October 28, 2013 by khalid costo
Having worked with 100′s of businesses across the country with the creation, growth, nurturing of their site, if you removed the “technology” aspects that makes all of their heads swim, the one issue that always seems to be missing in one form or another is the fact that having a Web site is having a business. A real business – if you want to succeed. All too often entrepreneurs with little to no experience in the business world, or the basics of how to plan, run, and evolve a successful enterprise appear to be under the impression that these staples are not necessary in lieu of a good idea. Just as often, unfortunately, they choose technology partners that have little more experience and expertise in these areas then they do. Hence, they are doomed to fail.
You’ve heard of all those dot coms crashing? Poor business ideas, little or no planning, and greedy investors – all looking for that quick buck to millionairdom. The fact is they crashed because these concepts were not born of solid business methodology, little to no planning, lack of experienced direction moving forward. I’ve even heard of deals being agreed to simply based on sketches on cocktail napkins! How could anyone be surprised these “businesses” failed or as they say in the online world “crashed”? Certainly, I was not surprised and I wrote about that situation in my article Dot Com Not Coms.
Having an idea is not enough. Having the financial backing isn’t enough. Then it should go without saying that having a Web site alone does not make a successful business, right? So why is it that so many potential entrepreneurs jump online, and think that their Web site whether it be home-brewed or professionally developed, is all it takes to hit the jackpot? Well, I can vouch for the fact that many think that to be the case. I hear it every day in e-mail, on the phone, in The IStudio®. Much of these misconceptions have to do with technology partners wanting to give the impression success is easy and that many of these matters don’t count just to tap into your bank account. Are you sincere about being successful and one day attaining financial independence? Then please do not fall into that trap!
If you have no formal business experience or have never run a successful business in the past, you simply have to get some basics in place or you will fail. Creating and building a successful business doesn’t just happen and it isn’t easy. Don’t believe all the Spam online telling you otherwise. Those “businesses” make their money taking advantage of precisely what you don’t know. You’re too smart to fall for that, right? As they say in the off-line world, “If is sounds too good to be true – it is!”
Now, the point of this article is to not to discourage those who have those great ideas. Nor am I out to make it sound as though it is impossible to succeed online. My goal is to make sure the reality of what it takes to run a business – any business – is not lost in the hype of the “slap up a Web site and get rich” noise. If you get these business basics in place, your great idea has an exponentially improved chance of succeeding than if you don’t.
Here are some basics I have gathered over the past 9 years in working with my clients where I had to help compensate for their lack of business experience. That is why The IStudio® also offers Coaching services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. To help fill the gaps in their knowledge base, share my proven online methodology and business experiences, tailor my products and services to ensure my clients can be as successful as they want to be – which needs to include the Basics of Business.
- Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Am I willing to commit the time necessary for the success of my business – regardless of what that may be? Plan on at least an hour or two a day for e-mail alone. Then add in your accounting, marketing and networking efforts and very quickly it becomes difficult to succeed online part-time and still think you will get some sleep or have a life.
- Do I have the self-discipline to make sure the necessary tasks and duties are completed as they should be, when they should be? Am I capable of being my own boss? Not everyone is meant for self-employment! If your office is in your home, you will need to act as though you are going to work everyday even if it only be in the next room. You have to have good record keeping to know how your business is doing – and to keep Uncle Sam pacified. You have to deal with financial issues that are not “fun” but critical. Getting up early, staying up late until you make sure all the promises to clients and suppliers are met will be so important to building a solid reputation.
- Am I willing to learn the necessary skills to succeed with Technology? Knowledge acquisition is right under solid business practices as the top two most important matters critical to success. Lack of these two are the reasons many businesses fail. You will need to be a master of your tools, learn new technologies to keep you ahead of your competitors, find new ways to market and network your business. All of which will require that you learn how to be effective with each. You will need to be committed to learning new things as necessary to keep on the edge and ahead of the competition.
- Do I have the patience to build a solid successful business? Building success takes time. The online arena doesn’t negate that. Time may be more accelerated but only hard work, solid decision making and ongoing commitment to your business will develop into a long term successful enterprise. If you want to get rich quick or expect that your Web endeavor will pay for itself and/or all your bills in less than one year. Don’t even start! Even after one year you may still be tweaking your processes for your particular market, including any new technological changes on the way to get your business in a solid financial position. Ongoing investment in your business and not taking every penny out is what contributes to building solid foundations for growth.
- Do I have the ethics and integrity necessary to create a legitimate enterprise? Businesses that cut corners or mislead clients about their skills or products will never succeed. You may feel in the short-term you’ve “made a buck” but the long-term success of your business will greatly depend on reputation and word of mouth referrals. If you are unwilling to run an honest forthright business based on you being honest with yourself in regard to the quality of the products or the level of the skills you are charging for, in the end you will not succeed.
- Legal Basics:
The very first thing you should do is speak with an attorney to make sure your company’s structure as well as to ensure any legal documents to be used are legitimate and proper. Creating you own legal contracts, clauses or terms and conditions can be very risky at best. You need to make sure your paperwork is specific for your particular business, in your particular geographic location. Not doing so can put your entire business in legal jeopardy down the road.
- Accounting Basics:
Setup a checking account to be used solely for your business transactions. You need to keep clear and concise records to determine where and how or even if you are profitable. Save every business expense receipt and make sure you get a professional accountant that can guide you on how to structure your enterprise (sole-proprietor, corporation, LLC) based on your personal situation. In addition, you will need a pro familiar with your company moving forward when you begin to generate income so that you are advised accordingly.
- Your Office:
Most Entrepreneurs work out their home. That’s fine but know that you will need to set boundaries from the start. With yourself and those you live with. Distractions or interference in your office environment can have a negative effect on your productivity and your customers perception of your legitimacy and professionalism. For example, children picking up your business phone or crying in the background is unacceptable! You do have a separate business line don’t you? Have the basics of an office in place including a file cabinet set up to ensure all your enterprise’s paperwork is accurately filed and organized. Your organizational abilities can make or break you. If you are not the organized type, ask someone who is to help you setup your office – then stick to that system!
- Planning & Goals:
I don’t expect clients to have corporate type business plans, but I do hope to see that they have some sort of planning/strategies in place to ensure their business concept has a chance and that they have at the very least investigated their concepts. Again, just an idea is simply not enough without covering all the other matters in this article. A great way to start is with a plain old notebook. I always recommend clients have their own little “Web Idea Notebook”. On the first page create two columns. Write down in the left column a ten step plan on where you are starting with your business and how you will get it where you want it to be in one year. Each step is a logical move towards meeting your goal which is number 10. In the right column jot down notes in regard to what you need to do and when to make each goal happen so that you can move to the next.Use your notebook as your idea keeper. If you think of a better way to do something write it down. You will forget if you don’t. If you see something online you would like to investigate further, but have an appointment – write it down so that you won’t forget. Writing down your goals, step-by-step, and then thinking about and writing down exactly how you intend on making those goals happen keeps you moving in a positive direction. You know the saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail”? This exercise will keep you focused on your goals and help you target your more difficult tasks. Being in the front of your notebook ensures you see your list on a regular basis and helps keep you on track.
- Attitude is Everything:
Having a great attitude and an overabundance of enthusiasm is certainly not all it takes but it can be the glue that holds your program together. A great attitude and enthusiasm for your product or service is contagious. If you act successful, people view you as successful! When you are excited about what you do, people are excited to work with you. Sure, we all have our down days, but when that phone rings you are the epitome of happy! When asked how you are say “great” whether you are or not. If you are having a crappy time of things, your customers and clients do not, should not know that as it has nothing to do with them doing business with you – keep it to yourself.
- Word of Mouth:
All of the above lends to word of mouth referrals or advertising from your friends and satisfied clients. Ask customers/clients to write letters of recommendation to be included on your site or marketing collateral. Ask satisfied clients to refer those associates they know could use your product or service your way. And when they do thank them in some way! Don’t ever take Word of Mouth referrals for granted… yes, you earned them, but you still need to earn that new client’s respect and satisfaction.
Realize from the start that not everyone will be or want to be your customer. Many times it is not personal so don’t take it as such. Realize that you really do not want everyone to be your customer. Determine who your target customer is and cater to that market. You can’t and don’t want to be everything to everyone – that’s impossible and many times not profitable. Learn to identify the type of customers who can use your product or those that need your service. Then, narrow it further to those who you prefer to work with. Understand from the start that there are customers who are more profitable than others. By identifying your profit client type, you know who your business should concentrate on catering to to succeed.
- Marketing Materials:
From your phone number to your business cards to your letterhead, how you will be perceived will be determined by the quality of your marketing materials. Your Web site, a big part of your marketing program, also exudes a perception value to every person who lands at your dot com. Use thin cheap paper, make your own business cards with those perforated edges, build your own software generated site with grainy graphics and poor content and your image will be one of a company not committed to quality. Money spent on your marketing materials to make that so very important first impression both on and off-line will contribute to your success in attracting quality customers. Don’t underestimate the power of perception! Be sure to review my article Perception is Reality! for more insight on this topic.
- Believe in Yourself:
Many times being in business means being your own biggest fan! If your gut tells you that you’re on to something, and you have the personal commitment and intestinal fortitude to not let disappointments (and there will be many) slow you down, the sky is the limit! By concentrating on and pursuing excellence on the above issues, you can’t help but succeed. Your drive, passion, and faith in yourself will get you through those peaks and valleys that come even with the most successful of enterprises.
Be sure to give your new enterprise the best chance it can have by forming a solid foundation of practices and methodology to take you into the future. Technology opens doors for small businesses and entrepreneurs that were never there to open before. Now that the door has been opened, it is up to you to walk through it and meet the challenges ahead. For those who do so – as a business, financial independence and personal satisfaction in their accomplishments is only a matter of time.
About the Author:
Judith Kallos is an authoritative and good-humored Technology Muse who has played @ www.TheIStudio.com for over a decade. Check out her popular Software, Programming and Web Design Cheat Sheets @ www.LearnAndThrive.com
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