What do Successful Entrepreneurs Do, and How Can You Get Some of That?
Some people have just been entrepreneurs since childhood. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA furniture, grew up on a family farm not too far from Stockholm. He discovered that if we went into the city and bought matches by the box, he could sell them individually to the villagers around his farm and make a great profit. He expanded his little business and was soon selling fish, ballpoint pens, pencils, and other items.
His father gave him a cash reward for doing well in high school, and he used it to set up a mail-order business that sold small furniture pieces that he bought wholesale in Stockholm. His little business became a global enterprise. If you ask people like this what they think the most important skills for success are, they will give you lots of stuff like “take risks,” “don’t be afraid of failure,” and so on, but we don’t find them really helpful. Rather than try to put together a list of skills, here are some practical things that will help you “do” what they “do.”
1. Become an Entrepreneur in a Small Way
What talent or skill do you have that you could use to make a little bit of money on the side? Could you tutor? Can you give music lessons? Can you make something and sell it? Can you walk dogs? Once you decide on your product or service, you have to make some plans. What will be your “territory?” How much will you charge? How will you advertise to get customers or clients? This will force you to do some research, and all entrepreneurs conduct research before they launch a business.
The point is this: if you go through the process of launching a tiny business that you may only conduct on weekends, you have done on a very small scale what successful entrepreneurs do on a larger scale. And you will make mistakes – good. All mistakes are learning experiences. You now have the “street” training that you will never get at a seminar or in a course.
2. Read the Stories of Successful Entrepreneurs
This should be your bedtime reading every night. You will learn some very practical steps and processes that they have used to develop a plan, to set goals, to “test the waters,” to launch, to market their brands, and to develop great customer relationships.
3. Check Out how Businesses are Using Social Media to Market and Attract
If you are on Facebook, you have a good idea of how marketing happens on that platform. Items that you have researched as possible purchases are showing up on he rails to the right of your news feed. Business posts are showing up in your news feed. How does that happen? If you are looking to start a business that will have an online presence, then you have to learn how this marketing happens. For this you will need more than a book. Sign up for a workshop or seminar on Internet marketing; read blog posts related to web-based marketing. You need to learn how this is done, so that you know whether this is something you can do yourself or something you will need to contract out.
4. Join Local Business Networking Groups
These exist everywhere, and by joining them you are putting yourself smack dab in the middle of an entire group of people that are entrepreneurs. Listen, ask questions, and take advice. These are entrepreneurs who have been through the startup phases and who are now focusing on growth and expansion. Their experiences and “do’s and don’ts” will be valuable. And you very well may make some network connections that will bring business to you.
Suppose for example that you are launching a tutoring business. There will be people in that group who are parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They also have friends and neighbors. Referrals are one of the fastest ways to build a business.
5. Study How Entrepreneurs Communicate
Get on websites of businesses that are in your niche or related to your niche. How is the content written? Is there a blog? Read the blog posts. These marketing and business writing skills differ from academic writing skills that you developed in college. Those don’t work in the world of business and marketing. Develop a style of writing that is informal, conversational, and, as much as possible, entertaining.
6. Find an Established Entrepreneur Willing to Work with you Personally
This is probably the best of all worlds if you really want to develop entrepreneurial skills. A mentor of this type can literally walk you through the steps from planning to launch and can make suggestions and give advice that is directly related to what you are doing right now. Having someone who has been through it all work with you individually is a resource that really trumps all others.
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