Advice for Entrepreneurial Success

Over the years many people have asked me, “Can you give me the 3 (or other small number) key factors to be successful as an Entrepreneur?” Well, for me, there are many, many more reasons. My mind can’t boil it down to just a few. So, I put together 50 answers to this question in no order of priority.

I would like to hear from you if you have other ones. I know there are many more important ones. Thanks.

 

Here’s my list.

 

  1. Have passion for your business.
  2. Set an example from day one that you are a trustworthy company. Spell out what you expect from your employees.
  3. Know your business: product, industry, competition. Knowledge rules.
  4. Look to hire people different than yourself (can be smarter) who speak up and are curious. Incentivize them.
  5. Look for mentors and work hard at building the relationship.
  6. Always watch the cash.
  7. Always pay your bills on time.
  8. Work on your listening skills.
  9. Work on your sales skills and everyone else’s in your company.
  10. Don’t be afraid to give up equity under the right circumstances.
  11. Plan for tomorrow. (Not necessarily elaborate business plans) In planning your strategies, ask why should your prospective customer buy from you?
  12. Create an environment where innovation can flourish.
  13.  Be flexible, except with core values, and don’t be afraid to change course.
  14. Make timely decisions.
  15. Encourage and accept criticism graciously.
  16. The major asset of the company is you. Take care of yourself. Maintain your energy level.
  17. Maintain balance in your life. It doesn’t have to be your family or your company. Play or work, etc.
  18. Insist on quality in your product or service.
  19. Make sure customers’ expectations are met. Under commit and over perform.
  20. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate but with the authority that goes with it.
  21. Success breeds copycats. Don’t take it personally. However, do compete vigorously.
  22. Treat good suppliers like gold.
  23. New product ideas need not be blockbusters.
  24. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.
  25. Move quickly to fire people you are convinced are bad for your company.
  26. Don’t forget the details.
  27. As company grows, people’s roles change, including yours. Can you/they adapt and what will you do with the people who can’t?
  28.  Profits are good and essential to sustain your business.
  29. Periodically, get out of your comfort zone. It is important to grow personally and your business.
  30. Don’t confuse risk to your business with risk to your ego.
  31. Keep learning: knowledge is power.
  32. Rebound quickly from setbacks.
  33. Give raises to your best employees before they ask.
  34. Treat the little people as if they were big people.
  35. Keep track of your competition, but don’t fear them.
  36. Give back.
  37. Outwork your competition but equally outsmart them.
  38. Change is good: embrace it.
  39. Admit your mistakes and pay for them if appropriate.
  40. Thank you and please go a long way. They are still in the dictionary.
  41. Know what you don’t know and don’t be afraid to admit it.
  42. Never compromise your core values.
  43. The most effective form of advertising is word of mouth.
  44. An initial sale is good but nowhere as valuable as a re-order, which is a vote for your company and its product.
  45. Regularly talk to the users of your product.
  46. Regularly talk to those who sell your product, whether they are on your payroll or not.
  47. Aggressively protect your intellectual properties, but remember it is better to sell someone than sue them. Also calculate the cost of suing emotionally, your time as well as monetarily, with a calm mind.
  48. Keep track of your numbers. You need not be good at math to do so.
  49. Bootstrapping creates healthy habits to your benefit in good as well as in difficult times.
  50. Mission statements are only good if they are strictly adhered to.
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There Is No Entrepreneur Gene

The use of the words Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurism keep growing as more and more people strive to be entrepreneurs with their job creating ability. This was not always the case. Not so long ago, Entrepreneurs were described in such unflattering terms as shiftless, unfocused, shady, money-hungry, sharks, quick-buck artists, unreliable, shoot from-the-hip operators, and so on. There are many words and titles that have different meanings to different people. This can unwittingly hinder good communications and create misunderstandings.

So, let’s define Entrepreneurship so we can all be on the same page. To start with, here is the dictionary definition, which I believe most people will acknowledge falls short of the mark. The dictionary says:

  1. A person who organizes, manages, and assumes responsibility for a business or other enterprise.
  2. An employer of productive labor, contractor, one who undertakes some task.

This definition would lead one to assume that anyone “Starting a Business is an Entrepreneur.” I don’t believe that. It’s as far fetched as saying that anyone who owns a car dealership is qualified to be a NASCAR driver.

So what is it?

I like to draw on Harvard Business School’s Professor Howard Stevenson’s thinking on this subject. He says it is a way of thinking, rather than a personality type. He says that Entrepreneurship is a set of behaviors. He distinguished Entrepreneurs (who are opportunity driven) from managers (who are resource driven).

So here is my definition of Entrepreneurship, which is basically Professor Stevenson’s with a few additions of mine.

“Entrepreneurship is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control with confidence that you can succeed—with the flexibility to change course as necessary and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

So, to me, there clearly is no Entrepreneur gene. I hope this will encourage those people who feel they weren’t born to be Entrepreneurs.

DON’T BE BULLIED BY YOUR LAWYER

8 THOUGHTS IN DEALING WITH A LAWYER

 

There are many occasions in the life of a Small Business where a lawyer is needed. . .a rental lease. . .a royalty contract. . .an employment contract. . .a business partnership. . .an investor, a lawsuit, etc. Small Businesses rarely have a full-time lawyer and staff, so the CEO hires one for the specific task needed. Here are some things to think about when hiring a lawyer.

  1. The lawyer works for you because you pay them. Some attorneys can be very intimidating and want to make your business decisions for you. Don’t let them. You set out what you want them to do for you and if they cross the line, call them on it.
  2. If any negotiating is required, decide early who will do the negotiating. I always preferred to do my own negotiating and then have the lawyer make sure the legalese represents the agreement accurately with no loopholes. If you feel that your lawyer is a better negotiator than you, then by all means, let him/her do it, but with you setting the parameters.
  3. Always set a timeline for the lawyer. Often they take too long, particularly if they are on an hourly fee compensation.
  4. Never let a lawyer ask for more in negotiations with 3rd parties, without your permission. This will only delay the agreement and the other party will then take off the table, some of their concessions given to you.
  5. Keep in mind the mindset of many lawyers (not all) some tend to think there is only winning or losing. You should only focus on the key things you want from this agreement. You also need to understand your leverage position. Even if you can dictate the points in an agreement, let the other party have their way on some  of their key desires that are not particularly important to you. You want the other party to feel they’ve been treated fairly. You may be dealing with them in the future.
  6. Stay involved with your lawyer on the whole process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  7. Do not hesitate to negotiate fees with your attorney. They are negotiable. Also try to establish a maximum fee which can be difficult. Try to set out stages of your lawyers work and cost of each. They should lay out their strategy and tell you the odds of your success. Going to trial can be very expensive, and you may feel it is cost prohibitive for you to proceed to that stage.
  8. Check out the credentials and specialty of your lawyer before engaging them and be sure to know and meet the lawyer who will be handling your case. Many times you meet a partner who will then assign a fresh hire, just out of law school, which may or may not be okay.

Remember, don’t be intimidated.

 

No Can Become a Yes in Selling

Would you believe NO can get you a good Yes? Yes, it’s true; sometimes NO is the keyword for successful selling.

In all negotiations and selling which falls into that category, you need to understand the other person’s needs, job responsibility, and goals. One of the major responsibilities of a buyer is to get the best deal they can for their company.

So, when you, the seller, get pushed, cajoled, and threatened for a lower price or more concessions, do not take it personally. It is the buyer’s job to do so. Your job is to get an order that is profitable for you and at the same time maintains your integrity. Although I believe a company’s major focus is on finding and retaining customers, there are times you must say no to a customer when their demands are out of line. There are a number of reasons why a no to a customer is the right thing to do.

Take these instances into consideration: If you just drop your price or give major concessions because a large buyer pushes you, they will never accept your deal the next time around as you’ve taught them to never accept the first offer.

You need to protect your other customers and make sure they are not penalized for not pushing you as hard. You cannot put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Your integrity is at stake. There are times when you need a particular customer or order. However, you should not succumb to the pressure of giving a better deal unless you get something in return, like a bigger order, better payment terms, free advertising, etc.

Buyers might not admit it, but they will respect you more when you stand up to them. If your value proposition is good, your no will eventually become an order on your terms. 
 
Successful salespeople understand the value of a no. No is also a good word to employ in parenting.

A Letter to My Blog Subscribers

To: All Subscribers to my Bootstrapping 101 Blog

From: Bob Reiss

 

First, thank you for subscribing and reading my blogs.

Second, I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and fulfilling New Year.

When I started writing these blogs over 15 months ago, I was told by the Internet experts (of which I am the polar opposite) that the Subscribers list would be very valuable  and that I should regularly communicate with Subscribers to help sell my book. Since I never wanted to distract from the blogs and the value some of them may have to you, this is my first communication.

 

So, I think that after 15 months and 60 blogs, I do not feel it is inappropriate to make a few requests.

  • I would love any type of feedback on the blogs. Are they too frequent? Should they be more often? What new subjects should be covered? What subjects should be concentrated on? Any favorite ones or worst ones? Etc.
  • Self-Publishing is hard as you are almost automatically shut out from selling in retail stores where sales must be guaranteed. As you might surmise from my blogs, that would be against everything I believe. My plan was to sell online primarily through Amazon and to Corporations who do business with Small Businesses like Banks, Credit Card companies, Accounting firms, Insurance companies, and many more. These companies would then give away the book to their customers to hopefully make them (the customers) more profitable. The books can be printed with their logo and message. So I would appreciate it if any of you have leads for me with specific names and titles of such type companies that I could follow up with.
  • If any of you are authoring a book, please let me know, and I can provide you with all the details and contacts on how to do it profitably and more easily. It is much more profitable than using a publisher unless you get a sizeable advance. The problem either way is getting people to know about your book and to buy it.
  • For those who have read Bootstrapping 101 and liked it, your recommendation to Small Business Owners or Wannabees that you know is appreciated. They can read all the details on my web site, www.bootstrapping101.com, which can connect them to the order page on Amazon.com
  • If any of you really like the book, reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble are appreciated as they do help sell books. In fact, Amazon encourages publishers and authors to solicit reviews. (Hopefully good ones.)

Thank you.

Bob Reiss

 

HIRING AND FIRING—DIFFICULT TO DO

Your Growth Can Depend on It

 

Most small business owners will agree the quality of the people they hire is critical and can help make or break their company. It however, is not an easy task to find and hire the right person, particularly if you have a limited budget. Here are some things to think about to make it a more successful process. First there is no magical formula, but I believe the entrepreneur running the company should be fully involved in the process.

 

HIRING

Before you begin to look for the right hire for your company, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is important to the success of your company? Whatever your answer, your hire should possess the qualities or skills that can lead to your success.
  2. What will the person’s responsibilities be, whom will they report to, and how will their performance be measured?
  3. What authorities will your hire be given? You can’t really hold them responsible for an activity or project unless they have the authority to carry it out. Many entrepreneurs have difficulty giving up authority. They need to learn to do so to grow and to accelerate their employees’ growth.

 

WHEN TO HIRE

  1. When you can afford to.
  2. When certain skills are required for the company to advance. These skills can be knowledge or relationship related.
  3. When you have explored the feasibility of outsourcing the functions or skills needed.
  4. When you as the CEO don’t have the time to do the important things critical for the company’s success.
  5. Make sure your company’s sales surge, which normally initiates the hiring process, is not a temporary blip. I would rather wait and have everyone work overtime and pay bonuses before I make permanent hires and discover the sales gains are temporary.

HOW TO HIRE

Your choice is to use a headhunter, which has an expense tied to it, or do it yourself. I would explore the headhunter’s cost, expertise, reputation, and guarantee. If you do it yourself, here are some thoughts:

  1. CEO should be involved. If you already have other people in your employ, use at least one other in the process, depending on the position you are hiring for.
  2. Ask for and check references. This may seem to be a waste of time as you figure the person will only give you sterling references. This is not necessary true. Some of the people you call may not want to answer your questions for fear of being sued. I would describe the responsibilities of the potential hire and ask the references if this is a good match, based on their experiences with the person. Listen carefully to the answers and non-answers.
  3. Look for upbeat, positive people, collaborative, have desire to learn. They can be smarter than you and different than you.
  4. Do more than one interview with the promising candidates.

This will correct for a good or bad day on your part as well as the prospect’s.

 

MOTIVATE

One of the most expensive costs you will incur is a high employee turnover. So, once you hire someone you want to motivate them to be happy and proud to work for you, which will help maximize their contribution to the company. Here are some things to think about in this vain.

  1. Praise people for jobs well done. Many people are quick to criticize for a poor job but never praise for good performance. It is important to do so as most people do not have money as their main goal in their job. They want to feel they contribute to the company.
  2. Teach. Good employees want to improve and learn. When your company is small, the CEO should be involved to some extent in teaching everyone on some level. It can be about your company’s products, the industry, certain skills, how to learn, working with others, etc. You might send some to seminars or encourage them to take some evening courses. Pay for these if possible.
  3. Communicate. Each employee should be updated on the company’s goals and the current status in achieving them. They should have their individual goals and know how they advance the company ones. A big part of communicating is the desire to LISTEN to employees’ questions, concerns, and suggestions. You don’t have to agree with them. Listening takes some effort as there is never enough time in the day of a Small Business owner.
  4. Specify Rules. People want rules in their life. They should be told what the company expects of them. Ethics, treatment of customers, civility with each other, no office politics, acceptance of gifts from suppliers, etc.
  5. Create an Environment where creativity and innovation can flourish. Don’t say you have an open door policy if you don’t practice it. The company founder needs to work at convincing employees to be honest and speak up with their ideas and problems. Their natural inclination is not to. Everyone in the company has something to contribute including the receptionist who I like to call the “Director of First Impressions.” You might think of periodic off-site meetings on a non-work day, where everyone can listen and participate. A rough agenda should be created and distributed in advance. A Christmas party could be good but can backfire if alcohol is served. Maybe a Thanksgiving party or a celebration dinner of landing a new big account or achieving a goal All these and other get togethers build a high morale and encourage people to work together as a team.
  6. Promote from within. This should not be a hard and fast rule, but if all things were equal, I would always go with a current employee for a promotion.
  7. Compensation. This is always a tricky issue as everyone always seems to know their co-workers salary. Also, young companies in many instances can’t afford competitive salaries. However, if you have a proven star in your company and you feel they are important to your future, approach them before they ask you for a raise and offer them what they are worth. It could be in cash, new benefits, or stock options.

 

FIRING

I always found the act of firing someone was worse than a root canal session with my dentist. When I interviewed 27 Entrepreneurs and asked each one what they would do differently in their successful business climb, a majority said they would fire people sooner than they did. Most employees know who of their fellow workers should be terminated. It is not a pleasant task to fire someone yet it is important that it be done or you will begin to lose your good people and decrease the productivity of most of your work force.

I would talk to someone who was doing a poor job before firing them and point out your problem with them and even offer some advice on how they could rectify their situation. If they can’t, then you must fire them without further ado.

You also might seek the advice of an attorney on the proper steps to take before terminating someone to avoid being successfully sued. We are a litigious society.

I’m sure there are many other suggestions or considerations in the hiring and firing process. The ones offered here are from my personal experience to get you thinking about an important aspect of your business growth that you will sooner or later have to deal with.

FREE GUIDE — SALES REPS & HOW THEY BENEFIT SMALL BUSINESSES

By Bob Reiss

Sales Reps & Small BusinessI was a national sales rep for 14 years before switching sides and founding or co-founding 16 start-ups, one of which made the INC 500 list three years in a row. . .So, I feel qualified to speak on this subject, which I think is misunderstood and not taught at school. This is why I’ve written this comprehensive and practical Guide to help Sales Reps and Manufacturers understand each other better, to create a positive partnership that will yield more profits for each, and extend the duration of the partnership.

Too often this relationship is adversarial. It shouldn’t be, as both factions need each other.

Clearly, Sales Reps turn the fixed cost of sales into a variable cost and just as importantly, provide immediate access to hard to reach customers.

Here is the table of contents for this Guide:

  • Rep Commissions
  • Who Becomes a Rep
  • Why Work with a Rep?
  • How to Find and Select a Rep
  • Rep complaints about Manufacturers
  • Manufacturers complaints about Reps
  • Training Reps
  • A Tip for Reps
  • Advice for Both Parties
  • Both Parties Tip
  • The Future of Reps

To get your free copy, go to: www.bootstrapping101.com/guide

You also might want to pass this information to a friend or associate who might benefit from it.

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