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Published on April 29, 2020

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur

It’s no surprise that many people fantasize about a life where they are their own boss. Being an entrepreneur means living independently without the need to follow orders. Furthermore, entrepreneurship may lead to flexible work hours with no limit on your income and owning your own business empire.

However, building a business from the ground up is no easy feat. Only 40% of small businesses are profitable, while the other 60% either break even or lose money continuously.[1]

So how exactly does one master business in this harsh economy? Though there is no fixed formula, but here are some tips on learning how to help you learn business and get started as an entrepreneur.

1. Start Small

Starting small is underrated. Most aspiring entrepreneurs try to hit the ground running immediately, before even learning the basics and pitfalls to avoid. My advice is to take things slowly in the beginning and start small. Going big from day one isn’t always the best approach.

My partner and I just got on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia’s list of honorees[2]. However, we most definitely did not get there in a day. It took us 7 years to really get the hang of how to run our business, and it’s not something we were able to do from day one.

The first presentation I ever did was for a cheesecake shop in the United Kingdom for a few hundred dollars. It was not much, but it gave me the confidence to do bigger things and a happy customer is always good to have at the beginning.

Start off by trying to sell cheaper goods or services like selling old clothing pieces you no longer need online or offering graphic design services. These activities may seem trivial, but the opportunities they teach you cost management, basic marketing and how to deliver real value to your consumers (and dealing with challenges along the way)

Trying to fast-track your progress and by diving in immediately could lead to a rude awakening, potentially even business failure. 7 out of 10 small businesses are impacted by business failure , and statistics show they end up failing before their 10-year mark. Be it due to poor expense control or a lack of a proper business system, business failure can be minimized once you master the basics early.

2. Model After Success

Reading up founder stories online through feature articles, podcasts, and websites can give you the insights to how these outstanding individuals succeeded in their journey and the pitfalls to avoid on your own.

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Business leaders tend to leave patterns of success. Modeling after them, learning more about their world views, and vicariously going down the same path they took will give you a powerful head start, possibly clarifying difficult and similar decisions you’ll have to make.

Do ensure you pick the right person to model after. Choose someone who has reached the level you aspire to reach. Read up about his or her mottos and visions, their drawbacks and successes, including how they got to where they are now. To quote the old adage: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself!””

When I first started our business, I reached out personally to entrepreneurs I looked up to, like Ana Foureaux Frazao, who was a keynote designer at Apple at the time. Fortunately, they generously shared their experienced advice and encouragement that really got me through some tight spots.

Now, you’re lucky enough to be starting a business in a time where podcasts are all the rage[3] and experts share advice for free on Linkedin.

Every success story belies a road laden with challenges and pitfalls waiting to creep up on you. Discover more about these founders’ failures, how they picked themselves up, and apply these lessons you have learned to your own personal ventures. Not only do you get to avoid the mistakes they made, but you are also one step closer to your goal.

3. Enroll in a Course to Learn New Skills

Being an entrepreneur requires you to wear many hats, which often means that you have to take on more roles than you would be comfortable with. In a big company, there are a few essential roles that make the company tick, helmed by various people — HR, marketing, accounts, administrative, etc. Starting your own business means you’ll need to take on all of them.

Consistently acquiring new skill sets and experiences is the hallmark habit of a great entrepreneur.

Take some time to attend classes to improve your skills in areas that need work. Explore in-depth areas that you’re already adept at. By taking a crash course to explore different topics of business, you can hone all your business skills, especially those which you particularly avoided in school.

For example, apart from learning hard skills, like programming and design, you’ll also want to pick up soft skills, like negotiation, sales, and presentation skills.

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Being an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean you need to be good at everything, but it does mean that you need to be willing to try everything and become a jack-of-all-trades. Take the first step to better equip yourself with the most comprehensive duffel bag of skill sets for the long journey ahead because in the beginning, you’ll likely have to do it all by yourself.

4. Master Marketing

Our world is changing. We have children making millions filming reviews about toys[4] and teenage influencers earning more on good months than entry-level bankers. Attention is becoming scarcer, and if you know how to command it, you’ll be in a good position to profit massively.

As a starting point, you’ll want to master a few key elements and skill sets to begin learning marketing:

Platforms and Social Media

Get intimate with various new social platforms like TikTok, tackle professional audiences on LinkedIn, and get familiar with the old-but-gold Facebook channel for advertising. These will be your bread-and-butter channels that you’ll own apart from your own websites and will be crucial in getting the word out about your business.

Blogging and Publishing

Whether you’re using WordPress or Medium, the ethos is the same. Share valuable content for free that your audience will love and develop a community and expert identity. In turn, they’ll potentially purchase what you sell and spread your message.

Years back, SlideShare was the go-to platform for our niche before they got acquired by LinkedIn. I regularly put up PDFs there, which, in turn, got us hundreds of inquiries and leads. After a year or two, we had millions of people viewing our content. Now that it’s almost defunct, we’ve had to find new channels like LinkedIn to market.

Audience Personas

All the marketing tactics and strategies available will be for naught if you do not have a clear idea of who you’re targeting, what they want, and the best ways to reach them. Take time to first understand your audience inside-out — understand their desires, fears, and aspirations.

Pricing Strategies

Marketing should lead to you getting noticed. It should also lead to you getting paid. The latter is more difficult to accomplish effectively. Setting the right prices that will resonate with your audience is crucial to developing a successful marketing strategy and business.

5. Meet Other Entrepreneurs

Nothing beats surrounding yourself with smart, like-minded, and driven individuals who are also facing the same struggles as you are. You are not alone in this journey; there are others that can help you along the way!

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The road to being a successful entrepreneur can be rough and, most of all, lonely. There is a 100% chance that you’ll face challenges and hardship along the way, and having a strong mental game mindset is essential to persisting and staying optimistic.

Having an inner circle of entrepreneurs can offer you contextual advice on making difficult decisions and navigating your next steps. Exposing yourself to this new group of individuals is the best opportunity to pick up something new.

Using apps like Meetup, joining groups on LinkedIn, or attending business events on platforms like Eventbrite can set you up to meet your future inner circle of entrepreneurs.

You never know, you may just learn a little something that can ultimately bring you to greater heights and accomplish even more of the unknown.

Aside from that, you can potentially find business partners or collaborators that don’t compete directly but serve a similar customer group amongst your target audience .

6. Identify a Product Niche You Know Well

It’s easier to sell a product that you are familiar with intimately. You understand the pain points[5] that drive you to make a decision, and your potential customers will go through the same journey of decision-making. Understanding the pain points of the product, you know exactly the change you want to bring to it.

In the best-case scenario, what you’re selling could be what you’re passionate about.

Your interest may be in working out, for instance. As such, starting a business in that space can prove to be more interesting, and due to your intimate understanding of it, likely more successful, too.

We started our presentation consultancy, HighSpark, stemming from interest and expertise. Our existing skills in the area made it easier to get our first few clients versus selling a service or offering what we truly didn’t understand at all. We were also able to clearly articulate the pain points based on previous clients we helped on a freelance basis before starting the business.

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Good business ideas hardly just “come to you” by magic. However, that shouldn’t stop you from starting. Start with a passion, pick a pain point, and begin there. Your ideas and business model might evolve over time, but you’ll thank yourself for starting early.

7. Become an Intern

Before you start building your own empire, consider getting some first-hand experience in the real world to have a good kickstart. Without knowing how the gears work behind the scenes, you increase the chances of yourself making mistakes that could have been avoided.

Interning at a successful small company can be a good start. It can give you deep insights into the company’s inner workings and how its founders developed their business first-hand.

A well-selected internship can expand your horizons, provide an opportunity to work directly with and learn from the founders of the small company. In a larger corporation setting, you might not get the same level of responsibility.

You’ll also have the license to make a few mistakes in a safer environment. People are generally more forgiving towards interns, who are usually less experienced than full-time hires.

This opportunity will let you capitalize on your strengths and apply lessons learned to your business ventures with greater ease. Best of all, you get a free ticket to be mentored by a professional, so there is no need to feel your way in the dark when in doubt. You are not on your own!

Final Thoughts

These tips should be sufficient to get you started, but undertaking the responsibilities to nourish and grow your company takes a lot of courage.

With great resolve and continuous learning, you are only a few more steps away from becoming a successful entrepreneur!

More Tips on Becoming an Entrepreneur

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com 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.

How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them) 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)

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

Dear Ms. Sanders,

Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

  1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
  2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
  3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
  4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
  5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

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I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

8. Getting Creative

On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

9. Making the Case that You Fit

How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

12. End With Enthusiasm

You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

Final Thoughts

The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

Reference

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