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You've dreamt of it since the day you opened your first lemonade stand-the day when your brilliant business idea would yield both financial and emotional rewards. Now you're all grown up and ready to embark on your entrepreneurial journey, but before you leap, we've rustled up an expert to give you the ins and outs of what you really need to know about being your own boss. Mark D. Csordos, author of Business Lessons For Young Entrepreneurs (Customer Service Training Essentials) offers some of what he learned from starting, running and eventually selling his own secret shopping business. If you want to learn how to avoid common pitfalls that can derail budding entrepreneurs, take heed.
- Be focused. You are young and chock-full of ideas, but for your business to really work, you have to focus on the most promising idea. Says Csordos, "When I was [running] my mystery shopping [business], I was working 80 hours a week. And if I tried to write the book back then, there's no way I could have done it. I just focused on the mystery shopping and made that successful. And when I sold [the business], all I did was write the book."
- Learn to communicate. Just being excited about your idea is not enough. You have to learn how to communicate that excitement to others-be they investors, clients or customers. And remember that it's always better to be short and to the point-there's nothing more painful than a presentation or written proposal that drones on for eons. "Force yourself to have certain parameters before you write something," advises Csordos. "[Ask yourself]: What is the most important thing? What would I want to know?" If this is a problem area, a class on communication or public speaking may help.
- Serve with a smile. Customer service is one of the most important, and many times overlooked, aspects of running a successful business, says Csordos. No matter whether you are a netpreneur, a brick-and-mortar retailer or an inventor, you have someone to serve. As those clients/customers will be effectively paying your mortgage, you'd do well to learn as much about them as you can-then serve them the best way you know how. "If there's a company you really admire [in terms of customer service], call them and ask if you can talk to their customer service [manager]," says Csordos. Or you can try mystery shopping to find out what it means to receive good service. Observe what makes you feel like a valued customer, and imitate that in your own business.
- School yourself in selling. Let's not forget you want people to actually buy your stuff. And whether it's a product or a service, you're going to have to peddle your wares to the masses. Csordos cautions that many salespeople falter when it comes to closing the sale. "Most people don't buy right away-they're going to come up with a stall or objection," he says. "A [good] salesperson will know there are certain objections they are always going to get. You overcome them and try to go for the close again."
- Me, myself and I. Realize you have to protect yourself from the unsavory part of the business world. Expect that there will be some people who will lie to you, try to take advantage of you or generally swindle you in some way or another. "Everybody will always 'get back to you next week,' " says Csordos. A lot of books can tell you how to incorporate your business and send out press releases, but nobody tells you how it feels when you go into a room to pitch your ideas and the panel couldn't care less. Csordos' advice to hopeful entrepreneurs? "Just [know] how hard things will be so that [you're] mentally prepared."
Starting a business can be terrifying, exciting, exhausting..and various other -ings. Just remember that if you believe in your idea, anything is possible. "There's always going to be someone to talk you out of it or tell you it can't be done," says Csordos. "I may have a bad day where I call 30 people and 20 of them are 'out to lunch.' But I start again [tomorrow] because I believe in myself and I never give up."
Mark D. Csordos, (800) 291-9580, www.genxentrepreneur.com.