10 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Improve Odds for Success

3 Steps to Producing Content that Interests Your Customers
1st, discover the problem
. As an entrepreneur, you should research to discover the “unsolved” problems that people face in your industry, and then find solutions to address those problems. You should not assemble a product or service before you figure out what problem it will solve, or what need will it serve. Look to fulfill people’s needs first. Many entrepreneurs fail because they approach their business this way – backwards.

The key thing to remember is people don’t buy your products or services, they buy the benefits of your products and services. They pay to have their needs met, their problems solved. So identifying the problems people face is the first step to taking your business in the right direction. This approach has led many businesses to succeed since the beginning of commerce.

2nd, review your budget, goals, and passion You want to make sure you have the budget to start and accomplish your short-term goals, which in turn support your long-term goals. You also want to assess your personal passion. You don’t have to be 100% passionate about your products, services, or industry, to succeed. But you should align your passion with what you do daily in your business to ensure you are motivated to work the long hours that entrepreneurs typically work.

For example, if you want to start a home-based E-Commerce business but don’t like doing the online marketing part of it, you’ll need to hire someone to do that for you. Maybe you like adding new products and handling customer service inquiries – well these are important – and it may work for you to focus on those things, but you’ll need to make sure that you (or a partner of yours) are providing all the essential services that solve your customers’ needs and problems.

3rd, develop a strategic plan. Give yourself deadlines. You will benefit from having expected completion dates for the things you want to accomplish. Researchers have shown the act of writing down the things you want to accomplish significantly boosts the chances you will accomplish them. You should revisit your execution plan weekly, if not daily, to remind yourself of the mission you’re working to accomplish.

4th, establish a professional, quality website that communicates who you are and what you do. For this, I recommend that you find a web design provider that develops CMS-based websites to custom build a site for your business. CMS websites allow you to update and change content on your website, without having any programming knowledge.

A good provider will also coach you on how to manage your website once it is completed. Being able to update your site and add content will save you money in the long run because you won’t have to pay someone else to make changes to your website. As a small startup, this is THE BEST way to keep your website maintenance costs down.

5th, use free tools to promote your website and business first, before going on to paid services. When first starting a business, entrepreneurs need to save money and do what they can do for free before spending money. You can promote your business and website for free by creating your own accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. You can also post your website on popular business directories like: Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, etc. If your budget is very limited, these free tools are a great place to start. If you have a marketing budget, I recommend hiring a digital marketing firm to help build these for you. They have the expertise to do them most effectively.

6th, spend some money to get quality business cards designed and (at least 250) printed. The business card design should align well with your professional website and brand. One great thing about the internet is even if your business is small, if your passion to provide excellent products and services is BIG (along with a professional website and business cards) you can still compete with bigger competitors in the eyes of customers.

7th, make sure your business vehicle is reliable and durable, with low maintenance costs. That is, unless you have access to your family’s fortune. As you run your startup, your time and money will be limited. You don’t want to be surprised with a big bill because your vehicle breaks down. (You also don’t want to miss meetings as a result.) The key is to minimize negative surprises for things within your control, by preparing ahead of time.

8th, find a mentor you trust to help deepen your knowledge and broaden your perspective. If you can’t find one at the moment, the web and local library are full of how-to books, information – including articles like this one, which will help you gain new knowledge and perspective. Keep learning new things that you believe will help your business leap forward.

Many entrepreneurs come up with great business ideas, but if they don’t keep up to date on new technologies and business trends, their business can run into problems over time. The key take away: new entrepreneurs should know that to survive over the long haul – business ideas, products and services need to evolve to adapt to new developments.

9th, back up your data. Most businesses require computers, including tablets, laptops, desktops. These are machines, and machines break. If you have files for your business, you should buy a portable hard drive and back up those files. The last thing you want is to lose your files because your hard drive crashes. You could back up a copy of your files on cloud drive storage, (i.e. DropBox) on a physical drive, or both. The cloud drive could fail, or be hacked. The odds of this may be small, but it does pose a risk. Ultimately, I would recommend you do both to minimize your risk. Several cloud space providers offer free storage space [DropBox (2Gb), Google Drive (15Gb), OneDrive (15Gb)] to backup your files.

10th, review all your expenses quarterly. Today business owners often set up auto payments to online-based subscriptions. If you revisit those subscriptions only once every six months, you may be paying for something you don’t use often enough to justify the cost. Staying up on your expenses will allow you to re-assess where you deploy your limited resources, which is very important for any startup. I recommend you review your expenses quarterly, if not monthly.

The lessons-learned mistakes you make are often the bricks that lay the path to success for many entrepreneurs. But if you can avoid them, it’s wiser to skip as many mistakes as you can by taking the time to learn from more experienced entrepreneurs, how-to books, and how-to articles. These are 10 tips that will help new entrepreneurs gain a better chance of success in their startups. If you find this article helpful, please share it with others. Thanks!

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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