By Oleg K Temple, October 2018
The keys to going faster and farther than most when staring a business, are planning, passion and keeping things simple. Take a firm grasp on the fundamentals and you will become worthy of being called a master in your own right. This is true for everything in life, from the martial arts, to the art of writing, to the culinary arts, to visual arts and, yes, indeed, this wisdom seamlessly translates into the realm of the financial arts as well.
You might wonder, what makes us qualified to write this piece and why you should trust our advice... Well, the truth of the matter is that in the course of running our international business directory, we have seen thousands of companies rise and rise, as well as quite a few rise and fall. Some pile on risks like they are Christmas decorations until good fortune abandons them, others burn too bright and hot until they burn out, others still just fizzle and fade away. We have studied hundreds of cases and even saved a few enterprises from going extinct through patient, unbiased counselling. So if you are in search of advice on how to start a company or how to keep your company in business, you are in the right place. Here are five business frames of mind to adopt, hone and make your own.
1) Be independent in your thoughts, and decisive in your actions.
Don’t act like a boss, BE the boss. There is no need to hire a parasitic ‘business mentor’ on a recurring retainer, even though that is all the rage these days. You do not need a permanent mentor any more than you need a 24/7 psychologist, doctor or bodyguard. When searching for the best legal advice, best hotels or places to eat, you typically rely on the advice of real people. There are, without doubt cases when you need to find a consultant, but always strive to find solutions on your own first. By all means, seek the advice of knowledgeable friends, whom you admire. People who have built successful, thriving businesses. But call in favours sparingly and strive to reciprocate in kind, so as not to appear to be taking advantage of their generosity. You don’t want to be known as the indecisive, insecure, confused person who has no business being in business. And what you most certainly do not need is a non-executive member of your team who tells you what to do and inundates your valuable time with theory, jargon soundbites and hypotheticals without bearing any of the risk or responsibility. Don’t be lazy and hire someone to think outside of the box for you—do the thinking yourself and you will grow in your confidence and business prowess. Take a pragmatic approach and stay out of the rhetorical echo-chamber, by focussing on practical meaning, rather than effective soundbites.
Invest in the people who help you get business done and achieve your goals. Your immediate team--the people whose very jobs depend upon the success of your business.
Be willing to take calculated, informed risks (a.k.a. doing business) and answer for your decisions. When things are not going your way, don’t immediately give up, however, strive to ‘fail fast’. In other words, if a project is sinking like a lead pigeon and has no future, don’t keep at it out of stubbornness. It makes no sense to throw good money after a bad investment—you will lose both. Nothing useful will come of flogging a dead horse, so learn to distinguish between projects that are worth investing time and energy in and those that will, ultimately, result in nothing more than a waste of resources.
And for crying out loud, forget the fear-rooted mantra of if you want to make money, you must spend money. Yes, you need to invest, but you should invest shrewdly, when all the crucial variables are known, not splurge precious resources on every new fad.
2) Learn to focus and see things through
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Commit to too many simultaneous projects and you will find yourself out of your depth, lost in the intricacies of execution and ultimately, languishing in a labyrinth of utter confusion. Focus is crucial in business. Treasure it and do not squander your attention or you risk missing obvious pitfalls. So accurately assess your limitations and don’t chase after too many goals at once… you know what they say about a ‘Jack of all trades’… In business seminars you hear coaches muddle on about generating the necessary goodies to “fill the funnel” to the brim: disseminate freebies, set a tripwire, publish an eBook, offer an online course, live seminars, live streaming seminars for a large group programme, a small group programme and individual training. Sounds fantastic, but it is an impossible amount of work for one person. Not if you plan on doing all that AND giving your full attention to your core business—which is why the people advocating for this voluntary work investment, have typically made business coaching their business. This way they can practice what they preach and make money.
Coaching seminars as a business model work quite well, however, they are too hard to keep up with as a side project. So again, don’t be Jack. You cannot fake passion and achieve perfection in all areas. Some of this vague cookie-cutter business advice is not going to fit your specific business model. So learn to plan ahead, identify the indispensable prerequisites for your goals and hone your timing to deliver tangible results when it counts. It is so easy for experts to give vague regurgitated advice, such as ‘create a course’ and then when you are unable to sell it, the same experts deny accountability by saying that you should have done a better job on the content or promotion. Meanwhile, you are stuck with a deadweight investment and several months out-of-pocket, while they walk away with a pay check to ‘teach’ someone else the same nonsense (for money, of course). So appraise every situation, pick your battles yourself and see them through. Don’t spread your resources—or yourself too thin.
3) Lay the foundations before a product launch
Now we’ve all heard from assorted self-styled business gurus that creators need to learn to “leverage” their influence, i.e. broaden their contact list and figure out a way of monetizing it by pushing a product. But this should not be your fuel, even if it is the goal you are driving towards. The same people who tell you to figure out ways of fleecing your audience, are also telling you that you need to build meaningful relationships. These two mind-sets are at loggerheads, unless your idea of a ‘meaningful relationship’ is one in which cash flows in an uninterrupted, unidirectional torrent out of your audience’s wallets into yours. Yes, you are providing them with a product or service in exchange for the money, but for a relationship to be truly meaningful, it must supersede monetary gain and encompass far more than that.
Take the time to reply to personal messages, remember selected key attributes about good clients, such as the particulars of their last order, their location and name, i.e. general things that show them that you know who they are, value them and do not think of them as just another order statistic. Really SEE the people behind your bottom-line. If you have a casual chat with a customer, ask how they are doing, show an interest and remember their situation the next time you meet. Attention and interest are free, invaluable and unquantifiable. However, these attributes go a very long way in enhancing and elevating the experience of the transaction from the buyers’ perspective. If you prioritise endowing your clients with positive energy as well as providing excellent quality whenever they order, you will keep them coming back. So hone your business skills by all means, but never neglect your people skills!
4) Setting the right price
Some people will tell you to “charge what you are worth”. That’s terribly patronising and demeaning advice. Have we gone back in time to the days of slavery? If so, I didn’t get the memo. YOU are worth infinitely more than mere money. Remember that and don’t let anyone, ever convince you otherwise! Disassociate your personal value from the price you charge to deliver and excellent product or service. Charge what your product or service is worth. Research the market and focus on delivering a wonderful experience then charge a price that is realistic, fair, smart and in NO WAY a reflection or self-evaluation of your ‘worth’. Be guided by discipline and integrity. Let your business ethos revolve around diligence, rather than greed. Take a long view and be ready to put in the work needed to build up your company’s name. The price you set should not be based on guesswork, false expectations or wishful thinking either. Instead, when starting a company, the price you charge should be reflection of market forces such as demand and supply (of similar services, i.e. the presence of competitors, as well as resources required to deliver without sacrificing quality.) Never price-gauge. Engage in short-term extortion or price manipulation and your customers will abandon you on principle, the moment an alternative is available. Remember the meaningful relationships point above? Well, meaningful relationships have no chance of precipitating if you hold your customers’ needs at ransom to the highest bidder.
5) Invest your time wisely
Remember the basic microeconomic principle of opportunity cost, i.e. the value of the foregone alternative. Learn from others, but don’t copy. Remember that your company is in a unique location, time and circumstances. Your business is unique, period. So give it the respect it deserves, put in the work and it will look after you and yours.
A key principle of self-improvement is the 80-20 rule. In other words, the things that generate 80% of the benefits you aim for, are but 20% of the process. Especially when starting a business, focus on honing that most-lucrative, one-fifth of the workload to perfection. When researching how to start a business, one of the best attitudes would be to combine this principle with attentive service and good team work and your business will flourish.
Tell us about your experience or let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below. Read our recent article on how to start a business that is small, but future-proof.
About the author: Oleg K. Temple has worked as an editor and consultant on numerous projects advising various start-ups and fledgling SMEs (mostly in the travel, accommodation, tourism and HR sectors) for over 12 years. His main project has been The Cornerstones of World Business, international business directory focused on bringing to light the best companies from each country and state, providing them with affordable advertising and marketing opportunities while encouraging them to engage in lucrative B2B and B2C relations. For travel information such as hotels in California, accommodation New York, hotels Illinois and other destinations across Europe and USA; or if you seek reliable financial, real estate, consultancy, insurance, construction or shipping partners – welcome to CornerstonesWORLD.com.