So you’re finally taking the plunge. You’ve had it with fulfilling someone else’s dream, you know you have a unique value to bring to the world, and you’re ready to get it out there. The problem is, you have no idea what to do first.
Here are the seven simple secrets to setting yourself up for success.
1: Know Your Unique Differentiator/Market Niche. The niche makes you rich. Today, it’s all about “niche marketing.” A niche market is a highly focused, targeted portion of a market. It is a narrowly defined group of potential customers. The more narrow you can be with your niche, the more targeted you can be with your messaging. You won’t appeal to everyone, but your target market will be very highly qualified.
One of my coaching clients came to me lost, spinning in circles, with no clearly defined niche. She was about to give up her business. She was positioned as a seller of various lines of early childhood development toys. We zeroed in on the special needs market, and further segmented her positioning into specialist areas. We re-positioned her from being a product seller, to being a leading authority on early childhood development, in which she is a catalyst to helping all children reach their potential. We pivoted to a mission-driven market position (see #5 for more on being mission-driven). Her business is exploding, not only because of her niche but because of her passion. She is so driven that I can barely keep up with her. It’s been amazing to witness her transformation, and the impact she is having on others.
2: Have a Very Specific Profile of Your Customer. Otherwise known as an “avatar,” your specific profile should be so accurate that you could potentially spot them in the grocery store or a networking event. An avatar description goes much deeper than a segment of the population. You want to be able to target them on age, socioeconomic demographic, gender, race, occupation, or any other descriptor relevant to what you are marketing.
I’m coaching another client on how to be a better coach. One of the areas we are improving on is the identification of who he will and will not work with. On the surface, all entrepreneurs may be candidates for his business, but when we dig deeper, that’s not the case. We’ve created criteria for his specific client.
3: Build a Profitable Sales Model. You may be excited to live your passion, but you need to build a business that can pay the bills. If you can’t monetize your passion, you may need to re-examine if your passion is business-worthy. It’s not enough to love what you do; you have to be able to live what you do too. Create a sales model that will support your necessary lifestyle, and will also allow you to reinvest in the business for growth.
4: Create a Core Values System, and Use It to Drive Key Decisions. Your values must be the basis of all business decisions…hiring, firing, partnering, customer selection, advisor selection, market expansion, etc. Otherwise, you are operating without a moral compass. Speaking from experience, it’s easy to run a business from a core values system when everything is going well. However, when things get difficult, you can be heading down some slippery slopes. It will be your core values that keep you on the straight and narrow path back to stability.
5: Be Mission-Driven. When building a company, you must be able to clearly answer, “Why do I exist?” One of Mark Twain’s most famous quotes is, “The two most important days in our life are the day we were born, and the day we discover why.” This ties into why your business exists. You don’t “sell” anything. You are a catalyst to a higher purpose. Your reason for existence is not about YOU. It’s about making the world better through your talents, abilities, knowledge, and passion.
For items #4 and #5, this is the most important initial work I do with my clients. I recently completed the Vision, Mission, and Value Statements for 5 clients. The metamorphosis in all of them, just from doing these exercises, is amazing. They are so driven with purpose and conviction. They’ve found their “true north” and are using these elements to be the best at what they do.
6: Avoid Low-Hanging Fruit That Doesn’t Align With Number 1-5, Just to Pay The Bills. I’ve never met an entrepreneur that has followed this rule. It’s so hard to walk away from opportunities that fall into your lap. However, experience has taught me that there is a high opportunity cost to take short-term gigs just to satisfy cash flow. Smaller engagements often take as much effort and energy as larger engagements. We often take them out of fear of not getting any more work. This is an unfounded fear, and we can’t empower it. Stay true to your target market, your target customer, your profitable sales model, & your core values, and the business will come. By saying no to the good, you are making room for the great.
7. Seek Out Great Role Models and Support Systems. Reach out for support. There are so many places and ways to seek out guidance. If you can’t find the right group, then make your own. These groups and individuals will be instrumental in your success as you grow both personally and professionally.
I have so much fun connecting my clients to my network, and to the networks of my trusted advisors. It’s also fulfilling to help them get over any hesitation they have to reach out to people they want to be connected with. Our “InnerCircles™ Exercise is instrumental in helping my clients evaluate who is around them, who needs to be around them, and who needs to NOT be around them so they can reach their goals.
Speaking of fun, finally, HAVE FUN! Entrepreneurship is really, really hard, so you have to LOVE what you are doing. You have to believe in your mission, and in your ability to make a difference. Every day there will be some aggravation, but every day should also reward you with a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and inspiration. Celebrate the wins every day, and remind yourself why you have taken the path of entrepreneurship. And whatever you do, don’t look back! Your best life is surely ahead of you!
(PS: When I work with my clients, I have three main objectives:1: To help them identify and reach their “desired state.” What is their end game? We don’t simply address immediate challenges. Those are band-aids. Everything we do is linked to their desired final outcome. 2: To help them identify their “blue ocean.” My goal is not to equip them to “compete better” in a “red ocean.” My goal is to extract their individuality, and help them establish a unique market position where there is little or no competition. 3: To equip them with what they need to achieve goals #1 and #2 – mindset, business foundation, strategy, resources, infrastructure, connections/network, etc. I highly recommend reading “Blue Ocean Strategy.” You can learn about it here.)
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”