Going out on your own should never mean going it alone. This is perhaps the most valuable advice that can be given to startup entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship, in any type of business endeavor, must start with the recognition that success comes to managers who leverage all resources around them extremely well. It's about maneuvering something small into something greater. And it's about efficiency. Think of the arithmetic as: 1 + 1 equaling 5, 10, 15, or more in return.
Practically speaking, your time should focus on activities that produce the greatest payoff in terms of new customers, revenues, and profitability. While this is possible, it requires discipline and making the right connections.
So how should solo entrepreneurs make better, time-saving choices? Here are four strategies to help solo entrepreneurs get the most out of each business-building day.
1. Network your way to fast help
It's not uncommon for startup entrepreneurs, especially home-based entrepreneurs, to work reclusively in front of their computers. While comfortable, it's not effective.
Solo entrepreneurs who create prosperous businesses understand that while they won't have the best answer to every question, someone in their network of colleagues, former managers and mentors, contractors, friends and family will. This is how you can create a virtual (and non-paid) "staff" of sales, strategic planning, marketing, and IT experts. Ask more experienced people: "What is the fastest, cheapest route from A to B?"
If you want to cultivate a wider network, make a list of the areas of expertise that can best complement your business development initiatives. The next step is to call a friendly colleague or two for referrals. It's that simple. Of course, consider how you can return the favor to people who offer their free assistance. Is there a contact or service that you can offer to help them?
2. Put a priority on revenue generation
Founding entrepreneurs have to spend the majority of their time looking for customers. This doesn't mean creating brochures and newsletters; it means getting on the phone and pursuing referrals.
When a young company is found in jeopardy, it is often found that the entrepreneur was working long hours.
To bring discipline to a work week, entrepreneurs are encouraged to set aside at least two or three full days (ideally, the same days each week) for active customer solicitation. Nothing else is more important. Opening mail, editing Web site copy, and all other administrative and marketing chores should take up no more than one business day's time. Entrepreneurs should try to track the number of weekly customer solicitations they make. These entrepreneurs invariably find that increased weekly solicitation activity leads to increased new customer activity. Try it-it's fun, and it works!
3. Manage your overload wisely
Once your operating priorities favour customer solicitation and revenue generation, there will be times when you will simply have too much work. This problem leads entrepreneurs to sometimes overreact and hire costly staff for customer service work, rather than outsource lower-paid administrative tasks. Even if the entrepreneur "doesn't mind doing" invoicing, bill paying, market research, and so on, the business will benefit more when the founder is freed up to do activities focusing on customers and cash flow.
4. Find a motivating coach
It's true that many entrepreneurs start their businesses out of a desire to be their own boss. Yet it has been found to be worthwhile for solo entrepreneurs to identify someone to serve as a coach. Entrepreneurs should consider meeting with a coach – who could be a friend, respected business colleague or retired business executive – at least once a quarter.
Entrepreneurs are doers. They are not afraid of taking risks, working hard, and testing their treasured ideas in the marketplace. The key to survival, of course, is securing the support of a growing base of advisers and customers as fast as possible.
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