Are You Meant to be An Entrepreneur?


Since the start of this country one of the most powerful sayings that has motivated people to come to the United States has been “The American Dream”.  The belief that you can start a business and have great financial success for your family.   Unfortunately, while the American Dream is a reality, it is not for everyone.   Some people are meant to work for others, because they do not have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and get to live this wonderful dream.

The purpose of this blog is to identify the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs with the hope that aspiring business people will take stock of themselves and determine whether independent business ownership is really for them.    There are lots of routes to success in this country but entrepreneurship, following the paths of such well known people as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others requires a particular type of individual.

Let’s explore the most obvious characteristics of those people who are most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs:

The first is PASSION.  Without a very strong passion for your idea, it is virtually impossible for you to be successful.  You must love your idea like a lifelong spouse and be willing to sacrifice almost anything to make it successful.

The second characteristic is the ability to take RISK.   One of the common characteristics of virtually all entrepreneurs is that they involved a considerable amount of risk to become successful.  The risk could come in a variety of different forms, including such things as financial sacrifices, fear of failure, depreciation in relationships due to the lack of time one can spend to make the idea realize it full potential

The third characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is ENERGY.   You must have the energy to work more hours in a week than you ever did before, and for extended periods of time to be a successful entrepreneur.

The fourth characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is FINANCIAL RESOURCES.   It is very unusual for an entrepreneur to make money quickly with the project to which they have committed.   Many people trying to start their own businesses run out of money before they can give their project time to return profits.  It is not unusual for a new project to go 24-36  months without providing a positive cash flow to the entrepreneur….and often there is also a considerable upfront investment (fixed costs) get the project started.

The fifth characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is the need for a RISK TAKING PERSONALITY.   Unless you have a quick cure for cancer, almost any venture requires significant risk both from a financial and personal perspective.  Specifically, you must be willing to spend and possibly lose considerable money if the effort is not successful.   Further, the risk of failure represents a real threat to some people’s “sense of self” and it is very important that an entrepreneur be able to deal with this possibility or they risk going into a deep depression if things do not go exactly as planned throughout the process.

A sixth characteristic of of a successful entrepreneur is the KNOWLEDGE OF THE BUSINESS in which you are planning to enter.   The single most important reason that new businesses fail is the lack of knowledge of the product category in which they are entering.  It is essential that an individual do whatever research is necessary to fully understand the business they want to enter or they dramatically reduce their chances for success.

Finally a successful entrepreneur will create a network of advisors to whom he or she can talk during the development process, so the idea can be evaluated and reevaluated to ensure that you are on the right path to success.   The SCORE organization is an excellent resource for entrepreneurs, and it is strongly recommended that you get a SCORE counselor who can be your mentor, cheerleader and  advisor throughout the development process.   Go to www.score.org to find a chapter near you, and then register for counseling.  It might be the best thing you ever do.


Marketing Research on a Shoestring


Seven Ways to Conduct Marketing Research on A Shoestring

So you are considering introducing a new product and you want to do some research to learn about the market and the possible receptiveness to your idea.  The problem is that you have no money allocated in the budget for any type of market research.  What can you do to get information that will be helpful, without incurring any costs?

The following are five key actions you can take that will result in useful information about your market and the reaction of your buyers to your product….all at no cost to you.

  1.  Take advantage of the services of a good business library.  With the rise of the Internet many of us forget how important the public library can be to provide us with information that can be extremely useful.  For example, some of the larger business libraries such as SIBL (Science, Industry & Business Library) in New York City have very knowledgeable reference librarians that can help you research your product category extensively.   SIBL also retains copies of business plans for hundreds of different product categories, so you can see what others have written about similar product categories.
  2. Take full advantage of what is available on the Internet.  One obvious way to do this is to utilize Google to learn as much as possible about your product or service.  The wealth of information you can get is extensive if you are willing to dig into the data that comes up from your searches.    In addition on the Internet you can research the websites of your potential competitors to see what they are doing, and importantly how they are promoting their product or service.
  3. Utilize the resources available from industry trade organizations.  Most product and service categories have some type of trade association and/or trade magazine.  Often these resources can be very useful if approached correctly, as they like to promote their industry and are very interested in new members.  Further it is very common for trade magazines to run helpful articles or conduct surveys that might be very useful.

    Also, many industries have trade shows you might be able to attend to gather still more information.

  4. Talk to your people in your planned product or service area in non competitive markets.    Most small businesses expect to remain relatively local, so if you contact a similar business in another area of the country, often they will give you lots of good information.  For example , if you are going to open a consulting business for NY City clients, talking to a similar consultant in San Francisco would not be competitive and you could learn some very helpful information.
  5. Go into your local market and learn what you can from existing similar businesses.  For example if you are planning to open a pizza parlor and need information about how much space you require, what type of ovens you need or how many employees you would require, you could learn much of this simply by observing how other places operate.
  6. Utilize free survey tools to gather information.   There is a research tool called Survey Monkey in which you can gather some basic market research information at no cost to you.   It is a very useful tool for obtaining quantitative data from the marketplace at no cost to you.
  7. Utilize “Man on the Street” interviews to obtain inputs about your product or service.    Occasionally you can gain some insights about a product or idea by simply asking others in the community who do not know you ( and thus are more likely to be honest with an answer) about their reactions to the idea.   This is not a very reliable source of inputs but it sometimes will result in some useful information.

    In summary there are many things the small business person can do to conduct research about their product or service.   This blog provides an overview of only a few of them.   The totality of tools available to conduct Marketing Research on a Shoestring are limited only by the imagination of the entrepreneur.

Corporate/Brand Identity

What is it and How a Small Business Develop It?

As you go through your daily life it is impossible not to be bombarded with many different types of corporate and brand images, whether on television, billboards, packages in stores and of course the Internet.  If you ever stopped to think about all the images you saw during the day, the chances are very good that the companies and brands you recall most frequently will be names like Apple,Nike,  Chevrolet, Citibank and Bayer.    Each of these brands/companies has not only recognition by you, but they all have a brand/corporate personality.  For example, when you see the Apple logo, you probably have a very clear idea of what that logo stands for in terms of what type of products they sell and perhaps even what type of company it is from the perspective of its employees, customers and retailers.  

Similarly, when you see the Nike “swoosh” you have a similar association. Although in the Nike example, you might not be able to all the “ just Do It” slogan, you know what kind of company it is, and the types of products they sell. These companies have spent millions of dollars over many years advertising and promoting their name in order to develop their image/personality.    While small businesses generally do not have even a fraction of the money of a major company to advertise and promote their name, they can still create a meaningful brand image that will work hard for them when communicating with their target market.  This process is not difficult and involves only a few key steps.

                       First the small business needs to determine what they want to stand for, and what image they want to portray to their target audience. Once this has been determined, it is helpful to commit it too writing, so it will not be forgotten, and so it can be communicated to others who are part of them process of developing the verbal and artistic elements that                                            will form the brand image.

                Second, a name for the business must be developed that is as descriptive as possible (of the business) and is easy too read, pronounce and remember.

                       The third step I the process is to develop a 4-7 word slogan that summarizes the essence of the brand/company image they want to communicate.  Examples of this are the BMW “ultimate driving machine” or the nike “just do it”.  The 4-7 word slogan is even more important for a small company than a large one, because the smaller organization normally                                    has very little money to advertise or promote its image, and therefore needs the slogan too help communicate its brand image/personality.

             The fourth step in the process is to put the name, slogan, and statement of image/personality together and develop a distinctive “look” that is unique to the brand/company.  In most cases it is advisable that the look that is developed consist of three elements, which are the name, a logo AND the 4-7 slogan.  This becomes what is the essence of the                                    brand/corporate image.

The question people ask is how do they put the four of them together into a “look” that will be and effective communications vehicle for the organization.  To accomplish this, it is necessary to have the assistance of a graphic design organization. There are many of these type of graphic design companies available, at a wide range of both pricing and capabilities.  I recommend my clients use a “crowd sourcing “company such as Design Crowd.com.  This is an Australian company with a network of graphic designers throughout the world who work with them.  The benefit of this type of graphic design organization is that you get the inputs of dozens of designers, and not just 1-2 if you hire an independent designer.  I have recommended well over 100 clients to DesignCrowd over the past several years without one person indicating they were sorry that they used this resource.  The cost of Design Crowd varies depending on how many inputs you want, but I recommend my clients spend about $250 which will generate 50-100 different designs.  You can then pick the one you prefer, and /even make modifications that will make the preferred design even better.

Once the brand look has been put together , the key to building and maintaining the image is to consistently use exactly the same image/look in every communication the brand/company uses. It is vital to NEVER vary the look, in terms of the typeface used, the logo and the positioning of the slogan with the name and logo.

If this process is followed you will end up with an excellent communications vehicle that will enable your brand/company to develop a very meaningful brand identity that will become memorable and meaningful to your target market.

One resource that would be useful is a book called “You Can Do It; A Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business”, which is available throughout the New York Public Library system. It can also be obtained on Amazon, iBooks or Kindle.

 


Establishing Good Customer Relationships in the Retail Industry for Pennies

 

 

When is the last time you entered a retail store, and could not figure out who was the customer and who was the store sales person from whom you could seek assistance?   Or what happens when you are in a restaurant trying to get your waitress/waiter, but all you can do it say “waiter/waitress”
I submit that in both these situations, the interaction between the two parties would be dramatically improved if the salesperson/service individual wore a NAMETAG.   In effect, the nametag enables the customer ( or patient in the case of a doctor’s office) to quickly establish a more meaningful and positive relationship with the service person that can only lead to better things for both parties (i.e.: better service in the restaurant, more favorable selling situation).
For some reason, most organizations that deal with the public  overlook this very meaningful  “marketing” tool, that costs virtually nothing, and will pay rewards to both the customer and the company many times a day.
In a selling situation, such as a retail store, a nametag provides at least the following benefits:

 ·      It facilitates the start of the sales process, as the customer is quickly able to identify the store personnel from the customer

·      It enables the sales process to start off on a positive note, as there is no awkwardness in the process of initiating communication between the customer and the salesperson
·      It immediately starts a more friendly interaction, as most people like to hear their name spoken, and most customers would much rather be able to address the store individual by name rather than by “miss”, “ sir” , or “hey you”.
·      It also facilitates finding the same salesperson again, for additional questions during a store visit or for another trip to the establishment.
·      It also enables the customer to report to the store management in the case of a very positive or negative experience with the in-store person.

In the restaurant environment, the nametag offers other very important benefits to both the service person and the customer. Specifically:

·      It makes it dramatically easier for the customer to locate their service person when they have a need or a question, particularly when there are often many different servers moving around the restaurant.  When you know the name of your server, it is easy to ask another person if they could sent “jack or Jane” to the table

·      From the perspective of the server a nametag enables them to provide better service to their customer by increasing the friendliness of the interaction, which hopefully will result in a higher gratuity.

·      For the establishment, there also is a benefit that when the customer is happy, and can easily locate their server, they are more likely to order another glass of wine, or perhaps a desert.

·      Finally, as with the retail environment it enables the customer to identify the server in the case of excellent or substandard service that they will to report to the manager.

Nametags, also can reinforce the name and slogan of the establishment if they are properly configured, which is essentially free advertising that will get many views on each customer visit.

Another benefit of nametags is they are an excellent way to separate management from the working staff of any type of establishment.  This is a positive element for both the customer and the manager, and can help with the overall effective management of the store, restaurant, gas station , bank teller ,or almost any type of establishment where there is meaningful interaction between the customer store personnel.

In summary, nametags are a very inexpensive, simple tool that can be used to improve customer relationships which can only help build business over time.