By Solomon Thimothy of the Young Entrepreneur Council
Entrepreneurs, especially new entrepreneurs, are constantly pushed to succeed. While success can be defined in many ways, entrepreneurs with young businesses don’t have either time or money to waste. Because of this, the feeling of needing to succeed at any cost, can be a huge stress to carry.
Although I founded my business over a decade ago, the business pressures young entrepreneurs feel are still fresh in my mind. During the first few months I was often kept up at night by the question, “Did I make the right decision?” Giving up the security of a job for a dream of starting my own business was rattling. After that stage passed, it was all about, “Will this thing keep going?” And then, “Will the first year end in the positive?”
When you’re first starting out, you don’t have the luxuries that long-time established companies have. Every decision and move you make can either propel you forward or drag you backward. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder entrepreneurs lose so much sleep. I can trace this stress back to three main issues: generating sales, differentiation and having the right talent. Knowing about these scenarios and how to handle them can help you lighten the burden of stress and allow you to move forward more confidently with your business.
Being unable to rely on a steady flow of cash and growing client base or revenue is at the top of any young business owner’s mind. For entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to boost the bottom line and figure out the right recipe for consistent sales and growth.
But what does that sales strategy need to be? Does it require a full-blown sales department? A marketing strategy? A perfected target and outreach strategy? There’s no one answer; a sales strategy is complex. I’ve learned that the key is just to have a strategy. As a brand new business owner, much of what you’ll do is trial and error. I know this was true for me: our company’s first sales strategy was focussed around tradeshows, and we had high expectations of meeting the right people at these. However, we soon realised that the costs of attending and exhibiting at tradeshows far outweighed the few (if any) good contacts we made.
Having a direction to work toward was key for our company’s growth. A well-defined strategy, regardless of how sophisticated or simplistic it might be, will yield more results than having no strategy at all. And don’t worry, you can always refine and rework your strategy along the way.
As the new kid on the block, it might be very exciting to start diving in and finding your spot among competitors. Differentiation is a critical component to your sales puzzle and overall company strategy, especially in today’s hyper-connected, buyer-driven world. However, it’s never a black or white scenario: when talking to prospects, it’s important to stand out from your competitors and truly find a niche or void your company fills or does better than anyone else can.
While this is no easy task, I’ve learned that a starting point is to know exactly what you are not. Early on, you’ll probably struggle to differentiate yourself. Your first instinct is to make yourself sound just like your competitors. I know we did this; we wanted to be like the big guys. But soon, we realised that we were trying to create someone else’s business. That’s when we decided to list and define what we were not going to be. This exercise helped us find important differentiators that we still live by today, and it has helped solidify our value proposition, marketing, sales strategy and much more. Understanding who you are not will guide you into maturing your business’ true differentiating factors.
Finding the right talent
Trying to build a business from scratch and set it up for success requires the right talent. Filling key roles and delegating responsibilities is critical for allowing young entrepreneurs to focus on more pressing issues that further build a foundation of scalability and growth.
I’ve found that finding the right talent is a lot harder than I had ever imagined. It sounds simple, but there is so much more to finding the right person to fill the right role than a resume and an interview. There’s a cultural fit, future growth potential, professional growth potential and personal interests.
My best advice for finding the right talent is to take your time. While it’s difficult to wait it out, or interview 10 candidates instead of two, chances are you’ll find the right talent if you take the time to do so.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs don’t always have the luxury of taking our time; I know I’ve had to make many on-the-spot hiring decisions because we were in great need. As it turned out, that may not have been the best move.
Learning to relax
No matter how you look at it, every young business owner and entrepreneur will always be concerned about new business, differentiation and finding the right talent to lead the business. While knowing this may not make you sleep easier at night, acknowledging it can help you plan for it and breathe more easily as your company grows.
This article entitled “The top 3 things young entrepreneurs worry about (and how to silence them)” originally appeared in e27
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.