One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is the freedom.
The worst thing about the freedom associated with being an entrepreneur is because there is no ‘one way’ to build a business. When you consider all of the variables, there are thousands of ways you could build any business, and that means, there is no surefire way to go about building a successful enterprise. In short, you are left to your own devices and it is all up to you to generate viable ideas, put in the work, and ultimately make enough sales to satisfy a market subset and pay your bills in the process.
Since there are countless ways to price, market, or sell your product or service, here are seven things every entrepreneur should do at least every workday, whether that’s Monday – Friday, six days a week, or 24/7 for your enterprise.
Take Care of Yourself
Since there is no such thing as being ‘done’ as an entrepreneur (unless you sell or close your doors), it is imperative to set yourself up for success in the long run. We have all cut out sleep for a night or a week, but sleep deprivation is not a long-term strategy. You might not have time to train for a marathon and prepare fresh vegan meals every day, but you can, at bare minimum;
- exercise (even 10 minutes is better than zero)
- eat healthy meals and snacks throughout your workday
- control caffeine intake and limit alcohol consumption
- get enough sleep (ideally seven to eight hours a night)
The pace of technology change is truly dizzying, yet constantly accelerating. There seems to be no industry (or even occupation) that technology hasn’t disrupted at least somewhat. From productivity tools to payment processing or CRM platforms, most founders use technology every day. Even ‘solopreneurs’ from florists to artists are leveraging crowd-sourcing, social media, drop-shipping and even geo-tagging to grow their businesses. No founder starting their business today will be relevant 10 years from now if they are not actively learning what is on the horizon when it comes to strategy or technology. Fortunately, tools like Blinkist or Readitfor.me can compress the time it takes to pull ‘nuggets’ from more books so that any entrepreneur can learn a lot at a high level while focusing most of their energy becoming an expert in their sector.
Two smart ways to fit more learning into a busy schedule: a familiar commute (don’t have an audiobook going if you need to be paying close attention on the way to somewhere you’ve never been) or at the end of your day when you feel like you can’t pull any more brilliance from your brain (put some in instead).
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, learn what’s working. The only way to learn what’s working is to measure what you’re doing. Your key metrics, or key performance indicators (KPI’s) should include marketing and sales activities, consumer behavior, financial data – anything and everything you want to improve to scale your business).
Water the Well
If you are an entrepreneur, you are in sales, at least until you can scale to the point you can hire someone else to sell on your behalf. Every entrepreneur must accept, if not embrace, ‘sell or die’ out of the gates. Business development is the lifeblood of any business, because it’s not a business in the first place if there is no revenue. Even if you’re not Grant Cardone or sales guru Jeb Blount, you can still;
- research new prospects who fit your ideal customer persona
- reach out to those prospects over email, LinkedIn, or – do you dare – the phone
- follow up with prospects who have not made a purchase decision to see what they need from you or how you can help them (lead nurturing, not harassment)
Market Your Business
Marketing has become ever more complex in the advent of social media, search engine optimization, neuro-marketing, and digital marketing, but every entrepreneur must still be their own CMO until they can hire out outsource someone more capable. I shared an Instagram post showing how a gas station used the simplest marketing ever while remaining powerfully effective. On any given day you can:
- share your story: write a blog or social media post, or try to contribute as a guest blogger or contribute to a business resource like B2C!
- ask for more great stories (testimonials, reviews, or customer success stories)
- update your story: update your web copy, review or update your value proposition or social media info
- grow your network
- serve your network (referring others business never hurts yours, plus it fills your ‘karma bank’)
Improve Your Offering
If you’ve followed the above tips, you know the solopreneurs’ realization: there’s nothing like a sales meeting or even sending a proposal to make you look at your product or service with a keener eye for improvement. One fatal trap many entrepreneurs make, however, is to iterate their product or service in a vacuum of their own ideas. As I’ve written previously for B2C, your value proposition is not about you – hence, if you want to know how to make your widget, course, or four-course meal better – ask your best customers. This could be one on one, via surveys, or even focus groups – but make sure the people paying the bill are the ones determining what drives the value up.
It never ceases to amaze me as a business coach when I hear entrepreneurs tell me they forgot to invoice someone, or ‘they’re getting around to it’. While there is a difference between cash flow and profit, getting paid faster (cash flow) can avoid the excessive use of credit cards, which inevitably increases profit. Furthermore, entrepreneurs can follow up (or outsource this) on accounts receivable. When A/R comes in, it’s likely already been written off, and the costs have already been incurred (hard costs and paying your team if applicable). This means, any A/R you can collect goes straight to your bottom line. Beyond these more obvious strategies, here are some a cash-strapped founder might not think of;
- Sell things you don’t need on eBay, Facebook marketplace, or Kijiji
- Work part time for a friend. I remain the worst employee of all time for my brothers finishing carpentry business (three days worked in three months) and my friends landscaping business (two days worked, one in dress shoes when I forgot a change of shoes coming from a client meeting)
- Find a non-invasive side gig. This could be the aforementioned drop-shipping, affiliate marketing, or as the cool kids do- influencer marketing.
- If you have a decent network, you could negotiate a reasonable finders’ fee (often around five to ten percent) for referring people in your network to business you trust
- Hire someone like above if it’s not you on a commission basis. Receiving 85 to 90 percent of business that lands in your lap is always better than keeping 100% of business not coming in your door.
Live a Life
As this article established near the beginning, there is no such thing as being ‘done’ while you’re an entrepreneur. The same is not true of the important relationships in your life, or life itself. While you’re trying to build a legacy that changes the world, change an industry, or working towards your unicorn exit – you can’t forget to invest in, and be present in, the important relationships in your life. If you asked them, I’m sure even the sharks on Shark Tank and Elon Musk would say there is more to their lives than being an entrepreneur. I bet they would also say that’s been one of the keys to their success.