It’s true that anyone can start a business, and nobody should be deterred from pursuing their dreams. If you think you can waltz into a successful life as an entrepreneur, however, you’ve got another thing coming. Like any major commitment, starting a business is a rigorous process of self-reflection and improvement, as you learn on the fly and pour your knowledge into your enterprise.
It isn’t necessary to have all of the following abilities right from the get-go, and you may question whether they are necessary at all. Yet while it may be possible to succeed without them, they are the building blocks of a successful business and a great businessperson. By reflecting on these attributes and committing to personal development, you’ll give yourself the strongest possible chance to succeed.
Succeeding in business requires a little dash of the remarkable. You might have a brilliant new idea for a product, or simply have picked up on a way to improve a classic. You may even just be a great salesperson, who can drum up extraordinary interest in something that’s relatively worn and tired.
Ultimately, the ability to look at a common problem and find a solution is key to any great product. Even if this is a minor improvement on something that already exists, it’s your ingenuity that will find it, make it a reality, and package it in a way that will appeal to your target audience. Even the most outwardly boring business succeeds because of this special quality – the spark of genius that spots a niche and knows how to exploit it.
Starting your own business comes with many perks, allowing you to pursue a dream and potentially elevate your salary. Nobody would claim that it’s easy, however – particularly in the early stages. Getting a product or service in front of people from a standing start is no easy feat, and it’s likely that you will be living from week-to-week as you graft for your next sale.
When things are tough, it helps to have the resilience to suffer setbacks, and take knocks without being knocked down. Starting a business from scratch is rarely plain sailing, and it might be some years before you’re in a position where the business manages itself – or even where you truly enjoy what you’re doing. You should be realistic and learn from your mistakes, but also be mindful of the reasons you started in the first place.
There will come a time – perhaps not that long into your business adventure – when it will feel like you need to change tack. Perhaps your product isn’t selling the numbers you were expecting, or market conditions seem to have changed slightly from where you started. Maybe you’re just losing confidence in yourself or your services, and want to pack it in altogether.
In these periods of uncertainty, it’s important that you hold firm and trust in your planning and preparation. Consider the naysayers and take any constructive criticism, but don’t veer from your path unnecessarily or prematurely just because of a temporary setback. If your business plan was sound when you wrote it, you should be confident enough to see it through to the end.
Leading, selling, managing, delegating, calling, emailing, filing, brewing, meeting, schmoozing. When your business consists of you and you alone, you will have to fill a whole multitude of roles in several different capacities. As much as you may want to focus on the fundamentals of your business, you may have to do things you don’t want to do or aren’t skilled at, and keep several plates spinning in the air.
Being able to multitask is key to being a successful entrepreneur, particularly in the early stages. While some of us are better at this than others, there are ways to develop this skill, or split up these many tasks into individual ones. With tight planning and scheduling, you can work through numerous tasks without feeling overwhelmed. Before you know it, you’ll be spinning those plates on all five fingers.
While it’s important to stay steadfast when things are tough, you also need to recognise when the winds are changing. This is perhaps less relevant in terms of your existing products or services than new things you can take advantage of. By keeping your finger on the pulse of your chosen field, you should be able to size up opportunities and get ahead of your rivals.
This may be as simple as jumping onto a new social media platform to get your message out, or capitalising on a trend. Equally, it could be a case of noticing an inadequacy in a popular new product, or even something great that you can integrate into your own offering. Don’t react to every little thing, but be proactive in improving yourself and your products, and explore the opportunity to try new things.
Businesses rely on customer loyalty to sustain themselves, particularly in their early years. Achieving this means offering the best value – not just for money, but also in terms of the overall customer experience. The greatest advantage a small business has is its ability to be more empathetic towards customers, and offer them something that larger businesses struggle with: your time and attention.
Forge a real and lasting connection with your customers by recognising what they want and need, and work to cater to that. This shouldn’t just be reflected in your products, but in your approach to business, and how your business affects the communities and the world around you. From connecting with customers on a human level and addressing their concerns, to investing in the local community, to donating to local charities, the backbone of a great business is how it embeds itself at the heart of society, and wins over hearts as well as wallets.
Katya Puyraud is the co-owner of Euro Start Entreprises, specialising in company formation in Europe. They have helped budding entrepreneurs and expanding SMEs to open their companies in over 30 countries worldwide.