Why did you start your business? It’s not a trick question. Most folks will immediately say, “To make money,” but there is usually another reason lurking beneath that slick answer. Maybe you want to be able to provide your children with a great education and extracurricular activities; perhaps you’d like to retire with a nice nest egg. Maybe you started your business because you truly believe that your product or service can improve people’s lives.
It’s an important question to ponder. Why? Because the underlying reason you started your business, not the dollar signs, is what will keep you motivated to slog through all of the terror and confusion that’s associated with being a business owner. Whether you having a successful business is to benefit you, your family, or the world, you know that failure is not an option for you.
But if you’re like me, you may have started your business and then quickly realized that being an entrepreneur was no joke. You learned that having an idea, or even a good product or service is not enough to create a financially viable business. In the beginning, you may have poured money and time into your business without generating a dime of income. You may have also become overwhelmed by all of advice and strategies that are being touted as the “answer” to developing a money-making business.
After spinning my wheels for a bit, I’ve realized that regardless of the “system” or “blueprint” that is being discussed there are three main components to building a sustainable business. I caution that these are not quick fixes to instant riches; think of them instead as building blocks.
1. Planning: Call it goal setting if you like, but it boils down to deciding what you want/need to achieve within a given time frame. Do you want to launch a new product? Write a book? Get invited to speak at a professional conference? Open an online or brick and mortar store? Clarity of purpose is important. Why is this goal important to the success of your business? It’s also important to set a deadline for the attaining the specific goal. Deadlines give us humans a needed sense of urgency. I can’t forget this—you need to plan how much money you want/need to generate a month or per quarter. I personally learned the hard way that real businesses don’t run on a “I’ll make do with what I can make” basis. As a solopreneur, your income is tied to your revenue projections and your calculations on how you can achieve that dollar figure.
2. Execution: Basically, this involves mapping out the action-steps that you need to take to support your goal(s). If you’re launching a new product, your action-steps may include: doing some market research, writing or recording content, interviewing experts in the field, and investigating vendors who can manufacture the product. If you plan to make $5,000 a month, then you need to determine how many units of your product(s) you need to sell or how many clients you will need to achieve that income goal. Essentially, each goal can be broken down into a series of smaller action steps.
3. Marketing: It’s how you regularly educate your target audience about your product or service. Most of the experts agree that solopreneurs should be spending between two and four hours per day on marketing activities. It sounds like a lot of time, but what’s the point of working to refine your product or service when you have no clients? Marketing activities include: creating new offerings for your target audience (products, tele-classes, programs, services), researching and following-up on opportunities, and connecting with your clients. Client contact can include one or more of the following: sending out regular blog posts (written, audio, or video), sending out a monthly e-newsletter, and interacting daily via social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
Mastering the building blocks of business development is critical to your business. After you’ve got these principles down, then you can move on to delving into the shiny, exciting bells and whistles.