The first 9 months as an entrepreneur

2013-03-05 15:23

Being an entrepreneur is scary, there’s no doubt about it.

There’s more responsibility than you ever imagined possible, you’re going to be doing all the grunt work PLUS everything else that needs to be done and not even your basic salary is guaranteed anymore.

So, just what should you look out for if you are considering making this move for yourself?

You’ll never walk alone

As much as you think you did at your last job, and as much as you think you are capable of doing, you will kill yourself if you try to do everything alone.

You’re going to need people around you: to help you, to take some of the load off your shoulders and to share the hectic amounts of responsibility and stress you’re going to be feeling over the upcoming months.

Equally as important, you need people around to support you, motivate you when you’re low and celebrate with you when you have a win. Because, trust me, if you don’t take time to celebrate and put something positive back into yourself, you’re going to deflate, fall flat and burn out – very, very quickly.

Be smart in your decisions about who you bring on board: you need people who do the kinds of things you’re not good at, in the areas where your specialty and focus do not lie. In order to know these areas, you have to get real about your strengths and weaknesses.

So, if accounts and admin are your bugbear, bring an admin and accounts person on board. If marketing and sales are your weak point, then get someone on board to help you with that.

There’s just one caveat here: do not leave your sales entirely up to someone else because when they leave they can take your entire client base with them. And you’ll have no relationship or trust to call on when you’re desperately trying to hold on to that big, cost-covering retainer client.

Payday comes around much quicker than you think

You know, when you were working for a boss, how you were always waiting for payday to come around and eking out your last few cents to get those end-of-the-month Salticrax? Well the good news is that payday comes around a lot faster when you own your own business.

The bad news is that if you don’t make sure there is enough money in the account to pay salaries, no one else will. So follow up on your payments – all the time, every day.

Don’t wait until the last minute to chase up on outstanding payments and don’t leave it until a few days before month-end either. And definitely don’t let that knot in your stomach stop you from asking for the money owing to you.

Sometimes it can take companies up to a month to pay you out, and there are those that will delay and put off payment for as long as they possibly can. Things like that can easily trip you up if you’re not on top of them.

Likewise – stay on top of your invoicing

Don’t wait to do your invoicing all in one go – keep it up to date. The earlier you send your invoices out, the sooner you’re likely to get paid.

If you wait until a couple of days, or even a week, before month-end, you may find that many of your clients will only land up paying you during the following month – and that will quickly mess with your cash flow.

Market, market, market… and sell

If you aren’t prepared to market and sell your business, then nothing else matters.

From the moment you open your doors, you have to be 110% committed to marketing and sales. And don’t take the first rush of no’s personally or it will demotivate you completely.

Respect the process, understand that it will take a bit of time to build up trust and credibility and keep at it – remembering, with every meeting you sit in, that your sales pitch is getting better and better.

Then spend every spare moment you are not working on a client’s order or project on marketing and selling your business.

Set up as many appointments as you can, phone up old colleagues you have a good relationship with, network, give out business cards, offer to do a freebie – basically do anything you can to get your foot in the door. Once your foot is in, do everything in your power to on-sell and upsell.

Don’t let fear stand in your way – and especially don’t get trapped with staff who aren’t prepared to sell because they’re too scared.

A lot of people are afraid to do sales, and a simple question in an interview environment will quickly identify these people – they’ll tell you that they don’t do sales. They’re just not that kind of person, you see.

All that’s great for bigger companies, but in a small business everyone has to be committed to making it work – and that means everyone has to sell at one level or another. What’s more, you need to support the sales process by putting incentives in place, e.g. bring in new business and we’ll give you 10% commission on the value of it.

The results? Your company will grow exponentially more quickly because everyone on your staff is in sales.

Relationships are crucial

From networking to prospects to how you manage your clients, the relationships you develop and nurture in these first few months will set the tone and pace for many of your business dealings going forward.

Look after your clients, go out of your way for them – bend over backwards if you have to. Say thank you when people do favours for you, find ways to help people with extras and make connections between people who can possibly help each other.

Every person you impress, every person you blow out of the water, will become a walking advertisement for you and your company. And when someone asks them if they know someone in your field, the person they’ll remember is you.

It’s slow going at first and it’s easy to get frustrated and demotivated because you don’t see the kinds of results you want to see. But just keep going because you will see results.

Which brings me to my final point…

It takes 5 contacts to make a sales conversion

We attended an awesome webinar by Infusionsoft just as we started our business, and the key message we took away from their presentation and research is this: over 80% of sales are only closed after the fifth contact. In addition, the research showed that most sales people give up after the second or third contact.

Having had applied this in our business over the past 9 months we can only say they’re right.

Simply by maintaining relationships, and keeping up our points of contact, we’ve managed to close over 80% of the business we’ve proposed on – and all those clients have done repeat business with us.

Yes, we offer fantastic service and our turnaround times are mind-blowing, but only one of our customers knew that at the beginning – the rest all had to work with us first to find that out. To get them to that point we had to make the sale.

So, don’t give up on the client - call them back, email again, set up another meeting, allay their fears and even offer to do a freebie. Eventually you will make the breakthrough you need – and when it pays off, it pays off in droves.

Launching your own business is definitely scary, and it is a risky move in the current economy, but if you get your ducks in a row, and get committed and focused, you can make it work. You can build the success you’re after.

And if you get it right in this economy, you’ll be smiling all the way to the bank when the downturn eventually swings up.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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