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Although I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 10 years, the company I co-founded is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, though. We’ve learned from our mistakes and kept planning for the future of successful entrepreneurship. What I have learned as a marketing entrepreneur can help any entrepreneur, regardless of industry.
Below are the necessary steps any small business owner can take in order to achieve success in the world of entrepreneurship:
Build (and trust) a great team. People are social by nature. We just do better in groups. That primal force holds true in the business world, as well. There is strength in numbers. Look for talented people. Find people who share your vision. Don’t hire just because you know them, or think they’re nice. The team is the foundation for the whole organization. Then, when the team has been built, trust in them. Listen to them. They’ll help chart the course.
Anticipate and plan for growth. A Bonsai Tree must grow for three to five years before it can even begin to be trained. Those who grow the trees don’t wait to plan, though. They develop a strategy based on the natural growth and features of the trees. A business is very similar. If you don’t get ahead of your growth, you can’t grow profitably or effectively. Long before you need them, you should put plans and policies in place for:
- Client management
- File storage and sharing
- Human Resources
… and so much more. Understand, your policies and plans will change over time. Communicate and collaborate with your team about why the changes are necessary and how they can help implement the new directives. As you grow, listen to your team. They’re highly qualified to tell you what works and what doesn’t and what they need to be most effective. They can help you improve your systems, client experience, quality of product and much more.
It’s never too soon to dream big as long as you have a plan to achieve your dreams.
Set expectations. In every facet of the business, expectations need to be set. You must start by setting your own expectations and determining what you are willing to count as success. You’re also going to need to set expectations for the team. Identifying benchmarks and celebrating them can lift the morale of your crew tremendously. Finally, make sure you’re setting expectations for your clients. Over-communicate, under-promise and over-deliver. Make sure your clients have a clear picture of what qualifies as success.
Invest appropriately. Spending money is one of the least favorite activities for entrepreneurs and business owners (as opposed to making money, which is one of the most favorite). But investing is different than spending. Investing implies a return, and returns can be quantified. So, try not to spend, but never stop investing. Invest in training, networking, branding, internal marketing, team development and culture. These are the things that will motivate your team, elevate your brand and bring in new business.
Don’t believe the hype. From time to time, you may hear dire warnings about a troubling trend in your industry. In digital marketing, we often hear that SEO is dead, or that Google’s new update will ruin online marketing. We still sometimes hear that certain industries or businesses will see no benefit from online marketing. Don’t believe the hype. If your business model is clear and your business fills a need, you may have to adapt to trends and industry changes occasionally, but your services will never go out of style.
While I learned quite a bit throughout my personal entrepreneurial journey, I really only have one regret: I could have taken my initial growth momentum more seriously. I had been a little more forward thinking, focusing more on the company’s growth in those early days would have helped us head off some of the lumps we had to take as we developed into the agency we are today.