Several years back when I started my first construction business there was a helpful article that put business in perspective. I do not recall if it was a building magazine like Home Builder or a business journal like Inc. The message was simple, when you are starting out you must be ready to face the opportunities that come your way. The analogy that the author used was that of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. When you start your entrepreneurial venture you are going to find a lot of pennies. Your opportunities aren't all going to be flashy or exciting but there is more than one way to make a legitimate dollar. As a savvy business person you want to work towards turning your pennies into nickels, your nickels into dimes and so on.
1. Don't curse your pennies, embrace them. Get your hundred pennies and make your dollar happily and honestly.
2. When you are starting out you cannot afford to step over pennies, you need them. Learn to identify, gather and master your revenue streams.
3. Take small steps forward. Keep your eyes open for means to turn your pennies into nickels. Grow consistently and effectively, it can be as dangerous to grow too quickly as it is to not grow at all, both can lead to a painful death.
4. Growth is essential. Smart growth is consistent growth. As you master the penny life and progress to the nickel life, you will build skills and systems that prepare you for the dime life and beyond.
5. Learn from those who have gone before you. You can learn as much from those who moved effectively into the quarter and beyond business as those who drowned in those same opportunities.
6. Even if you reach the quarter and beyond level, don't forget what got you to where you are. Revenue is not the same as profit, some high revenue projects can be low margin whereas some low revenue work can be higher margin. You can build wealth in any realm if you know what you are doing and how you positioning your team. Often it is best to diversify so your business isn't pigeon holed in a specific market segment.
Life is about opportunities not convenience, and you can quote me on that. Many of your opportunities will not arrive in majestic packages or sums that will make you rich quickly. If you choose a service industry like property restoration than those opportunities often come at all of the oddest hours of the day or night. Identify the opportunities that are best for you and your team. Structure yourself and your team to see, understand and meet the needs, values and opportunities that the market presents.
Some of the biggest barriers to being an entrepreneur are all in your head.
The greatest obstacles to becoming an entrepreneur is simply becoming an entrepreneur. If you have overcome this hurdle, congrats, you are making progress.
The next issue we frequently experience are individuals who are caught up solving problems that they don't have. If you have decided to start a business, the most immediate need is to find customers and generate revenue. Too many entrepreneurs are wrapped up in complicating their business and get lost in the weeds of creating solutions to issues that their business does not yet even have to face.
Recent examples include a service business that was attempting to establish complicated pricing structures that they thought would appeal to their customers. When we sat down with this business owner we asked, "How many doors have you knocked on? How many business cards have you handed out in the last week? Why are you solving imaginary problems for customers that you don't have? Go get some customers." We were discussing something similar with a internet based business that was spending too much time attempting to figure out the right pricing structure when they had yet to approach or interact with an interested customer.
We will discuss price point metrics and how to have some meaningful conversations with your clients to determine the right valuation at another time. But if you are like the clients we mentioned above, get the customers and then figure out the pricing.
A few tips for initiating a successful business launch:
1. Keep things simple, don't over complicate your most important tasks. Prioritize.
2. Solve your most immediate needs first. Find customers and generate revenue - nothing is more important than this when you are starting out. Marketing, Step One.
3. Set simple and achievable goals - "Today I am going to hand out ___ number of business cards and/or I am going to visit ___ number of potential clients..." Good g0als.
4. Spend your time with value added activities rather than solving problems that you don't yet have. Don't let fear own you.
Originally published October 30, 2017 with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine as a guest feature for November National Entreprenuer Month.
I enjoy finding inspiration from obscure places. I believe this coincides with the aspects of the entrepreneurial spirit that I identify with - going against conventions, disrupting the status quo and carving out a segment of the market that appreciates the value you bring to the table. When I think about what it means to be an entrepreneur, I think of the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure, where the grey suited, red bow tied and awkwardly cackling main character asks a gritty question that all persons engaged in life as well as business should be asking themselves every day.
Before we reveal the question, some of you may already know, but I'd wage good money to bet it wouldn't be many, let's do the storyteller's work and set the stage. In the Big Adventure movie, Pee Wee Herman has lost his most prized possession, his unique bike. This great loss causes him to launch a journey in search of his treasure, of which he suspects his nemesis Francis stole from him out of jealously (can we draw some allegories in this to market competition?).
Some people help Pee Wee on his journey, many of whom are unexpected allies while many of his friends fail to empathize with his loss or provide any constructive input. Many of those close to him don't see it while those whom he meets along the way offer insight and encouragements (again, do any entrepreneurs see any correlations here?). Mid way through the film, Pee Wee is particularly down in spirit as he has learned the Alamo does not have a basement. Why did he think it had a basement? He consulted an industry professional who was not a practitioner in his field (a bit of a dig there, did you catch it?). Mr. Herman hires a consultant, a fortune teller, who sounded wise but gave straw advice for an exorbitant fee (dig after dig).
Pee Wee thinks he is doing the right thing, he consults his friends, he seeks professional advice and sets out heedlessly on a journey to acquire the one thing he values more than anything. He craves success in his pursuit. Since you mentioned success, we will interject a not-so-shameless plug for an article previously published with R&R on the subject of success.
We are at the point in the story where our main character is distraught. Pee Wee is sad and feeling hopeless. He has taken a job washing dishes in a dive restaurant to finance his debts (how many of you have had to hold second jobs to pay for your dreams and/or failures?). To cheer him up, his new friend Simone takes him to up to a movie viewing area in the head of a dinosaur statue. Simone shares her dreams of traveling the world and Pee Wee drops his insightful line [this is the big reveal], "Everyone I know has a big but. Come on Simone, let's talk about your big but."
Pee Wee & Simone - Video clip: https://youtu.be/0yfJQUoxN3U
What's Your Big But?
Isn't this what separates the doers from the dreamers? Everyone has a dream and they have a "big but" that keeps them from venturing out to pursue that vision. For Simone, it's a lumberjack of a man named Andy, her boyfriend, who is holding her back and soon enters the scene to threaten Pee Wee's life. There is no super gene, no special training or magic pill that makes an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is one who has identified a dream, a vision and/or a journey that they wish to pursue. An entrepreneur has faced the opposition from within; the concerns of those who care for them as well as the assault from those who oppose them, and continues to move forward (even if it's an inch at a time).
The question is not whether there is risk of failure but whether you will be nimble enough to navigate the multiple failures that arise as you chase your dreams.
The question is not whether you are the best able, most qualified, or expert enough to launch out upon your path, but whether you are willing to work you ass off, always be learning and remain true to your values as you meet the obstacles between you and the end of your road.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere. While this term has become synonymous with those who start their own business, the true definition is one who organizes and/or operates with an aversion to risk that hinders most (paraphrase). I have found in my experience it isn't as much the risk of failure itself, but the fear of the risk of failure, or atychiphobia, that holds most back from having the faith in themselves to grab life by the horns and enjoy the tumultuous ride.
Embrace the Opportunity
In that head of the dinosaur, Pee Wee is encouraged by his new friend and their discussion also inspires Simone to buy a bus ticket the next day, taking the first step to pursue her dreams. Pee Wee, on the other hand, is chased down by her former boyfriend Andy. In the moment of the chase, he is scrambling from certain death, but that run leads him to his next opportunity, effectively jolting him from his depression and back onto his own journey (can any entrepreneurs shout out an amen here?).
I shared some thoughts previously in another publication on the entrepreneurial lessons we can learn from the journey of Noah, being fueled by vision to endure opposition as well as obstacles. I bring this up because Noah faced opposition, Pee Wee faced set backs, and you understand that life isn’t about getting over one hurdle and then it’s over but rather continuing to rise over hurdle after hurdle. We work hard. We are always learning. When we can work hard and learn hard we should be able to glean from others some means that help us to adapt our approach.
There are many who say, “I would do this-or-that, but…” and fail to launch. Even those who have set out on their journey hit points where they hesitate to take the next step, “I would move forward with this-or-that, but…” and stall momentum through analysis paralysis. There are also those in a position of leadership who are faced with daily decisions based upon their core values, “I would do this-or-that, but…” and they allow fear to prevent them from action.
Entrepreneurs often see opportunities that others don't and take risks others are not willing to take but that doesn't mean they don't need quality input in their lives. Whether it's a stalwart of faith in action like Noah, a goofball like Pee Wee Herman or simply having coffee with a respected peer, you need people in your life who ask you from time to time, “What about your big but?”
If you have a dream to start a business, IZ Ventures can assist you with clarifying that vision and resources that will equip you to connect, collaborate and conquer. More than business consulting & coaching.
Pursuing your dreams starts with setting yourself up for success - video on preparation
Every month is something, so why wouldn't November be National Entrepreneurship Month? According to the official White House webpage, president Donald J. Trump made this proclamation for November 2017. In the statement released on October 31, 2017 the president highlighted the efforts of women entrepreneurs,
"For too long, women, despite hard work and a drive to succeed, faced significant barriers in achieving their economic vision. Today, we celebrate that women entrepreneurs are growing their businesses all over the country. The number of women‑owned firms is growing much faster than the national average for all firms. Our Nation has more than 11 million women-owned businesses that employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1 trillion in revenue." - president Donald J. Trump, October 31, 2017
Apparently Mr. Trump is not the first one to declare November as National Entrepreneurship Month, according to Wikipedia in 2012, President Barack Obama declared November of that year as National Entrepreneurship Month and to celebrate November 6, 2012 as National Entrepreneurs’ Day. Additionally many supporters of National Entrepreneurs' Day are trying to make it an official US holiday that will fall on the third Tuesday of every Number through legislation. President Barack Obama's statement is also found on the official White House webpage,
America is known around the world as a country that empowers the inventor and the innovator. Ours is a Nation where men and women can take a chance on a dream -- where they can take an idea that starts around a kitchen table or in a garage and turn it into a new business or a new industry. During National Entrepreneurship Month, we celebrate the hard work, ingenuity, and courage of our thinkers, doers, and makers. - president Barack Obama, November 1, 2012
According to Wikipedia, "National Entrepreneurs’ Day was started in 2010 by David Hauser and Siamak Taghaddos, co-founders of Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system, and Amir Tehrani, entrepreneur and co-founder of The Legacy Foundation." This group of entrepreneurs were invited to the White House to discuss Startup America and the Presidential Innovation Fellows with then president Barack Obama. The White House put an official call out on May 23, 2012 for a few good men, seeking to bring top innovators to serve in 6 to 12 month fellowships for focused "tours of duty" in partnering with federal innovators to generate game-changing projects. "Combining the know-how of citizen change agents and government change agents in small, agile teams that move at high speed, these projects aim to deliver significant results within six months."
The team at Grasshopper put a video together titled Entrepreneurs Can Change The World:
Regardless of the official month of entrepreneurship, those who facilitate the definition of entrepreneur as one who "organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so," know that this is a daily grind. Entrepreneurship is a battle of inches, fought minute by minute and day by day. It's nice that there is some national recognition and resources outlined above, the strength of entrepreneurship is being able to learn from each other - to connect, collaborate and conquer our dreams.
For additional thoughts on entrepreneurship, read our IZ Ventures article published with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled, I'd Be an Entrepreneur, But...
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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