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Starting Up in a Hot Market

Think you have what it takes to start a business in a super-hot market?

As an Entrepreneur reader, you know we talk a lot about what's hot--which markets are growing, what businesses are hot to start, and what consumers are clamoring for right now. But what is it like to be an entrepreneur in an exploding market? How do you navigate the quick growth, the intense competition and, well, the explosive nature of it all?

First, it's important to stay focused on your main business offering, says Margaret Ross, author of Making Business Work: Inside Secrets of Success and president of the Kamaron Institute, a business consulting and leadership development organization in Peachtree City, Georgia. "Keep the main thing the main thing," she says. It's especially important to keep that focus in a market that's rapidly growing. However, that doesn't mean you should be stagnant--stay abreast of the latest happenings in your industry, read trade publications, watch the competition, etc. "[You could] miss hearing the footsteps of the competition," she says. "There are usually no surprises if you're paying attention."

Paying attention is what has helped Stan Miasnikov, 37, grow PhatWare Corp., a software development company in Mountain View, California, specializing in programs for pocket and tablet PCs. Starting PhatWare part time in 1997 and going full time in 2001, Miasnikov recently jumped into the rapidly growing smartphone market--a highly competitive environment. "Implementing features requested by users in the new product releases helps us stay ahead of the competition," he says. He also maintains relationships with Microsoft and can therefore develop cutting-edge software to go with Microsoft's new products and operating systems. That's exactly the kind of secret sauce, or competitive signature, that every company needs, says Ross: Have a specific competitive edge that belongs only to you.

Knowing what your customers want is key to any marketing plan, but it's invaluable to an entrepreneur in an exploding and highly competitive market. "If you're moving into a new technology, there's going to be some demographic, some segment, that's going to provide 80 percent of your revenue," says Ross. "So know who they are, know what matters to them, and constantly measure yourself on how you're doing against what matters to them."

Miasnikov heeds that advice and is constantly seeking feedback from customers about what they want next. "I prioritize which products or solutions need to be adapted to the new platforms first," he says. "Usually, such priorities are based on customer requests and demands, the popularity of the product and its revenue."

Even as the market is on fire, Miasnikov never loses his cool while managing his business, which has $1 million in annual sales--he takes everything in bite-size chunks. "I try to stay organized by making the schedule flexible enough so if anything unexpected happens, [the schedule] can be adjusted," he says. "As the market changes very rapidly, it is difficult to plan more than six months ahead, and we update [our plan] each quarter."

Echoing that sentiment is Ross, who notes the importance of entrepreneurs keeping an entrepreneurial mind-set, even in the midst of an exploding marketplace. "A lot of the trick is mental," she says. "Even if you're doing billions, don't think big thoughts--still think of yourself as a small company capable of saying, 'We're going to pull all-nighters and deliver for the client.'"

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This article was originally published in the May 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Up & Up.

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