If you want to become a business owner someday and succeed in any business you start, here are some foundational tips and advice to set you up for success.
With the ever-changing economic climate, many people are getting into entrepreneurship, which makes sense, because there are several benefits to being a business owner. Running your own company can mean you get the best of both worlds: time and money. As your own boss, you'll get the freedom to schedule your workdays while also achieving financial freedom. Not to mention, you get to create an impact and help others with your business — who wouldn't want that?
Nonetheless, being an entrepreneur is no easy feat, and the journey to becoming a successful business owner isn't always straight and smooth. Over the years, I have learned a few key things that have helped myself navigate being an entrepreneur. If you want to become a business owner someday and succeed in any business you start, here are some foundational tips and advice to set you up for success:
1. Carve out time to sell
As the pilot of your business, the sales — and ultimately, your business's performance — are entirely up to you. That said, you're not guaranteed a paycheck.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with prioritizing their time and assignments. Never underestimate the importance of blocking out time to sell like you would block out time for a client meeting. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend blocking out three hours to sell each day; no calls, no meetings, etc. All that to say, it's equally as important to ensure you have a strong, high-quality service to sell to begin with. If you're passionate about what you're selling, and you're committed to catering to your clients' needs, then selling won't be tedious — it will be fun.
2. Hire a strong team
Sometimes, first-time entrepreneurs fall into the pattern of wanting to do everything themselves. This is a dangerous pattern to sink into. To save time for things like selling and meeting with clients or customers, I recommend hiring a staff person to do the everyday tasks and help get the business off the ground. Another key to success is hiring people you trust and allowing them to do their job freely.
Hiring your first employee can be scary, but once you understand that mess-ups are sometimes inevitable, it'll allow you to take some work off your plate and focus. Your team will never get better if you're constantly watching over their shoulders. Hiring a strong team is critical, because at the end of the day, you need strong employees to support you and bring in more business. Your employees should have the same mission and vision as you, and they should be committed to the success of the business.
3. Schedule time to learn
Regardless of your industry experience, make learning a lifetime priority. Similar to selling, I advise entrepreneurs to carve out time to learn. While learning can look different for everyone — attending conferences, reading books or listening to podcasts, for example — it's crucial to create a schedule that includes time to learn. By setting aside time to learn, you can take a step back and review what's working and not working within your business.
4. You have to spend money to make money
In many cases, money can help you expand — either via marketing, hiring more employees or attending leadership conferences, for example. Even if you don't have a team or marketing budget, I advise business owners to set aside some money for marketing.
Becoming your own boss is a truly rewarding experience. However, a large part of business ownership is trial and error, because after all, you don't know what you don't know. While there are several things you'll have to learn, applying these critical things to your business will increase your chances of success. I'm proud to say that my two companies were able to double their full-time teams, get out of debt, pivot and make it through Covid. We also doubled our video output and tripled our clients throughout 2020 and 2021.
My biggest and last piece of advice: You'll never be ready. You'll never be perfect. Just go, and start. Fall down, and then get back up 1,000 times over. The best things in life don't come easy — and neither does entrepreneurship.
Recession. That word alone can strike fear into the heart of a small business owner. But don't fear! These strategies will prepare you for financial insecurity.
Our current economic state is stressful. As the word "recession" floats all over the news, it seems we are in a sort of "will we or won't we?" debate between those who believe a recession is unavoidable, those who think it can be side-stepped and those who feel it could go either way. Given that it's hard for financial analysts to know what will happen, small business owners have little hope of being able to pinpoint precisely what economic turn the country will take and when. The best option is to prepare our businesses.
Certain businesses are nearly recession-proof just by what they do or sell. These companies meet basic needs: food, clothing, housing, healthcare and utilities. Whether in one of these fields or not, the vital thing to remember is that recession-proofing your business benefits you regardless of whether the recession hits.
So how do you do it? Here are some top moves to make.
Consider what products you could add to your line-up at a minimal cost. If you're already making soaps and bath bombs, consider adding products like salt scrubs or body washes. Consider expanding to baby blankets if you specialize in knitted hats for infants.
Think about your market. Is it possible to reach customers in different ways? Consider selling your products through a large online retailer like Etsy, Amazon or eBay. See if the local grocery store will carry your soaps or if that cute baby boutique will sell your hats. Consider if there are populations of customers you are not currently targeting. Think about how customers access your products. Add delivery, business-to-business sales, bulk pick-up or even subscription services.
Finally, you might be able to diversify your offerings by adding new price points. If you usually make all leather bags and boots, consider offering a similar line in faux-leather options that are more affordable (which might appeal to vegan customers — a whole new market!) If you make sweaters from alpaca wool, consider adding a synthetic version of the same style to catch the customer who loves your look but has a tighter budget.
2. Understand your cash flow
Even if you have an accountant handle your financials, now is the time to sit down with your statements and know your cash flow. Take a look at your documents month by month. Based on your historical spending, you should be able to create a realistic monthly budget. Develop a spending plan, factoring in worst-case scenarios based on what you come up with. Check in on your cash flow every single month and adjust as needed.
As you review your budget, think about the purchases you're likely to make in the next 18 months (sure, the average recession is only 11, but they can last up to a year and a half.) Consider delaying major expenses like new office space or new furniture. At the same time, review your ad buys and costs and identify which are earning you the most significant returns. Drop any that are not paying off. You must keep investing in your company via advertising, even during a recession. Fading into the background as you try to save money is a surefire way to run into trouble. In addition to reviewing your budget and expenses, take the time to renegotiate with your suppliers, especially if it's been a while since you've done so.
Finally, consider preparing to open a line of credit or apply for a loan. You may never need it, but training the documents you need takes time, so go ahead and collect them now. Ensure you have the most up-to-date financials, business plans, references, organizational charts and resumes. Do prospect research to identify possible grants related to your business or peruse loans with the best interest rates. Keep them in your mind and be prepared to pull the trigger on an application if necessary.
3. Prepare your team
Make sure each team member does the work best suited to their strengths. If someone is underperforming or you realize you don't need an absolute position to fulfill a specific task, make the edits. If you downsize, be aware that those remaining may fear for their jobs. It is essential to explain the situation carefully, reassure your team of their value and offer cross-training or other professional development.
It is essential in a recession to keep your crew happy. Replacing employees costs financially and in terms of workplace morale. A great way to keep employees happy is to offer opportunities for remote work if your business can handle it. This will give them more time at home with their loved ones and save you money if you can close the office or shop from time to time and save on utilities.
4. Strengthen your customer relationships
The best move you can make to recession-proof your business is to convert one-time customers into repeat visitors. There is a slew of ways to do this, but here are some of my favorites:
Offer a rewards program. You know how these work, and you're likely part of several. You spend money and earn rewards for every dollar you spend, whether it's $5 off a bag of coffee or a free candle. Rewards programs keep customers returning, make them feel special, and encourage them to spend more on each transaction.
Start a subscription program. Did someone buy gourmet dog treats from your online shop? If that bag of goodies is meant to last a month, why not offer your customers the option to have treats auto-delivered on a regular schedule? Offer a small discount, and your customer will save money, and they won't go elsewhere for Fido's snacks.
Personalize. Make recommendations for customers based on what they've already bought. Offer to curate boxes of goods. Offer to monogram that pricey dog bowl or bathrobe. Allow customizations on clothing or handbags.
Give your customers a voice. One of the best strategies I've seen for this is inviting frequent customers to join an "advisory panel." Let them know their opinion is vital and ask them to join, then send them regular surveys to solicit their feedback on your offerings. Give them a chance to write in any ideas for new products or how you could improve. You'll not only make your customers feel valued, but you will also receive valuable information about their spending habits. They may even give you some great ideas.
Offer free samples. We've probably all added extra items to an order to get a freebie, but this strategy works even if you don't require that the customer spend a certain amount! Even if they only order one bar of soap, throw in a sliver of that new solid perfume you just created. If your customers like your products, they'll likely enjoy your new offerings too, and you might earn back-to-back orders.
5. Be willing to change your mindset
Sure, maybe a gourmet cotton candy store is your dream business. But during a recession, realize that you must be flexible and adapt to a changing market. Unless you serve only the wealthiest customers, you will likely need to change or add to your offerings. So maybe you have to start hosting children's birthday parties for a little while. If you hate it, you can always drop that service once things look up financially. You've just added a permanent revenue stream if it's not so bad.
A recession doesn't have to mean panic — keep focused, flexible and financially aware. This is an opportunity to get to know your company better and get creative with your offerings.
The most important thing to understand in sales is that it's not about you — it's about the customer. Use these five tips to make more sales and build more relationships.
Sales is an art. It's a delicate balance of persuasion, psychology and understanding of human nature. And like any art, it takes years of practice to perfect.
At the age of 16, I launched my first business. It was a pretty simple venture — a jewelry business where I was selling mostly in Camden Market in England. I noticed that the most successful stalls had the best salespeople. They were the ones who could talk to anyone, no matter who they were, and make a sale.
After starting my first finance job as a junior FX broker, I quickly began to see the importance of sales in every industry. In finance, my role was to essentially bring in new business and sell international payments. I began to study the art of sales and how to be a successful salesperson. This is something I've continued to do throughout my entrepreneurial journey, and it has resulted in the successful launch of two fintech consultancies, which I've scaled to seven figures in just three years.
Here are some sales techniques I use as an entrepreneur, which I hope will help you in your business journey.
1. Sales is 80% listening, 20% talking
The most important thing to understand in sales is that it's not about you — it's about the customer. It's all about understanding their needs and problems and presenting a solution that meets those needs. This can only be done by spending the majority of the conversation listening rather than talking.
The best salespeople are often the best listeners. They understand that in order to sell something, they need to first understand the customer and customize their pitch based on their needs.
Remember, people buy from people. They want to do business with someone they like, trust and can relate to. With this in mind, build a good rapport and always be authentic and genuine.
2. Open-ended questions are key
Open-ended questions are essential at the start of the sales process. They allow you to really get to know your customer and understand their needs. By asking open-ended questions, you can get the customer talking and find out information that you wouldn't be able to if you were just making small talk.
They generally start with who, what, when, where or why, for example:
You should be asking open-ended questions at the beginning of the sales process to help you gather information. They can also be used throughout the conversation to keep the customer talking and to get them to share more information. Closed-ended questions are typically used when you're ready to close the sale to gain commitment and take away any objections they may have.
3. Be mindful of the hammock effect
The hammock effect is when your listener's attention starts to wander, and they stop paying attention to what you're saying. Luckily, research has been able to tell us when this happens and how to prevent it.
In their book Conversations That Win the Complex Sales, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer stated that your listener's attention will be at around 70% at the beginning of your message, 20% in the middle and 100% at the end.
With this in mind, focus on the beginning and the end of your message and make sure that these parts are strong. Of course, this doesn't mean that the middle part of your message is unimportant. It just means that you need to spend more time making an impact at the beginning and end of your pitch.
4. Appeal to your buyer's emotions
A really effective way to sell your product is to appeal to your buyer's emotions. This is because people are more likely to make decisions based on their emotions than logic. In fact, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that most of the participants with this damage struggled to make decisions.
Some of the most common emotions that you can appeal to are fear, greed, and scarcity.
5. Follow up
About 80% of sales require five follow-up calls after the meeting. So, if you're not following up, you're leaving money on the table.
Unfortunately, 44% of salespeople give up after the first attempt. They assume that they'll get back to them if the customer is interested. But this is often not the case.
You need to be persistent in your follow-ups. It's important to remember that the sale doesn't happen until the money exchanges hands. If it's a hot lead, you might want to follow up within a few days. If it's a cold lead, you might want to give them a week or so before following up.
Schedule your follow-ups into your calendar, and make sure that you stick to your plan.
Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Without sales, there would be no revenue and no business. This is why it's so crucial for business owners to learn and improve their sales skills.
Remember, these are just a few of the many techniques that are available to you. The key is to experiment and find the ones that work best for you.
The tech used — and how it's used — can make or break you.
It is estimated that the average enterprise-level organization uses over 75 tech tools, on average. Clearly, organizations are recognizing the potential that this can have for their growth — even if they're getting a little overzealous in adopting it.
If you're still not sure how today's options can impact your business for the better, understanding some of their chief use cases can help you recognize its potential.
One of the most apparent ways that businesses are using technology to fuel growth is through automation. These tools take over both the mundane and essential tasks that don't require as much thought or insight from your team. They give employees more time to focus on higher-level activities, while at the same time reducing the risk of human error that can slip in when doing a repeatable, low-level task.
For example, research shows that utilizing marketing automation tools can increase sales productivity by 14.5 percent while simultaneously lowering overhead by 12.2 percent. Marketing this software helps increase leads by enabling marketing professionals to better recognize qualified leads and helping them improve the nurturing process.
Automation can assist with other tasks that aren't so directly customer-facing. From processing invoices, or time-off requests, to syncing scheduling for setting up meetings, it can take care of countless "behind the scenes" tasks that streamline your work, fueling productivity.
"[This leads to] not simply the removal of workers from the equation, as has been wrongly suggested in the past, but to aid workers by passing off the 'tedious' aspects of their work to technology, leaving them in a place to concentrate on more important tasks," writes, Darryl Seland, for Quality Magazine. "It is far removed from the notion of pressing a button and letting the machines do all the work, although the advancement in technology can make it seem that way."
Improving customer service
Positive brand interactions can make all the difference in building lasting loyalty. Research from Microsoft indicates that 69 percent of consumers feel that customer service is essential for securing their brand loyalty.
As a blog post from Envision Consulting further explains: "It's becoming more and more common for businesses to have online chat functions on their websites, allowing potential customers to speak with a representative directly. The interactive nature of online chat can help customers to get their questions or concerns resolved much more quickly."
The right tech can also result in more personalized experiences that make consumers more likely to buy in the first place. Tracking user interactions on your website can provide insights into purchases a customer is considering. This can then be used for email or social media campaigns that are more directly targeted to a user's interests and behaviors.
Better data means better decision making
Without sound information to back up your decision-making, you could take your company down the completely wrong path.
Once again, technology can drive growth — this time, by helping leaders make data-backed decisions. Not only do tech resources help gather and aggregate data, but many tools also provide analytical insights based on this information to help guide your decision making.
Notably, in a PwC survey of over 1,000 senior executives, it was found that organizations that are "highly data-driven" were three times as likely to experience major improvements in their decision making processes when compared to their less data-driven peers. Quality research can help you become more proactive in enacting needed change and have greater confidence that you're taking the right course of action.
Tech tools that collect and analyze data can also help break down the information silos that often pop up in larger enterprises. This gives your entire team a more complete view, while also enabling stronger collaboration across departments. When everyone has access to information that can help them do their job better, you ultimately become more productive and deliver better customer experiences.
The time is NOW
A recent poll of 2,000 American adults via Propel Software found that inconsistent product information was the number one deal-breaker for consumers to "break up" with a brand they use.
There is no denying that the right combination of tools can significantly streamline your operations. Even activities that don't seem to directly contribute to your bottom line can fuel growth by helping you become more productive and better able to meet the needs of your customers.
By evaluating your needs and the available options, you can find tools that help you take your business to the next level — and achieve the massive growth you've been hoping to achieve.
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.