They say “everyone has a book in them” and I feel very much the same way about business. Deep down in there is a business, a passion, a voice waiting to be heard and a smart business owner ready to surface.
You see, there are key traits to an entrepreneur which almost everybody carries and I think sometimes a hobby is the catalyst which sparks ideas and ‘fun’ into viable businesses. I’m here to tell you there is a distinct strategy to mining your inner psyche – a proven set of questions to unearth that hidden hunger which will eventually enable you to break free of the daily grind, but first some background.
What exactly is an entrepreneur anyway?
Personally I feel the mere word ‘entrepreneur’ is overused and with a televised gaggle of egg-cup-come-toaster inventors being branded as entrepreneurs it’s easy for the phrase itself to lose all touch with reality. I’ll spare you the official definition and instead give you mine:
“An entrepreneur strives to build a profitable business that matters”
Notice I’ve steered clear of the usual “taking on the risk of” as that insinuates that what the person is doing carries an element of risk. Sure, sometimes it does and when you’re shelling out for the Chinese manufacturer for the parts for your egg-cup-come-toaster there probably is, but if you’ve taken note of any of the content on this blog and switched your mindset to that of a strategic business owner you’ll have built yourself a solid strategy which laughs in the face of risk and chuckles at the thought of a 60 hour working week.
Well, ultimately most people do not when they really could! That is to say they have good ideas, strong passions a desire to build something that matters and an idea that will work but they don’t act upon it. They “should be” an entrepreneur but fall into the 99% that are too afraid to try.
What do you want to get out of this?
Before embarking on any business venture that key question is crucial. Indeed, so crucial and seemingly so obvious it’s often painted over as a no brainer.
“Well, more money of course?”
Really? Is that the main reason, why is that important?
“Errm so I can live well and buy nice things”
Okay, I guess we’re getting closer, but why is that important?
“Well, so I can spend more time with my family, work less, go on holidays and drive a great car”
Now we’re talking – money is the means to the end you’re dreaming of. You should see business as the vehicle for making that journey from where you are now to living the life you want to. That is to say, like any car journey you can only really begin once you’ve established exactly where you’re going.
Try it for yourself, ask why you want to own your own business – then ask “and why is that important?” 4 or 5 times and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.
You’ll probably find it isn’t just money that you desire after all and if your vision is to ultimately work less you can develop a strategy (as I preach here) which will build in ‘fading yourself out’ from the outset.
Most small business owners put themselves at the heart of their business and ultimately if you do all the work to run your business you’ll end up with a job that owns you rather than a business which you own.
Where to start
From around 2010 there has been official government rhetoric (both sides of the Atlantic) around “supporting small businesses” as they are the “lifeblood of the economy” and for me their ‘support’ is simply misplaced.
Stacks of cash are funnelled into business advisor bodies, lending initiatives and into grant schemes for small businesses without actually addressing the key mistakes most people make when starting a small business.
I could give you 101 ways to attract your ideal customers (and I do on this site) with virtually zero cash outlay so capital isn’t the issue here.
Business doesn’t have to be complicated, so let’s go over the basic mistakes and give you some quick pointers if you’re looking to move from should-be entrepreneur to strategic business owner.
Mistake 1 – Lack of vision
Like in the car journey analogy would you start a trip without a clear route, a map and a vision for where you’re going to end up?
Without a clear vision to guide you how will you know what success looks like?
Mistake 2 – Wrong choice of market
Some business owners starting out (especially in the internet space) jump from guru to expert looking for the next big thing, the untapped secret, the traffic explosion, the opportunity that’ll add a zero onto the end of their bank balance without actually asking some key fundamentals:
- What do I really love doing?
- What am I really good at?
I call this finding your owner:nerd intersection. That is to say how can you channel your inner nerd who really loves making music and combine that with something that you do really well like building software.
Hello music software developer!
Mistake 3 – Mislead perception of ideal customer
If you cannot tell me precisely who your target audience is, I mean right down to visualising the exact person, their frustrations, age, working situation, their fears, dreams and whether they spend time on Facebook then you are making this mistake.
Mistake 4 – No strategy, organisation or time management
There is a really interesting phenomenon known as “simulated work”. This is the idea that you can fill your day with banal tasks and still feel as though you’re busy. Another one is Parkinson’s law which states a task will expand to exactly fill the time available to do it.
You’re probably familiar with the nutrition term “empty calories”? If you stick with me I’ll show you how to rid yourself of this “empty work” and focus on building a strategy which enables you to only work on the stuff that’ll help you move along your journey to execute your vision.
Mistake 5 – A dated approach to marketing
Even if your business exists and transacts solely offline you still need the web to promote and grow your business and online voice. The core purpose of effective marketing is to attract the attention of your target audience. Lots of businesses leave it at that and wait for the telephone to ring.
The modern approach is to try and leverage that ‘attention’, spark up an informal relationship with a prospect and nurture them down an information gathering process until you’re the only business they turn to when the time comes for the problem you exist to solve.
I’d be interested to understand whether any of the above resonates with you? I’ve got some great resources to give you for free, take a look at the free stuff below – just drop in your email and you’ll have instant access to everything you need to know to start on your journey from should-be entrepreneur to strategic business owner.