I have obsessed many-a-times about my businesses that I have, and how I could be better or do things better. But there are a number of things that I have learned through the failures and successes that I have had that have made my last ventures more profitable and a little easier. And I have to continue to remind myself that a business is a live, growing and changing entity. Your business has to grow and change, and I don’t only mean monetarily but also mean getting better or stronger, to make a lasting impression. And in order to grow and change, you also have to reflect – and through reflection I came up with these four secrets that you NEED to be aware of if you are an entrepreneur or mompreneur starting a business for the first time.
I have learned these through Trial and Error. It is nothing that I learned through Books or Business Plans or any other means except the School of Hard-Knocks – not an actual place, by the way!
1. Solve a Problem. Your business or blog should be solving a problem. That is a key question to ask yourself when you are starting out – is this providing a content or service that is in-demand or that people want? Sometimes that is more difficult to figure out if you are creating a product for the first time and you aren’t certain whether or not people will buy it. Test it out with Family and Friends: throw a few up online and see if there is demand…sometimes what seems like a good idea to you and your mother or sister, isn’t necessarily going to sell to other people.
Example: Throwing back to my Mompreneur Monday feature of Grace & Lace last year, she started making her super-cute bootsocks because she made herself a pair and people asked her where she got them. Over and over. She realized, “Hey, maybe I could make these and sell these!” She solved a problem. People wanted them and so she knew they would sell.
Example 2: Starting a Direct Sales business: When I started selling Stella & Dot in 2008, it was because I believed in the company, the growth that I saw and the potential of a new product in an old-style business model. I started it off very small, with the teeny-tinest little display of jewelry displayed on used trays that I bought off Craigslist. I didn’t buy the Cadillac display pieces, or start with a tonne of samples. Therefore if it didn’t work out, I wasn’t invested for a tonne of money. But rather I tested the waters to see if there was demand…(i.e. solving a problem). And thankfully, people liked the product and bought more and more, and then I slowly invested in more samples and a better carrying case ditching the beat-up suitcase that I used for 2 years!
2. Think about all aspects of the business before you start. Sometimes we like to fool ourselves into thinking that there are certain things about owning your own business that won’t apply to us. But every small business has a variety of tasks that perhaps you may not be versed in, but you HAVE to do. Taxes, bookkeeping, or more mundane things like janitorial stuff or learning new tasks on the computer. If you aren’t a go-getter and you aren’t willing to push through the pain of the mundane, then owning your own business may not be for you.
Example: When I started my retail store back in 2007, I was really focused on the design and the pretty things and super stoked about being my own boss after being in corporate for many years. What I didn’t bargain for was the long-hours of retail, and sitting behind the cash register when it was slow. Or having people call in sick over long weekends and having to forgo my own plans to work the store (and only having 2 lousy small sales for the whole day!). I only thought about the fun things, like taking off whenever I want, or it being easier to pick up my kids from school. I ended up closing the store, for a variety of reasons, and one of them was that sitting there waiting for sales made me stir-crazy!
Example 2: If you decide to do a home-based business like Direct Sales, it isn’t as easy as it looks. If cold calling people or marketing to others is not your thing, then it probably will not work for you. Point blank. You DO have be tenacious and either a) Love the product so much that sharing it with girlfriends and customers doesn’t feel like work or b) have a natural affinity for selling. If being turned down be people makes you feel queasy, then you won’t contact people, and unfortunately, there is probably someone else doing the same thing that will.
3. Know when it is time to pull the pin. Not every business idea we have is going to be successful. Sometimes it is timing, factors out of your control or even a bit of bad luck. But the most important thing is knowing when to pull the pin. If it isn’t working, don’t keep throwing money at it ~ because it will be like water in your hands and flow away quickly.
Example 1: When my retail business was limping along at a snail’s pace and I started to experience cash flow problems, I would have done anything in order to keep things afloat. At one point my husband facilitated a loan for me from a wealthy friend for $16K. Well, that ran out fairly quickly and the problems were still the same. So we closed the business and liquidated the assets. But it took a few years to pay back that $16K along with all of the other debts. However, I could have kept going for the remainder of my lease and lost even more money, but I decided to cut my losses and shut it down. It really could have been a much more disastrous situation.
Example 2: If you joined a Direct Sales organization and realized that it isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Don’t stay in it with the ‘hope’ that people will just start phoning you because you posted once or twice on Facebook. Because they won’t. So sell your assets and move it.
4. Patience is the secret sauce. This was been a major epiphany for me! It takes time to build a business. Many successful bloggers have been doing it for years, and it has taken them even more years to make a living at it. I know from experience that any successful people at a Direct Sales work the business like a full-time job and then some! And they do all of the yucky tasks too, like contacting people and ASKING for the sale. However, usually no one is super successful right away, it does take time and some mistakes and failures before things get really rolling.
* Please be aware that if your goal is to make a full-time income or replace your current income with your new business, there will probably be a time when you have to do both in order to make money. Don’t quit your source of income too early, or you will be scrambling to make things work and may make decisions in your new business based on fear or emotion.
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