- Entrepreneurs should continue learning throughout their careers.
- The best entrepreneurs always do their homework.
- Preparation is key to building a successful business.
- Entrepreneurs should strive to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
As the calendar approaches September, school is on the horizon for students across the country. The relaxing days of summer are coming to an end, and it’s time to hit the books once again.
As an entrepreneur, you can learn a lot more than you think from back-to-school season. We’ve compiled a list of 10 school-inspired tips for entrepreneurs to better lead their businesses.
1. Do your homework.
While no small business is guaranteed to be successful, one thing that will improve your odds is doing your “homework.” For an entrepreneur, this means thoroughly researching your competition, financial options and target market, as well as having a solid business plan in place before you launch your startup.
“I would highly recommend drafting a business plan prior to starting a business,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com and a business.com community member. “This document gives you the chance to objectively view the feasibility of your company and outline its future a few years out in terms of understanding its cash flow, organization and management, target market, and goals for the future.”
You’ll have a much easier time passing the big tests of a startup – the elevator pitch, your marketing strategy, the first sale – if you’re thoroughly prepared.
Preparation is also key when you’re establishing a business structure. Research which structure will work best for your business and go through the necessary steps to launch your business. It’s easy to overlook the importance of selecting your business structure, but it’s important to do your homework on this topic.
In addition to those elements of preparation, you can also prepare when it comes to deciding what type of business is best for you. Take time to research different industries, and you’ll gain a better understanding of the type of business you may want to start.
2. Go for extra credit.
Providing exceptional customer service and going the extra mile for your customers can make all the difference in getting repeat business. Respond to questions and concerns quickly, express your appreciation for their business, and take the time to talk to your customers to learn about them and what they want. Friendly, personal interactions will earn you a solid A in your clients’ minds (and probably a nice profit in your bank account, too).
If your website receives significant traffic, it might be worth implementing a live chatbot within your website to quickly respond to customer questions or complaints. If you don’t use a live chatbot, regularly check your email, phone messages, social media feeds and direct messages to respond to customer questions and concerns. There are many ways to receive customer feedback, and it’s critical to quickly respond to their concerns. Customers love when businesses quickly take care of their needs.
3. Teacher knows best.
Mentorship is extremely important for entrepreneurs, especially when they’re first starting out. Young entrepreneurs can really learn a lot from someone who’s been in their shoes. A mentor can put you in touch with industry connections, help you through your startup growing pains, and give valuable insights for your present and future business goals. Even if you don’t agree with all the advice you’re given, respect your mentor’s willingness to share the time and energy to help you learn and grow as a business owner.
“Mentors enhance entrepreneurs’ motivation by sharing expertise, acting as a sounding board, and reminding them that they’re not alone,” said Olivia Boone, partnerships and services officer at MicroMentor.org. “An effective mentoring relationship creates a framework of accountability and support, completely free of charge.”
Mentors can help you set business goals, prepare for the future and tackle unusual problems. On the flip side, make sure the relationship is a give and take. Don’t only receive advice. If there are ways you can help them or their business, don’t hesitate to offer your services. The mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street, and you should try to give back to your mentor in some form.
4. Entrepreneurs can’t be too prepared.
Remember when you moved into your first college dorm and thought you brought way too much with you, only to discover that the extra screwdriver you packed came in handy midyear? Similarly, you can never be too prepared when it comes to running a business.
Even if it seems like you’re overthinking, it’s good to be ready for even the unlikeliest of situations. What will you do if you don’t raise all the funds you need? What if one of your team members unexpectedly bails on you? What if you need to rethink your entire branding strategy? Knowing what to do in the event of a crisis helps you navigate any obstacles you might encounter.
The better you prepare, the better chance you’ll have of finding success. Consider even the most basic questions. How will you make money? What happens if you make less money than initially expected? Ask yourself these uncomfortable questions and prepare for problems.
“In order to keep from being paralyzed in fear, it can be useful to visualize the worst possible outcome and get comfortable with it to the point that it isn’t as scary anymore,” said Bethany Babcock, founder of Foresite Commercial Real Estate. “From that vantage point, you can better visualize ways to minimize the risks and proceed forward.”