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Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

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    In Part 1 of this series, I talked about why now is a good time to start a business. But without Part 2, Limiting Your Risk, you may be setting yourself up for problems. Now is a great time to start a business, but part of starting a business in this kind of economy is playing it smart.

    How You Can Limit Your Risk:

    When you start a business in challenging economic times, you’ll want to limit your risk as much as possible. There are several ways to go about this, but here are my top recommendations:

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    Get it right at the beginning. A lot of budding business owners skip crucial steps on their way to a business launch. I can’t tell you how many clients have come to me, a year or two into their businesses, without having set up their companies with the Secretary of State, the IRS, or having met with an attorney to help them set up their operating agreements. These are things that could get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t do them the right way.

    There are other steps that won’t necessarily get you into trouble, but may cause some headaches if you don’t get them right. Branding is an excellent example of one of the most-missed (and most misunderstood) steps in entrepreneurialism. It’s also one of the things that can make or break your company.  Choose a generic business name like “ABC Consulting” or create a brand that doesn’t intrigue your target market and you’ll start your business heading down the wrong path.

    Choose an industry that’s hot or one that’s a “need.” Generally, you want to go with the industry you know best, but at the same time, you can’t ignore what most business experts define as the wave of the new future. Currently, the hottest trends are green businesses, health care, natural beauty, discount retail and luxury, credit and debt management, and technology. If you can find a way to spin what you already know into one of these hot business areas, you’ll take advantage of the coming upsurge in these industries.

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    On the other hand, I also believe in going after the “needs” of your consumers. For example, I once worked with a guy who was a chimney sweep in the winter (something people need) and a custom SUV builder in the summer (a luxury people want). His winter need-based business was one that provided enough income for the whole year, just in case his want-based business waned in the summer.

    Start with a low-risk business model. When I work with a client to design a new business, we typically use what I call a “leap-frogging” or “dovetailing” approach. This is where you start your business using a low-risk business model and build from there, using the income from the first model to fund expansion and growth into more complex business models. This approach almost always allows my clients to start their own businesses without seeking any type of funding from lending institutions, venture capitalists, or other investors.

    Plan ahead. If you lose your job, there isn’t much you can do about that. And in this economy, you’d have to work a part-time job in addition to your regular full-time job to save up enough for the six to twelve months of living expenses I generally recommend when clients want to start a business they can work full-time from the beginning. But if you can keep your job and start your business part-time, you’ll reduce your risk substantially. This allows you to maintain a steady income while you’re building your business, and eventually, you can make the transition to being self-employed, full-time.

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    Market research can save you a lot of time and heartache. Before you head into any business startup, you want to know your market inside out. More than that, you want to know your target market. There are lots of ways to do the research. You can do your own research (called “primary research”) or you can use information compiled by others (“secondary research”). Both have their pros and cons, but the questions you want to answer are:

    • Who is my target market?
    • What do they want?
    • Can I deliver it to them?
    • If I deliver what they want, will they buy it?

    Leverage free and inexpensive marketing methods to build your business. A lot of new entrepreneurs develop complicated, expensive marketing campaigns before realizing how many ways there are to get the word out about their businesses without spending a fortune. And with the power of the Internet literally at our fingertips, it’s easier now than ever to build awareness for your brand. However, that doesn’t mean you should go out and build a giant Twitter following. There are so many online options, but all of them may not be appropriate for your target market.

    Get the right help. Before you launch a company, you want to find professionals who can help you start on the right foot. There are countless people out there calling themselves “consultants” and you have to be careful who you choose. The ideal business consultant for you is someone who understands a lot of different business models, especially the low-risk ones, and who can help you figure out the model that suits you best. You want someone you find personable, someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone you can trust.

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    In addition, make sure they don’t make promises that are too good to be true. A lot of business “experts” I’ve seen lately offer what amounts to “get rich quick schemes,” while others offer such vague information that you’re compelled to keep buying more books and products to get to the “real” information….which never actually comes. Instead of wasting your time on these folks, find someone genuine, real, and honest, who may not promise you the sun, moon and stars super-fast, but who can help you build a solid, stable income with real growth potential.  Work one-on-one with them to develop a sound business model and a strong brand with a viable marketing strategy that you can easily implement. A good business consultant will know how to work with whatever budget you have and tailor solutions to your needs. Plus, they should have an army of other professionals who can also work within your budget, but still offer high quality work.

    Build your team. Speaking of other professionals, you will need your own little army. In addition to a business consultant, you’ll also want an accountant, an attorney, a graphic designer and a web designer, and you may also want a virtual assistant and some other consultants, most of whom your business consultant probably has access to.

    Starting a business in an uncertain economy can feel risky, and it certainly has stopped a lot of people from moving forward with great ideas. But if you look at history and remember that some of the most solid businesses today were started in just such an economy, mitigate your risk factors and hire the right professionals from the start, you’ll give yourself a fantastic leg up on your competition, and set yourself up for success.

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    1 How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work 2 20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs) 3 The Best Interview Questions to Hire Only the Elites 4 How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed 5 15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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