Thursday August 31, 2017
Entrepreneur, solopreneur, small business owner, founder, CEO - these are just some of the titles people give themselves when they open the doors to their new business. Most people do not start out with a team of people. Instead, the majority of today's entrepreneurs get their start by bootstrapping their new business with little more than the money in their bank account. But while website builder platforms, freeware and social media have made it easy for small business owners to start marketing their services, these "easy to use" services have created a problem all their own - expectation.
Too many entrepreneurs expect that if they build a website, the phone will just start to ring. They expect that if they publish posts to their social media channels, they will grow a rapid fan base of loyal customers who want to buy from them again and again. And they expect that if they send out an email to a small list of people they met while networking, they will generate lots of new business as a result. This "expectation" mentality lures small business owners into thinking that starting a business is easy and free, and when the reality does not match their perception, they give up.
If you are looking to start, or grow, your small business, here are a few expectations that need to be replaced by reality:
1. You don't have to hire anyone to find small business success
Most entrepreneurs are self-starters, and many of them are great at figuring things out themselves. The problem with this mentality is that just because you CAN figure something out and do it yourself doesn't mean that you SHOULD. Remember, you only have 24 hours in a day, and for at least a few of those hours you will be sleeping, eating and (hopefully) practicing basic hygiene habits. So for the hours you do have to work on your business you should be spending your time doing the things that only you can do and hire others to do the rest. The reasons for this are many but it all boils down to two main things: Either you will spend all of your time doing activities that are necessary to build your reputation but do not directly put money into the bank (like posting on social media, writing blog posts, updating your website, etc.), or you will spend all your time doing the things necessary to maintain your business (like paying bills, responding to RFPs, and doing the work for current clients) but doing nothing to build your brand. Business owners who try to do it all end up either lacking in the delivery of services to clients, or failing to build a reputation to attract others. You can't do both well given life's requirements and your own physical limitations. Stop wasting time and hire the help you need.
2. You can teach yourself everything you need to know to market your business
Yes, we live in an incredible world where you can take online classes free through the library, read articles and blogs on all kinds of topics, or jump on YouTube to see how to do virtually anything. Technically, you can be self-taught and self-made and market a business without ever going to college to learn a particular skill. However, there are people called experts for a reason - they devote all of their time toward a particular subject so you can benefit from that knowledge and experience. You simply will never have enough time to do everything to an expert level, so why not hire some experts and trust them to take a few things off your plate? You are an expert in what you offer to your clients - let someone else be the expert for areas where you are not. Yes, it will cost money to hire expert services, but they will provide you with far more knowledge and expertise in a particular area than you could procure on your own given your other responsibilities, and your business will benefit as a result.
3. If you have a website, people will find you
This is one of the most frequent, inaccurate expectations we see small business owners make. Yes, having a website is important, but positioning it in a way that people can find it is even more important. There are well over a billion websites on the Internet, all competing to be the first found for certain search queries. For many keywords, you could have millions of website pages competing to show up first. Simply building a website is not enough, you need to build in the right SEO, market your website in the appropriate places, and of course, make sure that when people do find your website you immediately grab their attention as being a company they want to work with. All these things require SEO expertise, good graphics and content and a strong marketing message. Even if these are your areas of expertise, you may want to hire someone to do them for you so you can spend your time focusing on your clients instead.
4. You can build your business without paying anything for technology
These days, freeware abounds. You can get free trials, limited access to robust programs, or just get by using Google Docs or Microsoft programs. Yes, there is a lot you can do for "free", but when you calculate what you will lose in productivity, time, opportunity and professionalism, your actual loss is incalculable. Can you use Excel or a Word doc as a CRM to manage your clients? Yes, but you may miss important details and opportunities that would lead to additional business. Can you get by using free email marketing tools to contact your database? Yes, but you will lose marks for professionalism if your email isn't built well or you are promoting the brand of the company that provides it.. One of the most important jobs you have as a business owner is managing the perception of your brand. If people perceive that your business is cheap they will make assumptions about you and your company, namely that you are either not very successful (and therefore not worth their investment), or not very professional (making you someone they would rather not work with).
Successful entrepreneurs invest in the tools, technology and people that will make them more successful. If you believe you can find small business success without investing in the growth and development of your company, your growth will be slow and limited at best. So change your expectations today and remember that you have to put money in to get money out. This expectation will set you apart from the many entrepreneurs who don't follow this advice and ultimately, your business will be the one in the position to acquire theirs one day.
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