My social media community consists of new entrepreneurs in all age groups: tweens, teens, young adults, middle agers and seniors. My most seasoned follower is 90+ years young. She inboxes me a thumb up every now and then. It makes me smile. Whenever I am hosting an event or helping someone to find a reliable resource, as much as possible I pull from my online community because within my network are some of the sharpest, brightest entrepreneurs, creators, and doers. I get to watch how they do business over time so I get to see the reviews, the attitudes, the professionalism or the lack thereof. And, yes, there definitely are levels in my community. This gives me a range of personalities from which to draw resources.
Many of my followers are product gurus, meaning they are subject matter experts (SMEs) on the products or services they provide in the marketplace. However, with the exception of the ones I met in various learning situations, for the most part my social media network members have little to no knowledge of business or do not know what it takes to keep a business afloat. Now wait a minute…before you start to feel some kind of way thinking I’m be overly critical…the statistics bear me out. Depending on which industry their precious product or service follows, the failure rate ranges between fifty and ninety percent. Whoa! Now, this percentage isn’t because everyone has a bad idea nor is it because they have bad products. Most new entrepreneurs go into business without being properly educated in the subject of….”business.”
For this reason, when new entrepreneurs do business with me or contact me to see how to begin doing business, most times, I will offer them basic tips to help them look more polished. Some thank me and use the information to fine tune their approach, but then there are those who become offended. The ones who become offended are probably the ones who will close in 3-5 years because they are too head strong to listen to what me or their customers are telling them.
The “build it and they will come” approach only worked in that movie for Kevin. No one is required to pay you for your business idea. Customers are a privilege and should be treated as such. Therefore, it behooves smart business owners to listen to the advice from people who have been in business longer. Being cocky and impatient with your customers and business peers serves no one and most of all it could derail your wonderful business idea. If trusting the information you receive is an issue, I suggest getting a mentor as soon as possible so you can bounce ideas around.
New entrepreneurs should know as much, if not more, about the financials, marketing, sales, break even points, sales margins, profit margins, target customers, etc., as they do their product. Failure to spend time learning these things is a true recipe for the potential of failure. Find a community business class or take classes offered at a college. The investment will be worth it in the long run and will help the business to become sustainable. The Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) has free information in person and online. It is the most under used resource in the business community. SCORE (www.score.org) is another invaluable resource that most new business owners fail to utilize.
Regardless of the new entrepreneur’s age, the ears and the ability to use them to perform active listening is paramount in the entrepreneur arena. There is so much to learn that new business owners have no idea how much they really don’t know. The first five years are crucial to their longevity and so it is imperative that they follow the “two ears, one mouth rule” by talking less and listening more. Applying this rule and soaking up all the information they can find to build their business acumen in their industry will help them to become experts and strong competitors. Couple that strength with patience and perseverance and they will be around for the long run. Dear new entrepreneur…your most valuable tools are your ears. Learn to use them well. All the best.
Linda Murray Bullard
Chief Business Strategist