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Published on November 5, 2018

12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture

12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture

Beginning a new startup or business venture as a first-time entrepreneur can be a daunting affair. You’re more than likely tight on cash, unsure of whether your next planned steps are right and there’s nobody to tell you what to do.

So as the co-founder and creative lead of a strategic presentation company, I’ll share with you 12 foolproof tips for entrepreneurs to be successful in a new venture:

1. Don’t Spend Unnecessarily

First-time entrepreneurs have a tendency to splurge on a new venture. It might be the early jitters of starting a business for the first time, or just plain inexperience. But making frivolous purchases can kill your business before it has even begun to take off.

For example, it’s difficult to make a case for spending a couple hundred dollars on premium stock name cards, paying thousands to shoot a video production about your business or shelling out excessive rent for a swanky office. When in doubt, ask yourself if the spend is going to directly impact the success of your business or whether it’s purely for egotistical reasons.

It could just be the case that certain kinds of spending will reap more pronounced results when your business is more mature.

2. Validate Before Going to Full-On Production

If you’re in the business of developing software or designing hardware products, you’ll want to make sure that you validate the demand and fit of the product to the market you’re selling to as soon as possible. This is more popularly known as finding ‘Product-Market-Fit’.

Kickstarter Is a great example of how companies can get pre-orders and buy-in from their customers even before their products are made. They use marketing videos to show previews of their products to get early sales before they’ve even gone into mass-manufacturing. Founders end up saving hefty upfront costs of production and avoid building something that nobody wants.

If you’re not using Kickstarter, there are other ways you can validate your idea as well. Consider interviewing a few prospective customers and conducting research on how other competitor products became successful.

3. Start Marketing from the Start

A big problem with new ventures is that founders can spend months working on their product, but only spend a small portion of the time at the end promoting it. More often than not, they’ll either end up in a situation where they’ve built something that nobody wants, or find that the much-anticipated launch of their product falls flat because they don’t have anyone to sell it to.

Marketing early, even before your product is a 100% ready can provide useful feedback from potential customers that can enhance the success of your business in the mid-term. At the same time, when you do eventually begin selling your services or products, you’ll already have access to a captive audience to sell to.

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Start collecting leads and engaging with your customer communities early to ensure that you have a ready, hungry crowd to sell to.

4. Always Negotiate

The popular adage: ‘You get what you negotiate’ rings true especially in business. There is no limit or line in the sand that restricts business owners from negotiating better deals for themselves. You’ll also find that the first offer presented to you is never the absolute best offer available.

Distance yourself from the mindset that asking for a discount or a better deal is being ‘cheap’ or ‘disrespectful’. In some instances, when negotiators use techniques like low-balling, it can be taken too far.

Approach any negotiation with a mindset of finding a win-win for both parties where you already have a position or desire before you enter the negotiation.

These tips on how to negotiate in difficult situations and get what you want will be helpful.

5. Get Online Immediately

‘If you aren’t online, you don’t exist’ – This is especially true in today’s age where more than 4 billion are using the internet.

Without a web presence, you’re missing out on a powerful traffic driver to your business.

Start Your Own Website

Starting your own website doesn’t have to cost thousands or take months. Using platforms like SquareSpace, Wix and content management systems like WordPress, you can very quickly get setup with a web presence for your business or even a personal website to provide information and collect leads.

Claim Your Googlemybusiness Listing

Google is the largest search engine in the world and it’s the first place where most customers will search for your business. Claiming your free listing ensures that your customers can locate your business and get accurate information like reviews and operating hours.

It’s becoming a lot more important for food and beverage outlets to get noticed and is referred to more than Yelp for reviews.

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Drive Traffic to Your Website

Driving traffic to your startup business website is imperative to ensure you have a continuous flow of enquiries and clients.

Using paid advertising like Facebook Ads or Google Adwords and organic marketing techniques like content marketing on your own blog, you can potentially acquire new customers at very reasonable rates.

You’ll even have the potential to automate some of these processes which you might not have been able to do with traditional advertising and marketing efforts.

6. Pitch for Press

Getting noticed by the general public should be one of the eventual priorities for new businesses. Press coverage by mainstream media can potentially send hordes of customers your way. Here are a few ways you can get press coverage for your business:

Pitch Directly to Journalists

Concoct your story angle, prepare a press release and email it in a brief pitch to the journalist covering the beat of your choice.

Using platforms like HARO, you can also provide comment for journalists looking for interviewees.

Start by Guest-Posting

There are many blogs that accept guest author contributions to their publications. Using one of these as a stepping stone to get traffic and coverage is a great way to get free placement by taking the initiative.

Search up for blogs in your industry that accept these by searching terms like: “write for us (your industry) blogs”.

Hire a PR Specialist

You can increase your chance of coverage by hiring a professional.

Look for a freelancer that has had experience getting coverage for companies in your industry. The rates available will be a lot more affordable versus hiring an agency and you’ll still be able to get decent results for your investment.

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7. Calculate Your Breakeven Point

Unless you run a pure service company, there’s very likely to be some upfront cost to start your business. These could be the cost of producing your goods, the development costs of your software.

To have a good handle of your finances, you’ll need to calculate your breakeven point.[1] This is just basically the point where your business revenue covers all your expenses and has become profitable.

Knowing this can help you project your finances and costs ahead of time to determine if the business’s pricing and costs are viable or not to avoid a rude fiscal awakening later on.

8. Set Future Goals

Many new business owners get into business with ecstatic enthusiasm only to see their motivation fizzle out after a number of years.

Planning ahead for the business by setting financial and business goals is crucial to continue growing as well as maintain healthy profitability.

There will be moments where entrepreneurs get ‘comfortable’ with their situations and forget that they are running a growing organisation. Avoid this instance by staying on your toes and looking towards your vision for the business in the future.

9. Learn To Sell

For newbies in business, one of the most difficult obstacles to get past is the fear of selling. Sometimes, it’s handling difficult questions,[2]
others it’s about believing enough in your own business to sell it to someone else.

When making any interpersonal sales, always approach it from a standpoint of being a ‘facilitator’ to the sale rather than trying to force it down the person’s throat:

  • Ask questions to determine what they need
  • Repeat the questions in summarised form to ensure you’ve gotten it right
  • Propose solutions that your business can offer that match the needs
  • Ask for the sale and propose next steps

It always helps to consistently keep educated on sales techniques and try them out for yourself with different customers to see what works.

10. Collaborate with Other Businesses

As a small business, the odds are against you succeeding. Many other small businesses face a similar predicament and collaborating with ones that have a similar customer demographic can prove to be a lucrative arrangement for both parties.

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For example, consistently getting new leads and customers can be a stressful and time-consuming activity for businesses that run on lean teams. A great way to ease this burden is to cross-refer business with other collaborators that may have similar customers but don’t directly compete in the same space.

That way, both businesses keep the pipeline full and build on a healthy alliance. There are many other ways for businesses to collaborate besides cross-referring business for a kickback or commission. Businesses can also work out package rates for services that both businesses provide together to the same clients.

11. Operationalize Your Business

As a startup business owner, your goal should always be to work ‘on the business’ and not ‘in the business’. Otherwise, you’ve only just invented a job for yourself. Entrepreneurs need to build organizations that can run independently of the founders.

A way to get closer to that reality is to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure that staff and systems can run without supervision.

Begin breaking up your business into various functions and developing step-by-step instructions and considerations for each role. Eventually, you’ll end up with SOPs for every function and role to be delegated to other staff that work in the organisation.

If done correctly, you should see massive savings In your time to focus on growing the business rather than just getting bogged down by the day-to-day.

12. Test and Experiment with New Ways To Do Business

There are tested and proven ways to get new customers and run businesses in various industries. However, the best methods aren’t always mainstream or well-known. Sometimes the best ways haven’t been discovered yet.

These can be in the form of new technologies that have recently become available for mass adoption, or simply creative ways to conduct marketing activities.

Are there systems that can be improved with automation in your industry? Are there untapped niches that can potentially be wildly profitable that others have yet to explore?

Once you’ve dominated your current line of business, consider expanding into new areas. The business world is ever-evolving and changing, the only way to really stay ahead is to endeavour to innovate and disrupt first.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin 12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur (15 Powerful Actions to Take Today) How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home) Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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