities is critical. This means a willingness to take a hard look in the mirror. Apply your strengths to your business and get help to improve your weaknesses. Success will be the result of accepting yourself, or frustration will continue to consume you by avoiding the inevitable.

5.) Learn how to ask for help and delegate.
Often small business owners are “go getters,” doing whatever it takes to get the result they seek. In the overall scheme of things this often is an entrepreneur's downfall. To grow a business you must divide and conquer. That means delegating work to others. If you do not master this skill your business will never grow beyond your span of control. And, your business cash flow becomes dependent on a person - YOU. This will impact the market value of your business significantly and how investors will look at your company when you look for funding. Learn to DELEGATE AND THRIVE!

6.) Build a management team to assist you in growing your business.
I often hear small business owners say “I cannot afford to hire a management team to manage my business.” My question to them is “do you have a banker, CPA, lawyer, and/or business coach?” What are these advisers doing for you? If they're not assisting you, you need to fire your current team and look for a new team.

7.) Know your exit strategy before you start.
You've heard the adage “if you don't know where you're going any road will get you there.” Not having an exit strategy before you begin is exactly the same thing. How you build your business is based on what you ultimately plan to do with it. Depending on how you plan to exit your business: sell it to an investor, pass it on to your family, sell it to your employees, or just close it down, each has a different set of requirements. Frequently when I get a client who wants to exit their business and she didn't have an exit strategy - it isn't built correctly. It can take three to five years to undo what's been done and get it ready to sell. If you start out with the end result in mind, you can build your business the way it needs to be built and reap the benefits along the way!

8.) Know your current business capabilities before developing a business plan.
It amazes me how many entrepreneurs don't know how much revenue their business is currently capable of generating. If you don't know this key fact then how do you know how much to sell and how much marketing you need to do?

9.) Understand the small business growth cycle stages
Growing a small business is a process. As such, it has a very predictable cycle with key objectives on which you must focus based on your stage. If you don't understand the cycle and at what stage your business is in, it's a crap shoot as to whether you'll get where you want to go.

10.) Avoid shiny object syndrome.
Most entrepreneurs can see an opportunity from a mile away. The problem is too frequently they get distracted by these “shiny objects.” Focus your business model so you don't take on more than the resources you have available for your current stage of growth. There are plenty of opportunities out there. Focus on where you are in the growth cycle and you will find many more opportunities available to you in the future when you have the resources to fully reap the benefits which they present.

11.) Know who your customers are and speak to them in their language, not yours.
A common problem in many small businesses is that the owner is an expert of discipline, while his customer is not. That's why they hire you! But, too frequently the owner/expert uses technical language or the features of their product/service instead of the benefits their customers get as a result of buying their product/service. Change the way you speak to your customers and watch how many more turn up on your doorstep!

12.) Build systems every step of the way so your business can easily scale as you grow.
What gives a business real market value is the ability for the product or service to be built or delivered by anyone. This is the basis of the franchise business model. As you create your business if you build processes anyone can follow it becomes easy to train others as your business grows. I believe this one key factor is where most small businesses get stuck in the quagmire and stagnate more than any other.

Cheryl O'Neill Gowen is president and CEO of Alternative Funding Options. She works with business owners seeking cash flow from non-traditional sources, drawing on more than 30 years' experience in banking, financing and staffing. Contact her at:{encode="[email protected]" title="[email protected]"}.

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