Archive for Entrepreneur

The Year I Lost Everything – Lessons Learned from Business Failure

Three years ago, my kids and I were homeless. Thankfully it never went so far as us living in our car or a shelter, but we were wholly dependent on another family for our housing. I had to apply for food stamps. And I have never been so ashamed in my whole life!

And it’s taken every minute of these last years to be able to admit this publicly. To put out there just how thoroughly I failed as an entrepreneur. Do you have any idea how humbling that is?

I had been in business for over 10 years at that point. I wasn’t a start up. I had been doing this, the same thing. And in one fell swoop I was wiped out. And I hate to the bearer of bad news, but this can happen and has happened to many entrepreneurs.

And it’s really hard not to give up. Not to hang your head in shame and back track or worse still to give up on your dreams.

But my catastrophic failure as a business owner was one of the best lessons I ever learned. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was miserable. But in the end, the many lessons I learned about business and about myself were well worth it. Here are a few of the lessons that I think every business owner needs to know.

Lessons Learned from Business Failure

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

As I grew my business, loyal clients took more and more of my time. I grew comfortable. And I stopped marketing, I stopped growing. And when my customers moved on…well, I was left high and dry. Now in my rebuilding phase…I am learning to diversify, to expand my marketing and to vary my clients and their industries. (And I might also be consider diversifying my product offerings.)

Swallow your pride and ask for help.

There is no shame is asking for help. We all need it at some point and in different areas. Reach out to your friends, your business network and tell them what you are looking for, what you have to offer and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It’s is amazing how powerful it is to learn you are not alone. And you never know who else might need to know they are not alone as well.

It’s okay to take time and revamp.

Breathe. Take a step back and let your thoughts flow over you. Makes lists. Talk to trusted advisors. Do some studying. And be open to change. Just because you fall down, it doesn’t mean you have to jump right back up. Sit there for a minute, evaluate the circumstances and then dust yourself off before you stand back up and take another stab at it.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

You’ve heard the saying, never give up, try, try again. But that doesn’t mean you have to try the same thing over and over again. Sometimes you need to think outside the box. Sometimes you have to change paths completely. But hold true to your end goal…supporting your family doing something you love, having the freedom to be where you need or want to be or bringing a new product or service to market. Don’t quit because it didn’t work the way you started…take a look for a different route. And change it up a bit. Embrace what works and drop what doesn’t!

And most important…

Don’t ever give up on you, on your dreams!

Finding Your Ideal Client

Almost every business training I’ve attended over the last few years begins with an emphasis on determining your ideal client, your target audience. Once you have that client in your mind…you create your marketing plan, your products and you go for it.

But the process of defining your ideal client can take on many forms. And frankly, can be very frustrating. Like bang your head against the wall frustrating!

know your target audience

Everyone offers a different checklist, a different method and a different format. But I like Jasmine Star‘s the best. Her focus is on building a relationship, making a connection with the people behind the business. and this really resonates with me as a service provider.

Profiling Your Ideal Client

In a nutshell, she encourages you to speak of your ideal client as a real person:

  • Name them.
  • Recognize their hobbies and interests.
  • Find out where they shop, where they live.
  • What are their dreams, their goals.
  • How old are they, what does their family look like.
  • Seriously, write a whole profile on them.

And then after that, you create your marketing plan as if you are speaking directly to them. Talk to them as if they are your best friend. Address their needs, their goals. Build a relationship with them. Be vulnerable, be real.

Tell them why they need your product or services. Tell them who you are and why they should trust you. Never stop learning about them. And growing with them.

This is relationship marketing…this is why you need to know who your target audience is, who your ideal client is. And it worth the time and effort, even the headache to figure it out!

So tell me…do you know who your ideal client is? And are you ready to set up a targeted marketing campaign using social media, email campaigns and more? Do you need help?

Always Communicate Your Value

As an entrepreneur it is important that you know your value. And I’m not just talking about the hours equals dollars value that is discussed so often. You need to know what you bring to the table.

Ask yourself Why does what I do matter?

Sometimes we are so close to things that we need a different perspective. It is important to recognize what makes you special as you create your marketing message. Your clients are not just investing with you for your time, but also your expertise and access to you.

Instead of focusing your messaging on the features and tangibles, highlight the value of service, the intangibles. What does what you do or provide give to your customer…

  • Will your services or products help your clients produce income?
  • Does your expertise give them back valuable time or resources to focus on other things?
  • Make sure you address “what something is” including all its components but highlight “what something does” and why it matters to your client.
  • Why does what you do matter?

How to Define Your Value

Whether you like it or not, every business owner is in the marketing business. And defining and communicating your value is the first step to producing consistent income.

You must think like a marketer – consider that every activity, every message you send out may lead to a sale. In order to do this, you must focus on two things: your prospective customer and your value.

Your Prospective Customer

Think about your customers challenges, doubts and more importantly their desires and dreams. And then make sure you target your messaging to address those concerns and goals. Your communication must educate and guide them to you. Do not assume they know what you do or how it can help them.

Make sure that you overcome their objections and speak directly to them when you speak or write.

Know What You Bring to the Table

Knowing your value, the value of what you offer and recognizing how to position it is key. And it is an evolving process – recognize that and do not get frustrated.

Position your self and your offers to best meet your prospective clients needs. Translate everything you do into a value, not just a dollar amount. Own your expertise and share it.

Your clients are always going to ask “What’s in it for me?

What are the Results?

It is important that you clearly communicate the results you deliver. These come in two primary forms:

Hard Results – the are the most common and often easily qualified. They are tangible, measurable and provide exact date. Clients understand and expect these. Make sure to communicate them clearly. Ask for testimonials when you deliver. And always be upfront about what they should expect.

Soft Results – while these are not measurable, sometimes that are even more valuable so it’s important you communicate what your client can expect. What goals will you help them fulfill, intangible results can they expect and what emotional state will you help them achieve? Will they be less stressed, have more free time or just get to focus on their own strengths?

What are your Big Dreams?

During my studies to become a social worker one of my favorite psychological theories was “self-fulfilling prophecy.” I’m not talking about Joel Osteen type of “abundance mentality.” But seriously, nothing is stopping you from Big Dreams!

I don’t think we are owed anything or that just believing something will make it come true. When I talk about self-fulfilling prophecy, I’m referring to the belief that you can do anything you set your mind too. Seriously. I don’t believe there are limits what any dedicated individual can achieve.

So, my question is “what are you expecting?” What are your Big Dreams?

Because at the end of the day, our lives tend to live up to our own expectations. Seriously, if you are looking for the good, for the miracles, you will find them. And vice versa.

If you don’t expect things to get better, they probably won’t. You will probably continue to struggle, continue to live paycheck to paycheck. But if you dream big, take chances and expect the best…you will find it.

Write down your dream, make a list of and break it down into To Dos. There is no time like the present to take this first huge step. And nothing is stopping it from evolving over time

What is your dream? What do you want out of your business? Are you surrounding yourself with the right team? Seeking the guidance of those who have gone before you? And investing in yourself?

ideas become things

As a VA, I work with entrepreneurs at all stages of their careers. Whether you are well established with systems in place or just starting out and don’t have a clue what your next step is, a VA can help.

If you are ready to make the leap, and find out what having a VA on your team can bring to the table. Ready to take a step of faith and dream big, I would love to speak with you. Let’s set up a call and go from there!

Recommended Technology for Startups

Implementing an idea for a startup business not only requires mastering several aspects of business, space to work and a great deal of time and thought, but technology for facilitating workflow. Here is a list of recommended technology to address every aspect of business.

Emerging startups worldwide use similar essentials to get started. The following is a list of suggested technologies young entrepreneurs can use for automating business process without breaking the bank.

Managing Finances

  • Microsoft Office Suite is truly an amazing software package comprising of a number of remarkable tools for maintaining a smooth workflow. It has everything you will need for preparing business reports, designing slides for presentation, calculating cash flow, sending emails and designing brochures. In fact, Microsoft Office contains everything a business needs. If an entrepreneur can only afford one software package, this is the one.
  • Quickbooks another exceptional software for managing the finances of your business. It enables users to easily track income and expense as well as directly import related banking information into the software from Excel spreadsheet or from the online banking interface where available. Moreover, you can formulate invoices and receipts. Quickbooks inventory management feature is an added functionality startup businesses can utilize where needed.

Time Management

  • WrikeTime is money; therefore, every employee working for a startup must be able to complete their designated tasks in due time. The software allows team members to collaborate their ideas and expertise for successfully completing projects. This also raises their work output.
    The time tracking functionality of Wrike enables employees to include their time entries for various projects.
  • Time Doctor A startup using this software can conveniently monitor the time spent by the employees on every project they are involved with. As a result, payroll can be made accordingly depending on the amount of work and time spent by each employee on various projects. The data remains encrypted ensuring users’ privacy.

Marketing Software

  • MailChimpallows an entrepreneur to craft personalized emails for their subscribers to stay connected. This software is perhaps one of the most efficient marketing tools for businesses having less than 500,000 email addresses of subscribers, and it’s free to use.
  • Hootsuiteused for managing campaigns and interacting and generating engagement on social media. Hootsuite can save a lot of time when managing multiple social media platforms. It is used to post updates, connect with subscribers and generate social media analytics at an affordable price tag.

Project Management

  • Aha a great tool for newly emerging businesses to create a roadmap before launching products or services in the market. Young entrepreneurs can set goals and vision for the company, formulate a business model and inspect competitors in the same industry. Aha offers a 30-day trial and has a specialized plan for startups.
  • Teamworkthe name says everything. Teamwork offers a combination of three different tools: project management, customer management and a chat log for a team to communicate with each other. Its central file management feature has proven to be outstanding for sharing files and attachments through its cloud-based structure. Packages start at $24month.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does provide a good jumping off point for new entrepreneurs and startups. Many of these options are available for free or at minimal costs.

Using technology can not only automate many of the back-end processes but also add significant value for the business owner.

EPOH LLC is happy to support entrepreneurs and small businesses in automating and systematizing their business processes.

 

12 Business Aspects important for any Entrepreneur

As I explore strategies for building my consulting business, I have learned there are at least a twelve aspects to being an owner/operator of a business. To succeed you must have strategies in place for each one.

Business Aspects for Review

The aspects I am reviewing about my own business in an effort to make an educated step for expansion and growth include:

  • Sales and Marketing Strategies.
  • Systems Strategies.
  • Financial Management including Increasing Profit Strategies.
  • People Strategies including being a great Leader.
  • The Customer Experience.
  • and one that touches on them all Communication Strategies.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a synopsis of what a small business owner should consider when reviewing these strategies for his/her business, and by small, I mean mom and pop shops.

A small business owner, or solopreneur cannot always afford to outsource these tasks. Specifically when getting started.

However, sometimes you must consider outsourcing when it is something that is:

  1. Not the core of your business or
  2. Not one of your strengths.

This is where I am at right now.  I am spending far too much time on things I’m not necessarily the best at and I need to consider finding some other way to get those things done.

Sales and Marketing

I have been so blessed over the years that sites like Guru and Upwork have helped me put my business in front of people who need it. However, as the virtual work world changes, I need to expand my marketing and sales avenues.

Systems and Tools

Systematizing the day to day operations of your business intrinsically frees you up to focus on the core of your business.

More importantly, if you have employees or subcontractors, it allows everyone “stay in their lane” to prevent waste and confusion. Tools can include project management software, email and shared documents.

Finances

Understanding where your money comes from and where is goes is the key to being a success at business.

Controlling your overhead in a virtual workspace allows you to offer very competitive rates and make a decent size profit.

Remember to plan for the future and the day when you must increase your out going monies to stay competitive. Having a solid understanding of your finances and a long term plan in place is important.

People

Whether you are a one person shop or a mid-sized business, having good people skills is important. Your interaction with people affects your sales, the support you receive, hiring or management.

Knowing yourself and how to influence others is important.  We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, that’s life, but being aware and being willing to admit and address those is vital to maintaining a healthy , joyful work environment.

Customer Experience

I don’t know who said it, but I know you’ve heard it. Word of mouth marketing can be the best or the worst thing for your business ever. 

A happy customer is going to talk about it, a customer with a bad experience is going to talk about it exponentially more. Managing the customer experience is key not only to your day to day work environment, but also to the healthy longevity of your company.

There are lots of strategies out there for this and I am looking at them all!

Communication

Let’s face it, in this technology filled age it’s really easy to put the word out about something.  You can blog it, Tweet it, Post it, Take a Picture of it, Pin it…you get the point.

The key is to have effective communication, communication that is actually heard.  I will explore the tools, the branding, the scripts and the theories.

I’ve found my key over the years is to communicate the way a client hears it – as much as I don’t want to, there are some clients I MUST pick up the phone and call. Some expect small talk before we can tackle the root of the call. Whereas others would greatly prefer a short text.

Understanding your audience is the secret!

I can’t wait to dive in and share my findings and resources with you, and I am sure that I will learn as much from you in the process!