It’s not often I post something personal on this blog but I felt now was a pretty great time to do so. The last three or four months have probably been the most amazing ever for me from a business perspective. In pure currency terms I’ve basically tripled my one companies retainer revenue while at the same time growing my second company from nothing to making more in a month than I’ve made in my best solo year. I’m not here to brag, I’m here to talk about attitude.
I’ve recently changed a lot about my attitude and bought into what I am calling the “enthusiasm economy”. Essentially it’s using enthusiasm to create something; whether it’s motivation or something more tangible. Now I’m probably starting to sound like the first chapter of “The Secret” but let me explain: I don’t believe in visualising what you want in order to manifest it: I believe in enthusiasm motivating you.
It’s an age old question: do you get yourself an MBA or take the money you would have spent on studies and launch your own company. Many people study an MBA to further their career however it seems to be a growing trend to get an MBA to help further your entrepreneurial career. There are some great points to consider in terms of benefits:
- You get a great network
- You learn patience and the ability to finish something that many could not manage
- A good entrepreneur should always be learning something new
An MBA should theoretically unlock your entrepreneurial skills as well as advance your knowledge. Ultimately we’re in a world where jobs should be created by business and not government so it’s important to incubate these skills. S0me other great thoughts on the matter:
MBA entreprepreneurs get crucial guidance and support from highly motivated and intelligent people. They also find in their classmates like-minded partners and co-founders who bring much value to a startup, not to mention direct access to serial entrepreneurs who as permanent faculty or executives-in-residence are eager to mentor young people through the process. And finally most schools today have formal programs that often provide seed capital to get a company up and running before you use the school’s alumni network for more capital or customers.
Surveys of MBA graduates show that the vast majority believe their education was vital to the success of their startups. Nine out of ten believe that an MBA helped them lead their companies, grow their businesses and develop their ideas. Some 86% of MBA entrepreneurs feel that their education helped them develop financial projections for their businesses and 81% thought that an MBA helped them write a more compelling business plan.
Personally all I wanted to do when studying was to start a business however going to business school was one of the best choices I’ve made in ages. While I’m no MBA graduate it makes perfect sense to study in order to get ahead of other entrepreneurs in the market.
There are some more points and a longer explanation in the original article available here.
I’ve probably made all seven of these plus a thousand more but these are seven great tips to avoid when working on a startup. Sales and marketing, you really can’t do enough of it.
- Not Understanding Your Customer: Many startups make generalizations as to what their customers want. There may be a specific market for your product or service, but each customer’s challenges are going to be different. I’ve seen founders conduct poor research into their prospective customer before pitching them, and then fail to ask those customers specific questions in regards to their unique needs and pain-points. Instead, they’ll talk on and on about how great their product is and its 10 unique features. Founders need passion for their idea, but not at the expense of taking the time to understand your customers and asking the right questions.
- Not Selling: Most startups explain all the bells and whistles of their product, but fail to sell the core solution to their customer’s problem. To do that, you need to ask the customer questions to understand what they really need. A prospective customer needs to be sold on the 2-3 benefits your product provides to them, rather than the 100 features you’re planning to build into the product in the future.
- Not Showing Up: Most founders don’t go out into the market to pitch real people and close actual customers. As a result, they miss out on two key experiences crucial to a young company. First, the founders miss the opportunity to connect directly with their earliest customers and develop long-term relationships. Second, they miss direct customer feedback, which often provides the best recommendations to improve a young company’s product or service.
- Not Following Up: Most startups pitch once and never follow up again. Maybe they follow up once or twice, but not relentlessly. Startup founders are not shameless enough. They worry too much about intruding on the prospect’s time or being too persistent out of fear of losing the sale. If you lose a prospective customer because you followed up too much, then they weren’t going to close anyways. I’m not advocating calling someone every few minutes, until they rip their phone line out of the wall; but giving up on a prospect won’t lead to a new customer. Keep up with them until they come to a decision, either a “yes” or a “no.” Everything else doesn’t count.
- No Process in Place: Startups love to optimize their UI/UX but not their sales funnel. Most don’t even have a sales funnel to optimize. Startups today have access to a vast amount of data but often fail to track some basic metrics for their sales funnel; calls/emails, connections to decision makers, qualified leads, closed deals/deal value and time to close.
- Not the Right Price: Founders often think the cheaper their service the better. While a low price tag does lower the barrier to entry for your customers, it can also dilute the value of your product. If your email or website plugin provides massive value for your customers, why is it the same monthly subscription price as Netflix? When you have a viral product that gets massive traction online, you can have a low price. When you need sales people to sell your product or enterprise customers, you need to consider if your product is priced appropriately to sustain your business. Ultimately, startups need to charge their customers what their product is worth and sell them on its value, not its price tag.
- Not Asking for the Sale: Sometimes simply asking for the sale makes the process move forward in the direction that you want. After all of the phone calls, demos, and follow up, some founders are still afraid to ask for a customer’s business out of fear of losing the sale. If you spent so long cultivating your relationship with the customer, wouldn’t it be easy to close your new best friend?