“I’ll just wing it!” I know some people that seem to live their life by this phrase. It becomes something of a badge of honor that they tout, almost like they’ve cheated the system by avoiding the rules of the game.
I’m planning a business trip to Las Vegas next month and I’m all set. I have my plane tickets, my hotel reservation and my schedule of events. I know that I’ll have a shuttle service from the airport to my hotel, Internet access and no room service and I’ve planned accordingly. Although I’m a pretty good “winger”, when need be, it’s not something I practice regularly. Perhaps this approach to life has been an even deeper asset in the area of my business. Although “winging it” may work when you’re enjoying a day at the beach, it’s not recommended when running a business and certainly is not a key to starting a business.
Mom entrepreneurs often face unique obstacles but also enjoy wonderful benefits by owning their own business. Like many others, being at home with my children was both my motivation and reward to starting something of my own from home. With the surge of the internet, amazing opportunities are now possible that weren’t even an option a generation or two ago.
I’m often asked by others, especially women, “What is your secret to having a successful business when so many businesses in your field fail to thrive?” I think what they’re really asking is “Can you tell me how I can have a successful,business?” This is always tricky to answer. After all, as women, we have the ability to birth babies; businesses shouldn’t be too hard, right? How I respond usually depends on how much time we have to talk.
The short answer is that I do hundreds of very important things exceptionally well. The long answer is, well, longer. I will outline some of the key things that I suggest avoiding that will help ensure a great start to your business venture.
1. Don’t go in blind – (AKA “winging it”)
Heavily research the field you’re interested in being a part of before you move forward with your start up plans. Find out what areas are still untapped and what needs are currently unmet. Talk to others in the industry. Find out if there’s a niche within that field that has not yet been dominated or a service that is still needed or could be improved upon.
- Study your competition
What experience, expertise or passion can you contribute that is better or would set you apart from the current choices? How do your competitors get the word out about their product or service? What will you do to advertise or create a buzz about what you have to offer?
- Locate the pitfalls and make sure you can overcome them
Is this industry seasonal? What can you do in the down time to get ahead of the competition next year or what can you offer during this time to the same target audience? Is your product brand new to the market? How will you get the word out so that those who would benefit by it can find out about it?
- Have a backup source of income
If you’re not dependant on the instant financial success of your business, you will be able to give it the time it needs to grow without feeling forced to put it too quickly in a certain direction or give up on it too soon.
2. Don’t do it alone
- Seek out an experienced mentor (better yet, a few people)
If you know someone in person that can do this, great! However, it’s not necessary for you to personally know mentors to learn from them–there are a plethora of websites, blogs, internet radio shows, or books that can do just. Some of my best lessons have been taught from people I have never met. Schedule this time into your week to learn and improve.
Currently, I have a great business book by my toilet, a fantastic audio CD in my car stereo and have bookmarked a list of favorite websites and blogs to check when I have a few minutes of down time. This makes it easy to stay motivated and inspired because I always have great material close at hand. Being a woman in business is to your advantage in this area, I believe.
Women often love to talk and share stories. If you get in with the right crowd of women in business, you have a gold mine of available discussions you can learn from. There are also many online resources specifically geared toward women and moms who are also business owners.
3. Don’t be ordinary
- Stand out! Find an area (or two or three) where you can really wow your audience. Make your business something worth talking about and people will want to support you. The great thing about this angle is that each field and business has it’s own unique opportunities to stand out. I recently found out about a website that sells shoes. For each pair of shoes they sell, they donate a pair to someone in need. This is exceptional business! After visiting this website, I wanted to buy some shoes. Not because I needed them, but because I got excited about this company’s vision. Not only that, but I shared it with my husband and friends and now I’m mentioning it to you!
4. Don’t stand in the shadows
Be transparent with your customers and your audience. They’ll get to know you and, as a result, will start to trust you.
- If the owner of a business takes an active role in working with their customers, this stands out. When I go out to eat, I enjoy seeing the restaurant owner walking around and talking with their guests. Even if they don’t stop and talk to me, it makes me feel important that they are taking the time to be “among us”. Even if you have an online business, there are still many ways (perhaps more) that you can do this. The great thing about women is that we are relational. This means we are naturally more inclined to do well in this area–draw on this and work it to your advantage.
- If you have a website, make your “about us” page as personal as possible. Include a photo of yourself (maybe even with your family). Tell your customers about your passion for the field you are in and why you are so excited about it. On my website, I not only have a photo of myself with my family, but photos of my staff as well. I also have photos of the moms behind the mom-invented products I sell and their story included on the product pages in an effort to make our website as personable as possible.
- Keep in contact with your customers. Send out a regular newsletter (written by you). This gives you a voice and helps continue that ongoing relationship that you have started. I recently started using weekly YouTube videos on my blog to connect even further with my customers and allow them to see my personality and identify with me as a person and a mom, rather than just the owner of my business.
5. Don’t be stubborn
If you discover that the road you are going down is not going in the right direction, make a change!
- Sometimes you will know you are headed down the wrong path or sometimes your customers will let you know (hopefully you have been asking for their feedback and suggestions). Correcting course is normal and expected, not a sign of failure.
Owning a business is tough; there is no sugar coating it! As experience has shown the first few years can often be the hardest. The good news is that we often live much longer than a few years so we can take a few rough starts and still have a good chance of coming away with something successful. I challenge you to plan your business, wing your vacations!