If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably somewhere between intrigued and a die-hard fan of the hit show Shark Tank.
Just as Mad Men was to advertisers, and Silicon Valley is the go-to show for software developers (or people who like to geek out on tech), Shark Tank aims to show you insights into one of the most sweat-inducing moments in the existence of any business: raising capital.
Shark Tank shows a shift in how we see entrepreneurship. Today, entrepreneurship has stopped being an odd pursuit; it has become a top career choice for just about anyone.
But the way entrepreneurship is depicted in the media is a far stretch from the actual reality. It is made out to look like an action movie, an easy path to success with only minor road bumps.
But unlike a James Bond mission, where you have a clear objective and execute your plan with meticulous precision, there are no clear rules that you can play by when launching and growing a business.
And as famous business author Marshall Goldsmith rightly said;
“What got you here, won’t get you there.”
He was referring to sustainable growth and success… if you rest on your laurels and stop innovating, learning and challenging yourself, you are likely to fail.
Although every entrepreneur must find his or her own path to success, here are five critical things that will help you take your business to the next level to be a successful entrepreneur.
1. Think About Growth, Not Planning
Conventional wisdom tells entrepreneurs that they need a well-thought out plan if they want to make it in the business world. They must anticipate demand, allocate resources, and coordinate the efforts of every team member within the organisation to meet the needs of customers, investors, and partners.
But the early stages of a startup are more of a guessing game. Entrepreneur must tweak virtually every area of their business, from the product and pricing to the marketing and distribution model.
Let’s take the example of an event catering business. You know you’re going to need to find a location, food suppliers, chefs, and so on. You could probably commit your costs to a plan. But, how much should you charge for an event? Where should your location be? What marketing tactics should you use? These are elements that startups constantly change until they figure out what works for them and their customers.
So, in a way, a business plan imposes unnecessary restrictions. What you need, instead, is a business model. Think of the ways you will create, deliver, and capture value. In other words, develop mechanisms through which your company will generate growth and revenue will make you a successful entrepreneur.
2. Obsess Over Cash Flow
Most entrepreneurs get caught up in the details of growing their business. They focus on things like printing business cards, contacting and negotiating with vendors, and hiring new employees. But one of the most important tasks you’ll have as an successful entrepreneur is keeping cash flow pumping. The sooner you understand this, the better.
Besides debt management, strong cash flow also provides the resources and comfort a business needs to invest in growth. With a positive cash flow, you can invest in research and development, improving technology, training your employees and essentially expanding your business.
When you’re not strapped for cash, you can operate in a strategic, proactive way rather than just reacting to the challenges that come your way.
3. Make Innovation a Part of Your Culture
Let’s make one thing clear: innovation isn’t synonymous with developing new products.
Sure, new products are important, but they don’t paint the entire picture. When innovation is part of your lifeblood, it finds ways to change not just the products and services, but also the business model, logistics, processes, and functions.
Just think about how Facebook have sprinkled its offices with brainstorming tools that encourage a new level of collaboration and communication. Or how Google created a machine learning algorithm to keep pace with the changing search habits of internet users.
You might think that these examples are not relevant – after all, we’re talking about companies with tremendous budgets and thousands of employees. But the truth is that one of the primary reasons these businesses succeeded is that they didn’t treat innovation as something special that only a few select people could do. Instead, they’ve taken advantage of the capabilities of all of their employees and made innovative thinking a routine.
4. Invoke Reciprocity to Influence People and Strengthen Your Business
Content marketing has become almost a dreaded buzzword. Everywhere you turn, you are bound to see an article talking about the importance of content marketing or a self-proclaimed guru promising to teach you the secret formula that will make prospects stick around for more on your website.
It can be a bit tiring, but the reality is that content marketing works. And, do you know why?
It’s because helping people, whether through how-to articles, free eBooks, explanatory videos or cheat sheets, activates the reciprocity rule.
It’s in our nature to want to repay the person who has done us a favour or offered us a gift.
In one experiment, sociologist Phillip Kunz sent out 600 handwritten Christmas cards to complete strangers to see if they would reply. To his surprise, he received over 200 cards from those strangers.
The main takeaway: ask yourself how you can help your prospects? When you give them something, they are more likely to respond.
5. Put SEO on Your Priority List
We get it! You’re up to your ears with growing your business. You don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends and practices in search engine optimisation.
But here’s the hard truth: ignoring SEO can break your business.
In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research using search engines before making big purchases.
You don’t want to end up lost in search results way beyond the first page:
Having your SEO strategy on point is crucial if you want to survive in the digital age. As search engine algorithms become more intelligent than ever before, you need professional guidance to help you navigate the complex universe of white-hat techniques, on-site implementation, keyword density, and other strange concepts.
If you’re uncertain about how to manage your SEO strategy, let Uplers take care of it for you so that you can get off the hamster wheel and focus on building your business to be a successful entrepreneur!