The success secrets of entrepreneurs actually aren’t as secret as you think. You can be a successful entrepreneur if you really want to be. Take your startup to the next level and make a history of entrepreneurial success.
Few experiences are as exciting, rewarding and, yes, terrifying asstarting and running your own business. Many people in their late 40s,50s, and early 60s are learning that first hand: the economy has ledthem to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, either because they werelaid off or because they just want more control over their work lives.
It’s a question I’ve asked myself often over the past two decades asI’ve worked with, written about and studied entrepreneurs. It’s also aquestion that my Next Avenue weekly blog posts will address frequently,unearthing resources to help your business succeed. And I’ll be sharing“How I Did It” stories of people who’ve recently opened shop. Whetheryour goal is to be the next Silicon Valley sensation, run a bed andbreakfast, or start a consulting business from your spare bedroom,you’ll find advice to help you do it.
One of the most important indicators of business success is one I’veheard from hundreds of venture capitalists, angel investors and smallbusiness lenders: The need to have a stellar team.
When Profit Dynamics Inc. a research and consulting firm in ForestHills, Ariz., asked 500 venture capital firms about their key criteriafor investing in a new business, 52 percent ranked “quality of themanagement team” as critical.
Once potential financiers see friction in the business or find that noone is spearheading key roles (operations, technology, finances andsales), they won’t help the firm get off the ground. And without money,the business is doomed.
So don’t try to go it alone. Finding employees, business partners, orindependent contractors whose skills complement your own will make yourcompany stronger and grow faster. This requires admitting there areareas of running a business that you don’t know or skills that you lack.
Yes, it’s painful to admit this. Being honest with yourself can,however, save you heartache — not to mention boatloads of time andmoney.
Here are the types of people you’ll need to succeed, and how to find them:
Operations Master: This is the person who’ll oversee what yourbusiness does and how the work gets done. Although the entrepreneuroften takes on this role, you can also seek operations help fromsuppliers. A courier service can help you manage shipping and logistics. Equipment and materials suppliers can provide advice to help you better coordinate manufacturing, inventory, and other day-to-day challenges.
Tech Guru: Your technology expert is a critical part of theteam, even if your company isn’t a tech-based business. After all,virtually every business relies on technology in some way today — fromits website to its social media presence to its computers, smart phonesand other gizmos.
Technology is also an area that prospective lenders look at closely. So if your tech talent isn’t up to snuff, you could find yourself short on cash. Either make sure you have someone in-house who’s great withtechnology, or find someone. Ask your financial adviser, friends andformer colleagues for recommendations.
Financial Whiz: This person controls the ebb and flow of cash,monitoring what comes in and goes out on a daily or weekly basis, aswell as tax planning, hiring, and reinvestment in the business.
Your accountant could probably fill this role. But over the past fewyears, a cottage industry of part-time and independent chief financialofficers “for hire” has emerged. To find one, search online for“part-time CFOs,” then start interviewing the most promising candidates. Ideally, you’ll want a certified public accountant.
Legal Counsel: You’ll want to have an ace attorney on yourteam to ensure that you’re abiding by industry regulations and thatyou’re protecting yourself and your brand from liability. Find a lawyerwho specializes in working with startups. Keep in mind that smaller law firms maybe more responsive to your needs than megafirms with dozens of partners.
Sales and Marketing Superstar: How are you getting yourproducts or services to market? You need at least one sharpie in chargeof those activities. Consult local advertising and marketing groups tofind the best freelance help, which can save you a bundle. Your regional Small Business Development Center — a partnership between government and local colleges, run by the U.S.Small Business Administration — is a good place to get direction oneffective sales and marketing strategies.
Mentor: Having someone who has run a business successfully canbe invaluable for shortening your learning curve. If you don’t have afriend or colleague who can provide guidance, look for a free adviserfrom the SCORE, a nonprofit that partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration.SCORE matches you up with people who have experience in your field.
CEO Peer Group: A chief executive peer group is acollection of local people who own businesses. When I ran a small PRagency, I found it extremely helpful to have this group of fellowbusiness owners to brainstorm ideas and to give me feedback on issues Iwas facing. And, sometimes, blowing off a bit of steam in a safeenvironment with people who understand the challenges you’re facing canrelieve stress better than a deep tissue massage. (Just make sure thereare no competitors in your group or you’ll be reluctant to share.)
Find a local CEO peer group by asking other business owners or bycontacting business groups like your local Chamber of Commerce. You canalso form your own group by inviting business owners you respect to meet monthly or quarterly. This executive roundtable, along with the rest of your team, is likely to up your odds of being a small business winner.