by Michael Glauser, author of “Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live“
We have an employment crisis coming – we see it all around us. E-commerce is reducing the number of jobs in retailing. Self-checkout kiosks are eliminating positions in grocery stores. Computers are performing jobs in the service sector. Software is replacing analysts and accountants. Online learning is changing the traditional “brick-and-mortar” educational model. Delivery drones are altering the shipping industry. And the smart cars will significantly impact the transportation industry.
The best way to prepare for this coming employment shift is to create our own jobs and companies. Hence, the skills of entrepreneurship are more important than ever. To find role models who have created jobs where there are no jobs, I rode my bicycle 4,000 miles across America and interviewed 100 remarkable entrepreneurs who have successfully merged livelihood and lifestyle in places they want to live. I have chronicled this crazy adventure in my new book “Main Street Entrepreneur“.
Here are nine keys to success I learned from this unique group of business builders:
1. Start with a Clear Purpose.
Successful entrepreneurs are driven by a purpose bigger than themselves. While they realize they need to make money to be sustainable, none of the 100 entrepreneurs I interviewed mentioned money as a primary driver. It is not what motivates them. Instead, they want to do something they are passionate about, solve a problem that intrigues them, create jobs in their town, provide phenomenal customer service, and change the world in their own way.
2. Build on What You Know.
Successful entrepreneurs build companies in industries they understand. About one-third of the entrepreneurs I interviewed worked in the industry in which they started their business. Another third had worked in a related industry. The remaining third were serious and frequent users of the products, so they understood the industry from the customer’s perspective. The better you know your industry, the greater your chances for success.
3. Launch Opportunities Not Ideas.
Ideas and business opportunities are not the same thing. Our business failure rate is high because people launch ideas. A true business opportunity meets the conditions of the NERCM test: (1) Need, (2) Experience, (3) Resources, (4) Customers, and (5) Model. Your chances for success go up significantly when you prove there is a need for your product, you have adequate experience, you bring together sufficient resources, you have customers committed to buy, and your business model is sound.
4. Develop Your Supporting Cast.
Successful entrepreneurs thrive on the experience of others. They recruit talented individuals to fill in the gaps in their skill set. They build teamwork at three levels: (1) they create a “Brain Trust” of mentors with expertise they need, (2) they build a core team of partners who join them in the venture, and (3) they develop strategic partnerships with individuals and companies who can help them grow their business. Talented teams can go further and faster than any individual working alone.
5. Maximize All Available Resources.
Effectiveness is achieving important company objectives. Efficiency is doing it with as few resources as possible. Successful entrepreneurs are masters of efficiency – they have a real knack for finding and utilizing a host of resources other than money. They borrow rather than buy, defer compensation, partner with their first customers, negotiate excellent terms with suppliers, and use someone else’s plant rather than build one – they think resources first, cash second.
6. Work with a Zealous Tenacity.
Successful entrepreneurs are high energy people. They have two related and vital qualities: (1) a tremendous zeal for their business, and (2) a dogged tenacity to win. Zeal is the fire that fuels the venture, and tenacity is the trait that produces the results. These two qualities combined get you through the challenges of building a business and dramatically increase your chances for success.
7. Build a Community of Raving Fans.
Customers approach companies with preconceived notions of how they should be treated. If their expectations are met, they are basically satisfied. The problem is, satisfied customers are not always loyal customers – they will patronize competitors’ businesses as well. Giving customers more than they expect to receive will set you apart from your competitors and help you create a community of raving fans that love your business.
8. Pivot to Multiple Revenue Streams.
Winning entrepreneurs continue to seek out and develop multiple streams of revenue. They do this by (1) offering related products to their growing customer base, (2) finding new markets for their growing product line, and (3) utilizing their growing resources to create new ventures. Over time, they end up juggling a reasonable number of projects in the same or related industries. Having multiple revenue streams reduces the vulnerability of a single product line, and increases the chances for long-term success.
9. Serve Your Broader Community.
Successful entrepreneurs are intimately involved in the fabric of their communities. They are using their resources to assist individuals and organizations that need their skills, experience and expertise. They are addressing issues in education, literacy, health care, and the environment. Their communities end up saying, “This business supports us, so let’s support this business,” even though this was not the original intent of the service offered. Serving communities is good for everyone.
As technology continues to eliminate jobs and transform industries, we need to rethink our careers. The important question today is not, “How do I find a job?” but rather, “How do I create a job for myself?” Here is the good news. After completing my 4,000 mile bicycle trek across America, I am more convinced than ever that anyone with passion and tenacity can learn how to build a thriving enterprise. All you have to do is implement the nine keys to success.
Michael Glauser, Ph.D. is an entrepreneur, business consultant and university professor who has built companies in the retail, wholesale, and consulting industries. His passion is helping people create successful companies, gain financial freedom, and live the life of their dreams. His latest book, “Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live“, is a roadmap for doing exactly that.