5 Practical Tips for Aspiring B2B Service Entrepreneurs
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Over the last 8 years of running a B2B offshoring services business, we see many ebbs and flows, the one thing that has remained unchanged is the practical learning through various entrepreneurial challenges. Looking back, there are many things that one could have done differently that would have saved the Enterprise a lot of time and grief.
We have top 5 tips that can help aspiring entrepreneurs planning to launch B2B services start-ups. Some of these learning will also be relevant for B2C or Product start-ups.
Being a ‘Half-Entrepreneur’
Many prospective entrepreneurs leave their jobs while they are still figuring out the “why, what and when” for their start-up. While we have heard many reasons for this pre-mature exit, the one that is most common is ‘I cannot focus on the idea while I am still working’. Funnily enough, we have seen the same people struggling to find enough work for the day when they actually leave the job.
Aspiring entrepreneurs need to introspect if the entire planning and market testing of the idea can be done while still being employed, even better if you can find that first elusive customer before you actually launch. This is what can be called a “Half-Entrepreneur”. B2B Services businesses are inherently working capital-oriented businesses, which is based on real ‘income’ rather than valuations. It is therefore extremely important that you build and conserve your war chest.
You are the only USP during infancy
During the infancy stage of the B2B services start-up, your customers bet on the entrepreneur rather than the enterprise. During my entrepreneurial journey, my first customers were people who were confident about my ability to gets things done. They hardly cared about my start-up’s name or credentials. Many other B2B services entrepreneurs have the same experience.
The key learning here is that you must start activating your network before you launch and don’t be shy to ask for an Opportunity.
Please remember that your own references will run-out soon. If you have managed to sail past the torrid currents of enterprise infancy you will experience stagnation after things settle down. As a young enterprise, you rarely have funds to invest in a multinational sales team, even if you find a way to fund this, it is extremely difficult to convince the new customers to trust a relatively young company.
This challenge can be addressed by building a small yet strong network of partners who already have the required connections and trust with your prospective customers. These could either be freelancers/consultants or production companies that provide a complementary service and could benefit from additional commissions or revenue sharing by partnering with you.
Avoiding the ‘I can do it myself’ syndrome
As the enterprise starts growing, you need specialists. You no longer can choose to be ‘All CXOs rolled into one’ guy, especially for support functions such as Finance, HR and Administration.
By the time your enterprise has reached this stage, you have developed a certain way of managing the support functions, which has served you well. This induces a false belief that it the only and the best way. It is easier said than done, to handover these activities even if he/ she brings in the industry best practices. These experts can do a much better job than the entrepreneur ever could and have a mighty impact in fueling the enterprise growth.
The art of letting go
An entrepreneur develops a bonding with his enterprise the same way that a parent bonds with the kid. Parental care and guidance are essential for kid’s development; however, this becomes counter-productive after the kid has matured. Similarly, as an entrepreneur, your job is to help your enterprise mature to an extent that it becomes resilient enough to withstand market forces. However, the nature of your involvement must change through the enterprise life-cycle.
While it is very tempting to always have a say in what needs to be done and how (even at a microscopic level), it can be a huge dent to the moral of your lieutenants and more importantly a lost chance to do things differently, all because you couldn’t ‘let-go’.These tips give Aspiring B2B Service Entrepreneurs a pragmatic perspective on dealing with some common challenges.