All but a few of my friends and clients are entrepreneurs; visionaries trying to bring a piece of themselves into the world and get paid for it. Most of them have a great persona but, when you sit down and engage them in honest conversation, they frequently talk about their struggle. They struggle with getting clients, making money, and sometimes even just staying afloat – all that struggle, despite being constantly inundated with information on how to make things work. Sound familiar?
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to figure out the “how to” of your business. Your inbox is likely flooded with offers for classes, videos, and webinars for how to fill your list, how to close a sale, and how to improve your social media presence. Why then, with so much “how to” information available, do 25% of start-ups fail within the first year? I believe it is because many entrepreneurs try to build their business before they’ve built a solid foundation. The concept is similar to building a house. You could create the finest castle in the land but, if your foundation is weak, it will all crumble. So, what can you do?
To increase your chance of building a successful business, fill the cracks in your foundation. In other words, become solid in the “where, what, who and why”, before you start to focus on the “how”. Determine Your Where Ask yourself - does my business have a mission and vision statement? Is everything I do in my business geared towards fulfilling that mission and vision?
If you don’t know where you’re going, your path will be disjointed and disorganized. I meet an alarming numbers of entrepreneurs that start with a great idea but no thought of what they’d like their end goal to be. Knowing where you are headed will allow you to be strategic with your actions and decisions. Having a solid “where” is a major thing that shifts your efforts from being a hobby into being a business.
Hone Your What: A few years ago, I attended a marketing seminar with a major marketing guru. She had people stand up, one by one, and say what they do. Almost nobody, in a room full of attendees, could articulate what they did in a manner that sparked interest or excitement from the other participants. You may have something to offer that’s equivalent to the discovery of fire but if you can’t articulate what fire is and why I, as a potential client, might want it – then it doesn’t matter. Many entrepreneurs I meet forget that when someone asks, “What do you do?” what they’re really asking is, “What can you do for me?” To be successful, you need to be able to tell someone what you do in a way that they can clearly understand not only what it is you do but how it benefits them. Until your “what” is spoken, in terms of benefits, your sales conversions will be more difficult than they need to be.
Narrow Your Who: Your product or service might benefit everyone but, let’s be honest, not everyone will want it. There’s a difference between saying you sell coaching and saying you sell a way to end overwhelm for single parents. Yes, everyone could benefit from coaching but, if you never narrow your scope down beyond that, your marketing falls on deaf ears or gets pushed to the back burner. We, as consumers, listen with ears that are tuned to hear things that apply to us specifically. Many entrepreneurs think they will catch more clients by casting a broad net but the truth is, if the “who” you’re marketing to isn’t specific, nobody is going to hear it.
Know Your Why: Do you know why you are in business? Making money isn’t reason enough; you need a bigger reason. Having clarity on your why will be the thing that will motivate you and keep you going through the tougher times. Without a solid and compelling “why”, you will procrastinate, make choices based on money rather than your core values, and quit way before your time. Knowing your “why” will be the glue that holds your business together when times get tough.
Get Clear: What do these four things have in common? Clarity! Getting clear on the foundational aspects of your business will give you drive, confidence, direction, and magnetism. If you’ve been in business for a while and discover some of these elements are lacking for you, don’t worry. It’s never too late. As Henry David Thoreau says, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
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