Passion Alone Can’t Pay The Bills

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor. I knew I was meant to be an entrepreneur. It just took me some time to figure out where my roadmap was headed.

My first attempt as an entrepreneur was in the field of technology consulting. I had the skill set, I had the clients. The one thing I lacked was the passion. Couldn’t even fake it. Money was there but it just wasn’t fulfilling. So I decided to go with a new business, one that I loved.

Handbags. High fashion. It was my obsession. I thought because I had such an intense love of high-fashion handbags that I’d naturally be able to design, market and sell my own collections. However, there were significant barriers to entry I wasn’t aware of because I didn’t take the time to properly research the market and the accessory industry. As a result, quite a bit of debt accumulated over the very short life of my beloved business. Passion, though important, just doesn’t pay the bills.

Promotion concept. Painted staircase with draw in the wall. Business draw.

Promotion concept. Painted staircase with draw in the wall. Business draw.

After that “failed” attempt, I really thought long and hard about my future direction. I let my imagination run wild and decided to write a novel. Being an independently published author is a business just like any other. You develop and perfect a product, market and distribute it to the masses. Again, I was wearing many hats. The difference this time was that I’d done research on the industry and I maintained that critical element of passion.

Along the way (because the entrepreneurial spirit cannot be quelled) I partnered with one of my author friends to build and launch an online directory for authors called Author Navigation – a one-stop shop for all services needed to help polish and perfect a manuscript for the masses. It’s still early days and we’re still trying to gain momentum but we’re slowly making a name for ourselves.

Always strategizing, always planning, always envisioning…ALWAYS.

What Kind Of Mindset Should An Entrepreneur Have??

I love Quora. It’s a really cool knowledge-sharing site. You register and build up your profile with topics of interest. Then you can apply your own experience and answer users’ questions about said topics. As you build up your credibility on the site, people then come to you to answer their questions.

I’ve gotten some cool questions but just answered this one today and thought I’d share. =)

What Kind Of A Mindset Should An Entrepreneur Have?

Passion Is A MUST! – Starting a business and trying to gain traction can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell, the more effective your pitch (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticisms and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed….well, you know the rest. 🙂

You Will Never Know Your Limits Unless You Push Yourself To Them

Why Do Startups Fail?

A multitude of potential pitfalls can negatively impact entrepreneurs as they eagerly try to build their fledgling companies…and basically crush their spirit if allowed. In my experiences, there are four reasons that stand out the most:

  • Lack of Research – Research is imperative. It provides insight about what your competitors are doing so can stay several steps ahead and create innovative ways to develop and market your offering. It also provides you with insight about the costs and components of running a successful business in your target industry. Spending time investigating a specific market will show whether there is a demand for your intended offering. Successful research will help shape your vision and strategy. Without it, you risk the future viability of your business.
  • Poor Planning – There are a lot of moving parts that need to come together before your finished product is ready for sale. You have to coordinate delivery timeframes with vendors and partners who are all part of your launch schedule. In addition, you need to plan for bill payment. Figure out what your accounts receivable schedule looks like so you can continue procuring supplies and services you need in a timely manner.
  • Boiling The Ocean – Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what will be a hit in the market. Hindsight is always 20-20. Sometimes you decide to make six different handbag styles, each available in seven different colors because you don’t know which one will be “the” one until it suddenly appears in an issue of InStyle and you now need to satisfy excessive demand without nearly enough inventory because you spread your resources too thin….ahh, but I digress. Focus groups can help! Talk to your target market and gather feedback. It may push out your delivery timeframes but the insight can help perfect your offering.
  • Nothing Unique – If there is nothing new or different about your product, nobody is going to buy – no matter how much you love it. It’s hard to pull off those rose-colored glasses and embrace the reality staring back at you. Leather handbags? Not otherworldly. Romance novels? Been there, read that. The key is to make your work stand out. Dig deep and find what sets your product apart from the competition and play that up otherwise it’ll get swallowed up into the abyss. Perfect your offering. You care, so figure out a way to make everyone else care. Establish a connection, show how them why they should be invested, convince them why they need your product.

OMG I’m The Female Version Of Steve Jobs!!

Hubby is a crazy fast reader. He can blow through one of my 250-page manuscripts in an hour…less than the amount of time it takes me to drive to the nail salon, get a mani and drive home.

He recently read Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli…in about two hours. 435 pages, by the way. What the WHAT?????

Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs

Closing the book, he looked up and said, “I want to show you something but I don’t want to show you something.”

Hmmm. Intrigued? Um, YES!

He reluctantly flipped open the book to a folded down page and pointed to a passage. “I’m not showing this to you to say I condone it or anything but I think you should read it.”

What the heck could it possibly SAY???

Well, allow me to indulge you. I also took the liberty of boldfacing some of the key words.

“Jim Collins, the bestselling author of the management classics Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, has a wonderful phrase to describe an essential characteristic of great leadersdeep restlessness. Collins applies this phrase to Steve, one of the two great leaders who inspire him the most.”

Whoa…and here I was thinking I was just a little ADD…

“Collins believes this restlessness is far more important and powerful than simple ambition or raw intelligence. It is the foundation of resilience, and self-motivation. It is fueled by curiosity, the ache to build something meaningful, and a sense of purpose to make the most of one’s entire life.” (Page 295)

I couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across my lips. Finally!! VALIDATION!!!! No wonder he was so torn…

Yes, I constantly get new business ideas. Yes, I like to act on several at once. Yes, I’m sometimes all over the place with my grandiose plans. NO I CANNOT SIT IDLE WHEN I COULD BE EXECUTING ON POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES!!! NO I DON”T LET POTENTIAL FAILURE DETER ME…EVER!!!!!

Hell yeah! This is me, embracing the restlessness!!!

Compete At Your Peril?

I just started reading “Zero To One” by Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and prominent venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. He presents a unique way of thinking as a key ingredient for startup success. Startups have to generate new ideas and act on them rapidly to grow and expand their operations. That’s really the only way they can survive. They have to think out of the box and react quickly to take advantage of perceived market trends. Because of their small size, they can be nimble and test/document/respond to their ideas and deliver them in market with tight turnaround timeframes.

But that’s not an easy feat when you have to deal with that pesky little problem called competition. Yes, it fuels the creative flames but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. As a small business owner, you need to make sure your brand stands out from the rest in a positive way otherwise you’ll never get the recognition you need to prosper.

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Competition is healthy to a point. It drives us to excel but it can divert our attention from developing new ways of becoming even better. Think of it this way. You make giglets and compete with three other giglet manufacturers. It’s all-out war between your companies because you are all struggling to be the number one giglet manufacturer in the world, all focused on being more attractive to prospective buyers, using new colors, shapes and sizes to differentiate your offerings from those of your foes, tearing down the competition at every turn, thinking, hoping and praying these methods will advance your sales goals.

But you’re all missing the critical element of innovation. Changing small facets of your product to make it look a little nicer isn’t transformational. It’s imitative and largely ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Focusing all your efforts on competing with others in your space is a waste of time, effort and resources and will only get you marginal results until another giglet manufacturer comes along and figures out how to take the show to the next level. Then POOF! Your giglets are history.

Instead, figure out what your brand brings to the table, what your value proposition is and how you can make your offering more relevant to the lives of your targeted customers. Do something BRAND NEW and go from ZERO to ONE. That type of thinking and execution results in positive impacts to your bottom line. Get out of the way of your competition. Let them spend their precious time battling for that top spot. You focus energy, time and effort on what makes your offering inherently great or how you can GET TO GREAT.

Your path to the top will then be within reach.

Want A Chance To Win A $50 Amazon Gift Card???

Marketing. It’s a word that simultaneously excites me and makes me cringe. Platforms are constantly changing, making it difficult to reach a target market (ahem, Facebook), prospective customers are tuning out more and more because there is a constant glut of information being thrown at them, key performance metrics that trended positive six months ago may not mean much now because marketing channels are flooded with content and becoming largely ineffective.

So the question is…with all these obstacles, how can you make your company stand out against the competition?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. But I can tell you that testing the effectiveness of marketing channels is becoming critically important to companies with small budgets and the best way to test is to first get feedback from your potential customers. Hence, the reason why marketing excites me. Valuable feedback yields potential for new ideas and opportunities for innovation. YAY! Right up my alley. =)

Vector Notebook with drawing charts

This leads me to my latest project. I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK!!!!! Why not give you all a shot to win a cool prize for taking the time to take my super-quick book marketing survey???

ONE random winner will win a $50 Amazon gift card and FIVE random winners will get swag packs! The contest will end on April 1 and I’ll announce winners on my Facebook page on April 2.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE SURVEY

Innovation & The Chopped Challenge

Definitions for one thousand, Alex.

“To introduce something new, make changes in anything established.”

What is…INNOVATE!!!

If you’re a Food Network fanatic like me, you know there is one show all innovators have to appreciate, regardless of your perceived prowess in the kitchen…CHOPPED hosted by Ted Allen.

Taking a basket of sometimes intimidating, many times downright frightening (Rocky Mountain Oysters???) ingredients to combine flavors and transform them into something truly unique and other worldly? Yeah, that’s innovation to the Nth degree.

Rocky Mountain Oysters?! Courtesy of www.imgkid.com

Rocky Mountain Oysters?!
Courtesy of http://www.imgkid.com

And what better way to celebrate that inventiveness than with a bunch of friends, lots of wine and a little friendly competition??? And who better to host than The Idea Mama and her insanely innovative Hubby??? =)

I bring you…Chopped At Home. I came up a much catchier name but was asked to please refrain from referencing alcohol as there will be a lot of knife play in progress and we don’t want to merge any severed filanges with our delectable courses.

Sigh.

I guess we’ll just keep the shots limited to break times.