Most people dream about leaving their 9-to-5 jobs and starting their own business but few actually do so as it’s generally accepted that aspiring to go solo in the business world leads to hardship and financial trouble. However, the reality is that anyone with a creative mind and an appetite for innovation has a shot, as success is not reserved for the selected few.
It may seem that the world is flooded with famous entrepreneurs at the moment, and it probably is as we live in an age of extreme technological innovation and, as such, success is favoured for those with a creative mind. Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that the internet has allowed greater visibility which means that the world is more connected and that learning about someone’s success has been made easier now more than ever. For the aspiring entrepreneur, this means that the world is more open to new ideas and that starting a small business now could be made possible.
Before you go all in, however, it’s important to understand that a great deal of risk is involved in becoming an entrepreneur and, as such, you should ensure that you have what it takes. Take a hard look at yourself as a professional and decide if you are truly able to put innovation into action and passion into initiative.
What Is an Entrepreneur?
Defining entrepreneurship can be hard as there are so many characteristics that distinguish these self-made professionals. At the base level, an entrepreneur is a business owner, yet at the same time, he or she is much more than that. Generally speaking, entrepreneurs constantly put forth new ideas and they challenge the status quo; their focal point is innovation and they are talented in identifying market gaps before demand for their business idea has even been created.
What distinguishes an entrepreneur from a business owner is constant search of innovation. The latter is hungry for success and financial stability, and will not think twice before agreeing to start a business with a tested recipe. What’s more, entrepreneurs are passionate about changing the world and they will stop at nothing before they can make their business idea available to everyone.
However, being one such individual requires passion, dedication and, above all, perseverance as the general consensus is that before you get someone willing to fund your idea, you’ll get dozens that will reject it. This is why it’s important for anyone thinking of starting a small business to ensure that he or she has all the entrepreneurship skills required for success.
Born or Made?
It may seem that the hype over entrepreneurs is relatively new, but the truth is that the world has been fascinated with this type of human for centuries. Apart from famous entrepreneurs and innovators like Abraham Lincoln who made the self-made man dream a canon for anyone with entrepreneurship skills, there are also other entrepreneurs who might not be as well-known but who made a name for themselves by putting their ideas into actions. Madam C J Walker, for example, became the first black self-made female millionaire in the United States by recognising that there weren’t any beauty products designed specifically for black women. She then designed her own products, and the rest is history.
However, what individuals find hard to understand is that there’s an abyss between thinking of an idea and putting it into action, and it’s precisely because it’s so difficult to overcome this obstacle that many people think entrepreneurs are born and not made.
But what Madam C J Walker’s example points out is that being favoured by circumstances can help an entrepreneur realise their dream. Born in 1867, Madam C J Walker was the first in her family to be born into freedom – had she not been born a free woman, there’s a good chance that she might never have had the entrepreneurship idea that led her to success.
Of course, placing your future in the hands of fate is ill-advised as the only way to succeed in the highly competitive game that is entrepreneurship is to be a proactive individual. You need to be able to make decisions and calculate risks in spite of time restrictions, and this is why people often identify it as a skill or a talent. Of course, having the gene that predisposes you for success in this field can only be of help.
Other scientists disagree with these findings. It is their firm belief that the environment affects the way an innovator is shaped and aspiring enterprisers who work or live close to people who have honed in their entrepreneurship skills are far more likely to achieve their goals. According to one study, for example, professionals with entrepreneurial peers have a better chance of becoming successful, too.
Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t follow your dreams if you’ve neither worked close to an entrepreneur before or if you can’t test yourself to see if you have the genetic code for it (which you can’t do, anyway). It merely means that you should be careful about your choices as investing time and funds into a single idea can be too much of a great risk for anyone.
So, it’s essential that you remain realistic. If you are determined to succeed, take a hard look at everything you’ve achieved until now. If you’ve never been distinguished for anything in your life, then it might be because you’ve never worked hard enough, but in order to make this work, you should give it everything you have.
Key Traits of Entrepreneurs
- They’re Visionaries: A self-made individual always has a vision of what they can achieve and will stop at nothing before they achieve their vision. Chuck Hull, for example, the father of 3D printing, commercialised his product by showing customers videotapes of what his invention could do.
- They’re Passionate: Being passionate is important because it’s the only human emotion that can drive success. This emotion also drives innovation and creativity, and it can help make people more persistent.
- They’re Open-Minded: Keeping an open mind is also a driving force as it allows people to perceive things under a new light. Someone close-minded will never be able to see a new use for a product or the need for a new invention and, as such, will never be able to create something new.
- They’re Interested in Professional Growth:Entrepreneurial spirits will constantly seek challenges and will never be satisfied somewhere where there are no opportunities for career development.
- They’re Responsible:Not in the traditional sense of the word but rather in taking responsibility for their decisions and actions.
- They’re Resourceful:If there’s one thing that distinguishes true entrepreneurs is that they are able to find creative solutions.
- They Speak Their Minds: They are always very vocal about their beliefs and they expect everyone to always be on board and when someone is not, they will not hesitate to judge them.
- They Can Make Correct Decisions:Even when they don’t have all of the facts, entrepreneurs are able to make correct decisions as they are able to calculate how things will go.
- They’re Risk-Takers: This characteristic is considered one of the more well-known ones but the truth is that entrepreneurs always take calculated risks rather than make spur-of-the-moment decisions.
- They Are People of Action: Entrepreneurs are people of action rather than words. They have the ideas but they are more interested in putting them into action and, as such, always know what their next step should be and are ready to take it.
Launching a Startup Business
If you are a professional with solid entrepreneurship ideas, it’s important to start your own business as this could be the only way to fulfil your vision. Although entrepreneurship skills are essential in developing a small business idea, a solid understanding of the start-up world will go a long way in ensuring success.
Starting a business is never simple, of course, no matter how brilliant the idea behind it is. It takes time and careful consideration to determine what the right course of action is and you, therefore, shouldn’t rush into making decisions but instead take the time required to map out your strategy while allowing space for potential errors. Of course, make sure that you don’t spend too much time thinking about launching a business as competition is fierce and someone might rob you of your idea.
Like all other business ventures, a start-up requires money and this will be one of your major concerns. In order to start your company, you will, therefore, need to find the funds for it, and to do that, you will need to develop your business idea to its full potential in order to get banks or investors to back you up financially.
Below are the steps you should consider when moving forth with your entrepreneurial plans:
#1 Develop Your Idea and Understand the Market
As we’ve discussed earlier, entrepreneurs are characterised by their ability to take an idea and shape it into an action. This essentially means that they know that having a great idea is only a part of the equation; the rest relies on the ability to take the necessary steps to realise that idea.
Determine Your Goal
To do that, the original idea will need developing. Consider why your idea is important and how it will help or change people’s lives. Write down the end goal and think of why someone would want to spend money to buy from you. These considerations will not only help you optimise your idea but they’ll also help you map out your marketing strategy later on, so they are essential bits of the process.
Consider Your Target Audience
Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the target audience. Although it’s always advisable to not exclude people, targeting a certain percentage of the population will help you shape your idea and your marketing strategy better, so think what part of the population would find your product or service more useful and target them.
Conduct Market Research
No matter how well you prepare for launching, if you omit checking what the competition is doing, then there’s little chance that you will succeed. In order to perfect your idea, you need to test it against the competition and see what they offer and how you can beat them.
Deliver Something Different
The key to a successful start-up business is realising that your product or service doesn’t just have to be perfect; it needs to be different to what everyone else is offering, too. There’s a reason that social media platforms, for example, offer different services to their users and it’s because people are always intrigued by fresh things rather than being offered a different version of something that’s already available.
#2 Build a Business Plan
A plan is essential for the success and growth of any venture but it is also necessary in registering a company. Many people in the industry opt for building their plan after they’ve launched their business, but the reality is that the earlier you build it, the more targeted your strategy will be.
Building a plan does not have to be a complex process. Looking at it as a step-by-step process will make it easier to build it, so take a look at all the steps you need to follow:
- Create a Sketch of Your Business Concept: It’s important to create an initial pitch as it will help you focus on your goals. Include an overview of the idea, the key goals and problems the idea is solving, as well as a description of the competition and the landscape.
- Do Some Research: If what are included in the initial pitch are merely assumptions, then the next step should be to do some research to validate those assumptions! You can use market research tools like SurveyMonkey to research your target audience and their beliefs, while you should also spend some time researching your competition. Look into what they are doing and how they are doing it; also, if you can connect with competitors professionally, you can exchange insight in a spirit of fair play.
- Build a Budget: Of course, you won’t be able to predict how much you will sell and what your expenses will be exactly, but knowing where you stand financially is extremely important as it can help you understand what your investment requirements will be.
- Schedule Your Business’s Different Phases: All successful companies need to develop, so it’s important to plan ahead for the different stages of growth. Set milestones and make sure that you celebrate whenever you successfully reach a milestone.
3. Marketing Strategy
No matter how great a product or service is, it will never succeed without the correct marketing strategy. In order to achieve success, people need to know what the product or service is, and in order to reach out to people, you should invest in promotion.
It may seem premature to finalise your marketing strategy at this point, but it’s actually necessary as you will need to be able to talk real numbers and figures with the bank or investors.
Building your brand early on will ensure future success as well, so it’s important to start thinking about what you want your product to transmit. A brand is essentially the story you tell people about who or what your product is. This story needs to be consistent through all the symbols you use for your product; from slogans to logos and URLs, they all need to tell the same story.
If you are lacking marketing skills, you should consider hiring someone who is well-educated in all things SEO and social media. It’s important to have someone creative in your team as the only thing that can make an idea explode is having a good story tied to it.
After you’ve determined what this story is and created all the symbols that go with it, you should create a presence across the internet. Websites and social media profiles are necessary but you should also start a blog as it can really help a brand kick off, while making videos will also assist you in spreading the word.
Like all business endeavours, a start-up requires capital, and unless you come from a money background, this stage of building your company could give you a bit of a headache. It’s important to note that you need to consider the fact that at the beginning of your business, you won’t have any profit and, as such, won’t be getting a salary – it is, therefore, crucial to think about what you can do to ensure that you have some money set aside to last you a few months.
Now, as far as the business goes, you have two options: one is to find investors willing to back you up and the second is to get a loan. Either option will require a lot of time and fund management from your part, so ensure that you organise.
Bank loans could be a great way to fund your start-up because they offer low and fixed interest rates, while they don’t require the commitment that an investor would demand. Relationships with banks are easier to manage as they are only interested in being repaid and they offer more predictable terms.
On the other hand, getting a loan might not be quite as easy as a strong credit history is necessary, while collateral is usually required. What’s more, getting a loan can be a lengthy process which can seriously slow down launching your start-up.
In the start-up world, investors are known as angels. Angel investors usually come from an entrepreneurial background and are usually established within their field. To many aspiring entrepreneurs, they are the best funding solution as no repayment is required (they get their share in equity).
However, there are many disadvantages to consider, as well. Although they are well aware of the risks involved and they are willing to risk millions for something they believe in, they usually have quite big expectations. This means that they can expect unrealistic returns from the business’s first years; before you agree to form a partnership with an investor, you should ensure that their demands reflect your expectations. Another aspect you should consider is the fact that by agreeing to a deal with an investor, you are essentially signing over part of your future earnings.
Pitching to Angel Investors
The decision ultimately lies with you but if you choose to seek an angel investor for your business, then you should know that getting funded is not as easy as you might think. There are literally millions of people out there who are trying to get investors to fund their projects and if you wish to be chosen, then you need to pay close attention to how you pitch your idea.
As with most things in the business world, a strategy is essential in order to get someone to willingly invest money in your scheme. It’s important that when you are ready to sit down with investors, you are able to present them with a well-rounded aspect of your vision, so figure out all the details and all of your wants beforehand.
The key is to make an impression but that doesn’t mean that you need to invite them to a bungee jumping session; rather, the idea is that you impress them with your professionalism and your willingness to make innovation happen.
Try to engage your audience in a story since a lot will depend on your ability to get them excited about taking this journey with you. Relating the story to them but staying within the narrative is always a winning strategy, so talk about your vision in a manner that is both convincing and exciting.
It’s also important to highlight how your business will offer a solution, so indulge in discussing the problems you hope to solve. Help them understand how your idea will help cover your target audience’s needs. But don’t just restrict to what you are hoping to achieve; show them that you are a person of action by talking about how you aim to reach out to your audience, discuss your marketing strategy openly and show them how you know that you are already a winner.
Also, every great business venture needs a great team, so talk about your team as well as this will help investors understand how you aim to turn ideas into actions. Of course, since you are there to talk about money, don’t avoid the subject but rather tackle it head on. Talk about how you will make money and how you will price your products or services. Discuss your projected revenue and show them what the assumptions behind those projections are. After you’ve talked about your financial hopes, it’s important to ask what you came to ask, so discuss your funding needs openly. Explain how you will make the most of the capital you are given, and talk about why they should take the chance and invest in you.
5. Talk to a Lawyer
Launching a start-up may be fun if you look at it as your shot to fulfil your dreams, ut it’s also serious business, so you should hire a lawyer to make sure that you are protected by the law. Registering your business without legal help can be a major headache, and if you are more interested in developing your product, then you should hire someone experienced to do it for you. Of course, there are many resources online that can help you get a head-start, but whatever you do, ensure that you are in compliance with the law and that you’ve registered your trademark, otherwise you risk being ripped off your idea.
6. Build Your Team
It’s important to surround yourself with a rock star team, because a great team can lead to greatness. Pick your team carefully and choose people that are talented in areas where you are not: if, for example, you lack organisational skills, ensure that you choose a person who’s a master at organisation. If, on the other hand, you excel at coding and creating back-ends, ensure that you have someone in your team who’s a great front-end development.
Of course, skills are not the only thing that matter: you want your employees to be excited about working on this project as well as inspired and passionate, so look for people who match the company culture and who think ahead.
Women and Entrepreneurship
It may seem ridiculous but the reality is that the entrepreneurial world remains a predominantly male one. When people think of an entrepreneur, they generally think of a man; women are simply underrepresented in this industry.
According to data compiled by Prowess, an online resource for women in business, women make up only 17 per cent of business owners in the UK, while men are twice as likely to engage in entrepreneurial activity. This means that there’s still a lot to be done for women to be represented equally in the self-made world.
These figures do not indicate a lack of entrepreneurship ideas or entrepreneurship skills in women as one would think at first but, rather, they point out that getting funding for your start-up as a woman is almost impossible. Research has proven that angel investors are more likely to invest in someone who bears similarities to them, but with women CEOs in venture capital firms being under 3 per cent, this shows that women are far less likely to get funded.
What’s more, out of those few women who manage to set up their own start-up and manage their own business, most say that being themselves is impossible. Women are expected to adopt what are considered to be male characteristics such as aggressiveness and competitiveness. They are not considered ‘tough enough’ to make it in the business world without them, yet they are often criticised for adopting this so-called ‘male’ behaviour.
Becoming an entrepreneur is not as straightforward as giving up your job and starting your own business. It requires energy and passion, but more than anything, you need excellent entrepreneurship skills. Dedicating yourself to your idea will yield results only if you are methodical about launching your start-up, so ensure that you follow all the necessary steps.
Do you have any other tips for entrepreneurs? Is there anything you believe to be essential in launching a start-up that was not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments section below.