The road for solopreneurs and small businesses isn’t easy. Those who succeed are vastly fewer than the number that fail. Nine out of 10 startups fail. Half of new businesses don’t make it past four years.
4 Basic Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs
There are at least four basic qualities and characteristics that help ensure entrepreneurial success:
1. Passion. Without passion, most ideas and ventures will fail quickly. Solopreneurs as well as small business leaders and employees need to possess a keen passion and interest in their product, services, and company—not only for the short term but also the long haul. If you’re initiative isn’t keeping you awake at night (not from worry, but your passion for it) and fueling you with renewed energy to continue working on it over and over again, even in the face of challenges, then you may not have what it takes to make it a success.
2. Dedication and Focus. Sustained dedication is a requisite for any entrepreneurial venture. Solopreneurs and small businesses must be confident in the idea or concept behind it and demonstrate disciplined dedication in bringing it to fruition.
3. Risk Taking. Entrepreneurs are almost always risk takers, recognizing it takes time and money to turn the unknown into a reality. This doesn’t mean they blindly pursue their dreams by throwing ideas against the wall and hoping they stick. Rather they embark on each journey with the realization that failure is a possibility, and they work to ensure that those risks are mitigated by developing the right strategy and execution tactics.
4. Adaptability and Flexibility. Just because an entrepreneur and business are passionate about what they do doesn’t mean they are unable to adapt to changes or new opportunities or admit that they need to change course. Many markets are dynamic, and changes and course corrections reoccur frequently, necessitating that solopreneurs and businesses remain flexible and adaptable.
Gaining Focus and Scale
In addition to the above qualities and characteristics, the time you spend focused on your business and customers often is pivotal in determining success or failure; whether it is spent on turning ideas into real products and solutions, fostering lasting customer relationships, or forging strategic partnerships. Small business leaders agree; only 14 percent of them are happy about their time allocation.
This is where getting smart about the tools and services you use—or don’t use—can play a critical role. The adage that solopreneurs and small businesses must be “jacks of all trades” is wrong, particularly in the digital age. While you must possess a breadth of knowledge and skills across a number of different business functions, your time and energies will be quickly sapped, leaving your business struggling to survive.
The following are some areas where you can gain the expertise of third parties and advantages of technologies that give you focus and scale:
1. Accounting and Finance. Unless you’re an accounting and finance firm, finding a firm to support you in areas of accounting and finance is important. While basic accounting (accounts payables, invoicing, accounts receivable, etc.) are made easy with software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions like Intuit QuickBooks, Zoho Books, FreshBooks, among numerous others, issues like payroll, insurance, and taxes can be complex and present significant legal and financial risks if not done correctly. What benefits exist? For payroll alone, small businesses save 18 percent compared to their competitors that opt to manage it themselves.
2. Marketing and Sales. The marketing and sales functions dramatically changed over the past decade due to technology disruption. They hardly resemble what they looked like just a few years ago; One result is that the divide separating large and small businesses shrank. Small organizations can look and act like much larger organizations by leveraging the right set of technologies. But stitching together the right marketing and sales technologies requires expertise and time. In these instances, solopreneurs and small businesses can look to consultants and agencies for assistance. Just not any will work; finding ones with small business expertise, as well as a focus and an understanding of your industry segment is important.
3. Communications. Your communications are a pivotal part of your brand identity. Growing numbers of solopreneurs and small businesses are outsourcing their communications functions. The model and types of communications covered vary based on industry and business requirements. In some instances, companies simply need a live receptionist, including an auto receptionist, to answer incoming phone calls from customers, prospects, and other business parties. In other instances, they also need help handling inbound and outbound email and texting related to sales and services issues. But with prospects and customers seeking digital sales and services experiences, this also translates into live web chat for growing numbers of businesses.
4. Office Space. Small businesses spend an average of 10 percent of their revenue on office space. Not only are they increasingly opting to forego permanent offices locations in favor of co-working and other types of rented offices space, but they also are turning to virtual offices (or addresses) for professional addresses in great locations. In addition to lower costs, advantages include on-demand professional meeting rooms and collaboration with other entrepreneurs and small businesses.
5. E-Commerce and Fulfillment. Small businesses that ship products or have an e-commerce offering should consider outsourcing a portion or even all of those activities. Having fulfillment, warehousing, and delivery handled by a third party allows small businesses to lower overall spend while improving customer service. They also can dedicate the time previously expended on those functions on business strategy and other issues. Technological advancements make it immensely easier for small businesses to deploy e-commerce and fulfillment solutions with comprehensive front- and back-end services enabled.
6. Information Technology (IT). It can be expensive and difficult for a small business to manage all of its IT functions in-house. The evolution of technology makes it virtually impossible for an IT professional to remain abreast of them all. If you have IT staff, determine your strengths and weaknesses and fill gaps with third-party services. Further, with the emergence of the cloud, SaaS applications make it much easier for organizations to leverage capabilities that previously weren’t possible for small businesses to attain.
As IT is a different “animal” for small businesses (viz., technologies and business processes are different than those used by mid-market companies and enterprises), make sure you leverage providers that specialize in small business. For some use cases and applications, you simply need up-front assistance to “teach you to fish yourself;” look for providers that can do both—assume full responsibility for an IT function as well as provide consultative implementation and management guidance until you can take on the solution.