I like to keep my hand in with my old entrepreneurial friends. Every six months, we get together online to swap the best bits of advice we’ve received, or look at real world case studies to see if we can develop our own business thinking. This year, I’ve decided to share some of the gems we came up with. Enjoy!
A flurry of activity doesn’t mean anything will progress
One of the oldest tricks in the business book is to make an old dog look like a new breed by making a lot of noise and movement. Beware of employees, partners and clients who like to confuse action with forward motion. You will end up running on the spot for years. Real progress happens with carefully researched and defined plans for advancement.
The customer really is always right
It has become quite trendy to insist that the customer is often wrong. The reasons for this are understandable. At the end of the day, your customer knows far less about the market than you do. He or she doesn’t understand the ins and outs of the service you offer, or how it can be best applied to his or her situation. But here’s the rub – if the customer is told he or she is wrong (except in certain situations, often related to the use of specific technologies) then he or she will simply walk away. No customers = no money = no business. So yes, the customer is always right. Deal with it or die.
Advisors are better than yes men
The customer may always be right – you, on the other hand, are quite likely to be wrong, or at least inefficient. Surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to tell you: but be sure they are properly qualified to do the telling. The last thing you need is expert advice from some upstart who confuses rambunctiousness with winning honesty. Research your circle of advisors with great care and listen to them closely. If they can tell you why you are wrong, and how to fix it, they will become your greatest assets.
Align your business with people who need you
There’s no point in contracting to a massive company that doesn’t care whether they do your work or not. Small firms and individual allies are much more interested in getting and keeping the work you are offering – and that means they care much more deeply about doing a great job. Big companies can afford to do badly and keep going. A small partner firm can’t survive the poor PR that comes from messing up your order.
Look to your market
Succeeding from start up is about understanding your market and hitting it with the right product at the right time. Build your brand by providing a combination of information and complementary products. That way you’ll capture a larger portion of your potential market. If you run a tack shop, for example, you can start adding nutritional products to the mix. Saddles, horse blankets and joint supplements for horses all belong in the same store. Riding crops and MP3 players don’t.
The Author is an entrepreneur who runs several successful businesses. His blog posts are routinely used by high profile business and marketing sites looking to give authoritative advice to their readers. Thousands of unique visitors are attracted to his own web pages every day. He divides his time between London and Paris.