An entrepreneur’s journey is a unique one. There are days when you wake up and think…”what possessed me to leave relatively “safe” employment,” but nothing beats bringing a dream to reality.
What seemed like a perfect plan that could absolutely not go wrong, goes through twists and turns, then becomes refined by the fiery furnace of challenges and failures, and then just when you think you have perfected your model, a regulation, a recession, an unexpected event places your perfect plan on its head! That’s where the best learning comes; about people, processes, products, promotions etc. What works and what doesn’t.
But in spite of it all, there is a magic in presenting something novel, that solves a problem, has an impact and touches lives…the infinite possibilities of entrepreneurship.
I have observed some outstanding entrepreneurs and have also gained some experience as one; from this I am delighted to present you with my GLOSSARY of some of the key issues an entrepreneur must deal with to survive for the long haul.
Speak to a book-keeper or an accountant as early as possible to put basic systems in place. They will also advise you on your routine financial obligations such as VAT, Withholding tax etc. Many entrepreneurs neglect this important area to their detriment. If numbers aren’t your strong point, invest time in some formal instruction to equip you with basic knowledge. Enroll on a Financial Management for Business Owners Seminar. Don’t lose sight of this important piece.
B: YOUR BUSINESS PLAN IS YOUR ROADMAP
Planning is key if you wish to achieve success in anything that you do. Your business plan is your road map; imagine embarking on a journey to an unknown destination without a map or GPS; sure, you might eventually get there but not without getting lost along the way, going in the wrong direction, and losing time having to retrace your steps. So many entrepreneurs get carried away with their idea, passion and optimism and plunge into the arena without a formal plan. This can be a costly mistake.
A business plan articulates your business goals, the strategies required to meet them, the challenges you may encounter and ways to mitigate them. It includes the ideal structure of your business, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and the capital required to fund it. Putting ideas and concepts down on paper is invaluable. Going through the rigour of researching and compiling data deepens your understanding of your business.
The value of a business plan cannot be overstated. Indeed, it should be a reference point to return to periodically. A good business plan should be flexible
enough to allow for modifications with the vagaries of your market environment.
Revisit it, review it, and update it.
Cash flow is king. Cash is the fuel that drives a business, and many financial experts consider the condition of a company’s cashflow to be one of the most important indicators of it’s financial health. Indeed inadequate cashflow
is often cited as the top cause of failure. Statistics indicate, that at least half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. This is not for the lack
of great ideas and commitment; it is typically from weak cash flow management.
Many entrepreneurs don’t dedicate time to pour over accounts payable, receivables and cashflow, and this important part of the business is often neglected or overlooked. Remove some of the burden by working regularly with an accounting professional but still stay close to the numbers.
EBITDA – Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. It is a measure of cash flow calculated as: Revenue – Expenses (excluding tax, interest, depreciation, and amortization).
Low sales, overspending, weak invoicing and follow up on receivables, excess stock, are some of the common causes of cash flow problems.
Many businesses struggle due to insufficient capital, weak cash flow management and too much debt. How much you borrow and when, can mean the difference between success and failure. Tackle debt problems head on. Here are some suggestions:
Try to reduce costs. Revisit your budget; do your revenues cover your fixed costs such as salaries and utility bills? Can you sublet space? Can you sell idle assets? Be realistic; you may need to let some people go.
APPROACH YOUR LENDERS
Be proactive about negotiating with your creditors before you are in default, whether it is debt from friends and family or from financial institutions. Timing is important. Remember it is in everyone’s interest to find a solution; restate your intention to meet your obligations and they may be able to restructure your repayment options or even accept a lower settlement.
PRIORITIZE DEBT PAYMENTS
What is your most expensive debt? If you have borrowed in foreign exchange and are earning in Naira this must be a priority. In any case make every effort to reduce the most expensive debt.
Most businesses will borrow at some point to improve cash flow or to finance expansion. Be careful not to overextend by borrowing too much without the capacity to repay.
E: Are you a dreamer or a doer?
Having an idea is fine, but without a plan to bring it to bear, it is worthless.The truth is, most ideas never make it to reality. Many managers are comfortable with endless planning, but lack the discipline, commitment and focus to actually put the plan into action. Here are some tips:
SET CLEAR GOALS
Setting clear goals is one of the most important requirements for execution. As always the goals should follow the SMART criteria: specific, measurable,
attainable, realistic and time-bound. Goals need deadlines and measurable outcomes or execution just won’t happen.
YOUR BUSINESS PLAN IS YOUR ROAD MAP
After specifying goals in your strategic business plan, don’t abandon the document on the shelf after the planning process is complete. The document is there to guide you; it’s your road map.
Get everyone involved so they take ownership and have a stake in its successful execution. Maintaining clear communication before, during and after the process is essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Without this, a team will lose site of goals and objectives and veer off course. Silos are the enemy of execution; collaboration strengthens it.
MONITOR AND MEASURE PROGRESS
There should be a periodic review of the strategic plan and an evaluation of progress. Evaluate what’s working and what’s not so adjustments can be made to put you back on track.
What determines the survival of a business and where it will be in 6, 12 months or more is the funding and capital supporting it. Can you pay your bills, salaries, utilities, suppliers and keep operations going? A critical step on the road to business success is figuring out where the money will come from to fund it.
The best place to start is to look inwards. Do you have any savings and investments? This is a most common form of financing used by most startups. When you approach lenders or investors they usually want to know if you have any skin in the game; after all, if you aren’t prepared to risk your own money in your business (if you have some), why should anyone else risk theirs.
Do an inventory of your assets. You probably have more than you think. Assets include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, property, vehicles, etc. You may decide to sell some assets for cash or to use as collateral for a loan.
Friends and Family are usually easier to persuade than a bank. But remember that borrowing from friends and family comes with a whole set of risks. If the venture fails, or it takes you longer than anticipated to repay the loan, relationships can suffer.
Money can really complicate family relationships so do make sure that you have a formal agreement. This should include how much is to be borrowed, the amount of interest charged, and repayment terms.
There is a range of options to support funding needs including banks, small business loans, government grants, philanthropists, crowdfunding, angel investors, and venture capital.
Setting SMART goals is fundamental for every entrepreneur. It shouldn’t be a one-time event but an ongoing process. “SMART” may be an over flogged business acronym, but it truly is one of the most powerful business tips. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time sensitive.
Writing your goals down makes them even more concrete. The terrain changes, the economy goes through challenges. Goals should be monitored regularly; they may need to be modified from time to time to ensure that they are still SMART, but don’t abandon them unless there is a fundamental reason to do so.
What goals have you set for yourself and your business?
H: SHOULD YOU HEDGE YOUR BETS?
Hedging is about covering yourself against loss. It provides a buffer, a cover, protection or shield. It is about having a backup plan, a Plan B; covering all bases; just in case.
Plan B is really about thinking through several outcomes; I’ve always had a backup of a backup, and hoped I would never need them. It is important to work through your Plan B, do your risk analysis, enter the water slowly and take precautions. Have you done your homework? Are you well prepared? Even though it still isn’t full proof, this gives you added confidence, particularly if you are risk averse.
In business, having a plan B can be the difference between success and failure. Remember, failure is a very real option for most businesses. A venture might fail but you want to live to see another day.
“LET GO OF THE LEDGE”
There is something unique about entrepreneurship; there comes a time in every entrepreneur’s career that you go for it. You decide how badly you want to do something, you assess the worst-case scenario, and if you can live with it, then you go right ahead.
“Let go of the ledge” and take the risk necessary to achieve your dream. With total believe in your success, you can give it your best shot. Take a bold step toward your dream. It may be scary…but do it anyway.
I: ARE YOU MAKING AN IMPACT?
It is great to be a wealth-focused entrepreneur, but can you have an impact as well? Imagine if all entrepreneurial ventures also ensured that they deliberately
impact humanity in a positive way.
MAKE SOCIAL IMPACT A CORE VALUE
Can you build higher purpose into your business model? There are few things more fulfilling than to know that at the core of your business model, lives are being changed, children are being educated, the environment is being preserved. Here are a few ways to embrace your social responsibility and impact even as you build your enterprise.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO REINVENT THE WHEEL
Your company might have limited time and resources to embark on a new initiative; that’s okay; you can partner with an existing organization that you can identify with and support them. It isn’t all about money; your team can volunteer time, resources, ideas, networks.
SET AMBITIOUS BUT ATTAINABLE GOALS
Like good sales goals, good social impact goals should create something that stretches you, to work towards, while still being attainable. Put a number and a time frame to it. e.g. To provide financial education to 5,000 students every year.
GIVE ALL YEAR ROUND
Making an impact should not be a one-off marketing campaign; it is something that should be at the core of your company’s existence. Commitment to a cause you are passionate about doesn’t end after a campaign. It gets deeper and becomes more meaningful, allowing you to make an even greater impact as you see the effect of your philanthropy.
An Entrepreneurs has various options regarding the business strategy. A Joint Venture can be a most effective strategy.
Some of the tangible advantages of a JV include, leveraging on existing infrastructure, human capital, customer base, market knowledge, geographic reach, brand, access to new markets, etc.
In a Joint Venture model you are teaming up with another individual or business entity to expand your business influence and create a stronger market presence.
Remember that JVs and other partnerships don’t always work and are certainly not appropriate for every business model. One must carefully consider the credentials, reputation and references of a potential JV partner. A legal agreement must address all scenarios including a break up.
K: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Learning is an essential part of the entrepreneurial process. Your most important assets are no longer the physical assets such as your buildings, your
machinery, your products etc; your most important assets are the knowledge and ideas that flow within your team; the intellectual capital.
Knowledge is a competitive advantage.
Can you honestly say that you understand your business and your market intimately? Do you constantly keep yourself abreast of new developments in your market segment? Are you familiar with the government policies and regulations that govern your business?
Or do you go from day to day stumbling over obstacles that could have been avoided if only you had known? Your businesses growth can be limited or enhanced by knowledge; indeed it is through knowledge that ideas and solutions flow and become a continuous source of innovation that makes it possible for you to be the leader in your space.
Build a LEARNING ORGANISATION made up of employees “skilled at “creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge”. INVEST IN KNOWLEDGE
Great ideas and passion are not enough to take a business to success. Leadership is key. Here are a few thoughts.
Engage your employees. It is very easy to be caught up focusing on all the things that crop up in a difficult terrain. Make it a priority to set aside time in your schedule to spend with the team, Share successes and failures. Clear communication gives a sense of belonging to the company. Your colleagues will be a valuable source of ideas if they are involved and engaged.
IDENTIFY AND RETAIN THE BEST TALENT
Your business is as successful as the people working in it. Do all you can to surround yourself with talented, loyal, proactive, thinking people. Once you have recruited them, develop them with training and mentoring. Identify leaders early, to build a strong leadership pipeline in your company. Treat your people with the respect and value they deserve. You can’t do everything yourself; Delegate; empower your team and free yourself up.
No matter how well you think you understand your business and know your industry, the terrain is in a constant state of flux. Deliberate study can help you improve your leadership qualities. Innovation never stops, and you must be nimble enough to adjust and adapt.
I spent a great 2 hours with one of my mentors this afternoon and it reinforced some of the important reasons why I feel that everyone needs one or more mentors. You have a better chance at success both in your personal and business life by having the right mentor/s. From the lessons from their experience, to timely advice, access to their network, wisdom and encouragement; these are just a few reasons why having a mentor is important.
LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE
Experience takes years and you can’t learn it all from books. There is nothing like “hearing it from the horse’s mouth;” the way they dealt with difficulties etc. Learn from the best; look for someone that has had success at what they embarked upon; someone that has “been there, done that”. Someone who knows the ropes of business and can guide you with their knowledge and teach you how to avoid making the same mistakes they did.
REASSURANCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Even the boldest entrepreneur gets scared sometimes. Having someone there who can guide and share your fears as you face challenges and allay them with wisdom and experience gives you the confidence you need.
Whilst you need reassurance and encouragement however, you do need someone who isn’t afraid to offer a pessimistic perspective to remind you of the
challenges and worst-case scenarios that in your excitement you may overlook. Be prepared to listen to things you don’t necessarily wish to hear.
A mentor is not for you to use solely for your benefit. A mentorship relationship should be a mutually beneficial, authentic one that takes time to build.
Do you have a mentor? If not, make this one of your short-term goals.
The ability to network is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have. Without building relationships, how will you meet the customers that will patronize your business? How will you make the connections that can give you the necessary leads? You will not achieve much if you stay holed up in your room; you need to be out there. But you don’t have to attend everything; be strategic.
It is not enough just to have been present at an event; what did you do there? Were you active? Will people remember you for the value that you can add to their lives, their business, or the solutions you provide? Do they want to stay in touch? Impressions matter. Once you have met those that you wish to establish a relationship with, it is the follow-up that will form the basis of new relationship and growing network.
Do not underestimate the power of local networking. Knowing the local community has great advantage and you never know where the next opportunity or inspiration will come from. In the era of communication, there is no need to limit yourself; the world is your oyster. Connecting with people from all over the world will expand your horizon, impact your business approach and your personal development.
Outsourcing refers to obtaining services from outside providers, instead of handling them in-house. Many small and large businesses are turning to this option to save on administrative costs and staff overheads whilst still accessing quality talent from the legal, accounting and HR fields. Here are some jobs where outsourcing makes sense.
ACCOUNTING AND TAXES
Your accounts and tax obligations are critical. Stay on top of your financials. You might consider hiring a bookkeeper in-house whilst you outsource the larger accounting function; they can visit say once or twice a month to ensure that the books are in order and obligations are met.
A strong professional graphic designer has the talent, creativity and visual skills to translate your vision and enhance your brand. They create the right content to get your message out on the various platforms, through social media, newsletters, marketing material etc, presenting your business in the best possible way. The quality and functionality of your website tells a lot about you and may not require a full time resource.
Your people are your greatest resource so HR matters must be a priority. It isn’t always easy for small businesses to afford a competent resource in-house to handle important tasks from hiring, training, appraisals, payroll, compliance with labor laws, etc. outsourcing is a good option.
P: THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Every aspect of your business and your personal life comes down to people; when empowered, they are a great asset. Build the human element into both your personal, and your company’s core values.
We’ve all heard the scary saying “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This means that ideally you need to spend more time
with people who will lift you up in all aspects of your life – at home, at work and at play.
Do the people around you motivate and help to build you up? Or do they make you doubt your abilities or even drag you down? Do they always agree with your ideas… and never seem to have any new ones? Then it’s possible you’re surrounded with people who cannot help you become successful.
So hang out with people who inspire you to be better. Surround yourself with people who give you concrete benchmarks for success.
The people who can help you succeed may already be around you. “In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building.
And in life it’s called family, friends, and community.”
Take a moment to look around you today; if you don’t find many of such people…or indeed any of such people, then it’s most likely because you haven’t been
proactive about seeking them out and intentionally spending more time with them. You do need to make some changes.
Read the full article: “How to surround yourself with the right people” at inc.com
“Being dedicated to quality means that everything that’s done in your company is done with pride, at the absolute highest level of your capabilities, to provide the highest possible level of service, in the most professional manner possible.” Lonnie Sciambi
Many businesses overlook their most important business resource – the customer. Customers can make or break a business. Many organizations, however, underestimate the importance of customer centricity and satisfaction. An organization can only meet its corporate goals by targeting the needs of customers and providing them with an exceptional degree of customer service as well as quality products.
Service excellence will always be key to business success. It must be a way of life from the CEO down to the most junior person in the company. It’s what you stand for as a company.
What have you done to make quality a way of life in your company?
Risk is almost synonymous with entrepreneurship. Starting a business, investing in it, leaving full employment, spending all your savings, all involve risk. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to embrace risk and the challenges that come with it. Your business plan and preparedness help you to take calculated risk. Here are some of the risks that entrepreneurs take.
Walking away from a current job, or career to relative uncertainty takes guts. There’s no guarantee of regular income, especially in the first few months or even years of the business’ life. You are also likely to be too busy to secure alternative source of income; indeed, entrepreneurs commit even those sources of passive income such as property or stock to build a business.
In the early days you are the “key man” (or woman!) your business depends heavily on you and perhaps one or two others in a small team that you trust implicitly to get things up and running.
Entrepreneurship takes its toll on your time and can affect your health if you aren’t deliberate and conscious of this. You will lose sleep, lots of it, and it can be very stressful.
The rewards of entrepreneurship usually outweigh the risks if you are prepared. Risk cannot be avoided altogether, but by recognizing risks and putting structures in place, you can prepare for and mitigate them. Risks shouldn’t scare you off; indeed, you should view risk as a necessary ingredient in this exciting journey.
Here are some ways to manage risk: •Your Business Plan is your road map •Thorough risk analysis •Strong record keeping and controls •Manage accounts receivable and payable •Diversify your income and save • Take insurance seriously
We’ve all heard the adage; “IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL.” Do you have a strategic plan in place or is your business wandering along without any clear direction? Strategic planning is critical, yet many entrepreneurs tend to focus on execution and getting a product or service to market as quickly as possible, and less on the rigour of careful planning; this is one of the main the reasons why so many businesses fail within the first few years.
Strategic planning provides a sense of direction and establishes clear priorities. It helps the team know what they should be working on, and what success means. This puts everyone on the same page.
It helps guide day-to-day decision-making and the specific steps that must be taken to achieve stated goals. With clear focus there is less distraction.
Have you written down your strategy and communicated it, or is it only in your head; When key stakeholders understand the strategy and there is full alignment, there is a greater chance of success.
Things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes they fail. Planning helps you evaluate progress so you can take corrective steps if need be.
Developing strategy requires the time and commitment; take it seriously. Remember “Poor planning is worse than no planning at all.”
My crucial “T” was TAXES but because so many of you had TIME MANAGEMENT and TIMING as key we’ve decided to feature both!
Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” Peter Drucker
Here are 3 Timely Tips for Entrepreneurs shared by the @daisycentre
SCHEDULE EVERYTHING; meetings, telephone calls, time to think, reading, lunch, even down time. Scheduling your day helps you make the most efficient use of the limited hours.
AVOID DISTRACTIONS: Work from a list and be disciplined about distractions. Encourage people to respect your time.
“PROCRASTINATION IS OPPORTUNITIES ASSASSIN” Victor Kiam
Do what needs to be done BEFORE it becomes urgent
JUST SAY NO: Time is precious; don’t allow people to waste yours. You don’t have to accept every meeting or invitation. Prioritize; If it isn’t in line with your personal or business goals, politely decline.
“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” Thomas Edison.
Be intentional about how you spend your time. You can’t buy or borrow time, so spend most of your time on the tasks that are Important but not urgent, and you’ll soon find yourself ahead.
U: WHY SHOULD CUSTOMERS CHOOSE YOU?
We often talk about how important it is to be different. Differentiation is a success factor. Why should customers choose you? How are some tips for your unique selling point / proposition (USP)
WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU PROVIDE?
Make a list of every tangible benefit that is unique about your product or service. Compare your features and benefits with your direct competitors. Identify the benefits that set you apart.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
Focus primarily on your strengths and make them second to none but make an effort to improve on your weaknesses.
REVIEW CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
What are customer testimonials and feedback saying? They tell you how your customers feel and what really matters to them. It may be something you weren’t even focusing on that can make all the difference.
UNDERSTAND THE COMPETITION
To be able to differentiate yourself, you need to know what the competition is doing. Copying doesn’t make you memorable; it’s differentiation that does.
TELL THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR USP
Focus your marketing material on your USP; highlight what makes you special and unique.
Your unique selling point is your essence. What is yours? What makes you stand out in the mind of your customers.
“The privilege of lifetime is being who you are”
Don’t get lost in the crowd.
V: THE IMPORTANCE OF VISION (Entrepreneur.com)
Vision is the vital energy that drives the entrepreneur, the founder, and his or her immediate team. Vision is what makes them dare: dare to explore, dare to challenge, dare to insist, dare to keep pushing, dare to have the determination to succeed.”
“Vision is the energy that provides an entrepreneur and the organization with the ability to perform and succeed. And vision is what creates and establishes the culture, which is the key component that
gets softly shared between people creating and establishing norms, expectations and duties that defines the organization.”
“Your mission, strategy, and vision are indispensable. Missing any one piece leaves you without complete direction.”
WHAT IS A VISIONARY ENTREPRENEUR? (Awakening Business)
World Changer. As a true visionary entrepreneur, your passion is to make a difference in the world and have a desire for real change. This may include social change and reflects a profound reason for doing your work.
Personal Vision. It’s important that you are doing exactly what your heart and soul are meant to express in this lifetime. As a visionary entrepreneur you are actualizing your purpose via your business and will be personally fulfilled.
Innovative and creative. You look at things in unique ways, are willing to take risks, and do what’s not been done before. A visionary entrepreneur combines their creativity and passion with their entrepreneurship.
I hope you are enjoying the series. Do share the key “W” word in your entrepreneurial journey.
ARE YOU CONNECTED?
“Do you have a business and aren’t online? Even the smallest business benefits from a web presence. Whilst websites tend to be a standard for having an official online presence, it is important to leverage the powerful far-reaching social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, twitter Instagram, YouTube etc.
“The internet gives everyone the freedom to choose anything that they like and social media is just a medium to drive somebody to the desired platform. Today, every small and medium business uses social media to reach the desired audience.” Entrepreneur.com
Here are some reasons why an online presence is critical:
In a digital world, it’s hard to find you if you aren’t on the Web.
Don’t limit yourself; the internet presents a global community and visibility.
Customers and prospects enjoy the convenience of being able to visit you 24/7, without visiting physically.
The more informative and current your platforms are about your products and services, the greater the possibility of increased sales.
CREDIBILITY: You create a positive impression when you can direct prospective clients, employees or investors to a well-designed, optimised website.
Costs of a consistent online presence is negligible compared to advertising through print media, radio, television etc.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER
Reviewing analytics for customer engagement including visits, messages or emails, can help you tailor your offering.
If you have a business and are not online, do get connected.
There’s a mysterious “X factor” shared by entrepreneurs around the world. What is this elusive entrepreneurial element? Can it be taught?
While many skills shared by great entrepreneurs can be learned, they possess 2 innate traits.
CREATIVITY: the ability to discover and develop viable new business ideas.
INTUITION: the gift of knowing who will benefit from a new idea and how to sell them the idea.
It is these traits (creativity and intuition) that separate the truly entrepreneurial from an average business owner. But this must be harnessed with skills garnered through hardwork and persistence.
1. People skills
Understanding how to build and inspire a team.
2. Ability to focus resources
A successful entrepreneur must focus on critical details necessary for project execution.
3 Financial skills
Some entrepreneurs operate with such an intuitive sense of direction that their organisation grows from powerful ideas. But at some point, somebody needs to know how to balance the books for operational sustainability.
In the end, the “X factor” is not enough for success. Without hard work, business savvy and an ability to manage people, even the most creative and intuitive venture will fail.
Warren Buffett’s Investment Advice: Invest in Yourself . The most important investment you can make is in yourself. The best asset is your own self. You will never get a better return on life than when you truly invest in
“Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.” Warren Buffet
Here is a great piece: “You Must Have This Characteristic to Be a Successful Entrepreneur” by Michael Glauser (Entrepreneur.com)
Most entrepreneurs radiate the same two qualities: zeal for their business and a dogged tenacity to win. Zeal is a joyful and enthusiastic pursuit of an outcome or activity. It is synonymous with passion. It’s a fire that drives the venture. It attracts members to the team, entices customers to buy, helps secure funding, and allows a start-up to compete with giants.
Zeal is energy!