I recently had the opportunity to listen to Amy Cosper, Editor and Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine speak at a SmartyOC event. SmartyOC is a group of entrepreneurial Women in Orange County. Although the iGuy may have been very out of place in a group of women entrepreneurs, Amy’s message rang true across gender lines as she spoke to exactly what it means to be an Entrepreneur.
I would like to share the Top 5 highlights (in my opinion) of the evening and explore them a little more
- You either ARE or ARE NOT an Entrepreneur
Amy believes that this is essentially a gene that you either possess or do not. A person can be taught to work hard and power through opposition but cannot be taught to see opportunity in places the masses do not. I think this is bar none the most important point – to realize and try to accept for yourself and for your partners/employees. You cannot force a “worker-bee” to understand or appreciate the bigger picture view from 30,000 ft. They may buy in to your concept and appreciate the vision but they will never want it as badly as you do. And that’s ok because without them, there would not be anyone to help drive the details
- Sum up your business plan in 1-2 sentences
Passion and vision are the cornerstones to being an Entrepreneur. If you cannot sum up the problem you are solving and need to go into a 20 minute diatribe about what you are doing then you’re doing it wrong! She said that if you listen to a true entrepreneur speak about their company it is focused to the point and with passion. If you listen to an MBA talk about a company it is all too often long winded and overly technical. This goes back to the 30-second elevator pitch. Just because there are many moving parts, the manual does not need to be whipped out every time you discuss what you do.
- Entrepreneurs Zig when everyone else Zags
How true is this? Some of the greatest success stories were built upon seeing opportunity when and where there were no resolutions. I came from the financial services world (in another life) and realized that in some of the bleakest economic times came some of the wealthiest practitioners. Capitalize on opportunities that go against the conventional grain. This does not mean to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing but rather point the lemmings in another direction. Just because the cliff looks so inviting, put up a sign to a nice rolling trail and soon you will watch the momentum shift.
- Have a Revenue Plan
If your business does not have a revenue plan and is not making money or have the opportunity to make money then it is simply a hobby. How do we stay focused without a plan? YOU CAN’T! Set goals and measurements to judge your success and keep focused on your target audience. No Entrepreneur ever wants to accept defeat but hubris is a funny thing. Building a revenue plan is two-fold. Set up a succession plan AND an exit plan if your solar powered nightlight does not work. If it becomes a huge hit, know where and when you need outside money, help and consultation to continue growth. If it is a flop, know when to stop pouring time, money and effort into the cause.
- No better time than now, no harder time than now
Truly there is no better time to become a small business owner than today. Essentially free advertising through twitter and the like. Websites no longer have to cost $50k a pop and access to the world is nothing more than an Internet connection away. Amy relayed a story from Richard Branson. He stated that if he had $5,000 and an internet connection he could build it twice as big. This is a remarkable and very powerful statement coming from a man that has built a huge empire. Where this becomes difficult is separating yourself from the pack. How does your product or service differ and how to gain exposure in the market? This is much tougher online because you can easily become lost in the vastness.
Amys take on Twitter:
“Either participate in the community or the community will participate without you.”
Twitter is not going anywhere and quite frankly if you do not embrace it for what it can do for your business then you are missing the boat. Twitter allows access to your target audience in a way never before seen or experienced. And if you do not participate YOU are the only one that loses. People are switching brands specifically from twitter interactions and with the accelerated rate of growth through social media this may make or break your product or service.
Being an Entrepreneur is no easy task. Find your passion, focus in on your vision and use every tool at your disposal to push your brand. Oh yeah, and at the end of the day, have fun! We would be working for “the man” if we didn’t enjoy this thrilling adventure.
-Chris, the iGuy