Simple Principles of the 'New Entrepreneurs' The main challenge in business is lack of trust. What principles will guide European entrepreneurship in the new decade?

By Julia Skupchenko

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In many ways, our entrepreneurial and business journeys are similar to what we experience growing from childhood to adulthood. Children start their life with an open heart and an open mind. Everything they see happens for the very first time. The discoveries, the celebrations, even the mistakes - - it is all equally new. When you open your first business, every article you read is a breakthrough, every meeting you go to feels like an opportunity, every offer you get seems helpful.

With time, children learn to distinguish true and false, good and bad intentions. Usually, it happens over the course of disappointments and unfulfilled expectations by people around them. It is similar to entrepreneurs: the first time a client did not pay the bill, an event turned into a sales show, the website you paid for never got built and the contact person disappeared.

At that point in the journey, entrepreneurs (and children) have a choice.

If those experiences hurt too much to keep faith that business can be different, they start to replicate what they saw, calling it the "rules of the game." They go for personal gain and superficiality, saying what people want to hear in order to get what they want. For example, over-promising while knowing they cannot deliver; repeating the same words they see in other people's promotions or saying anything it takes to close the sale fast.

We are faced with this every day. But that does not mean that it is the only way business world functions. There is an alternative. We can be and surround ourselves with genuine good-hearted entrepreneurs who share openly what they think without any agenda. That would mean to truly care about what we do and who we do it for, following up even if those hours were not paid for, taking actions that benefit people around.

This is what I call the New Entrepreneur - a person who believes in cooperation, partnerships, and trust. A person who does business for the good of people (not just money).

So how can you grow your business while following the key principles of the New Entrepreneur?

It's time to get real.

We see businesses, big and small, trying to cover the whole World with their promotion. They create omnichannel presence, pay for social media ads and try to reach out to thousands of people they've never met. Think of how many advertisements do you see during the day? Online, on your phone, on TV, on billboards, in your email box… Way too many.

If you do what everyone else does, you will get lost in the noise and spend most of your time managing your online presence. In reality, the overwhelming number of offers of the same product or service pushes people to pick somebody they know. Somebody their friends know.

Instead of hiding behind your laptop building websites and social media campaigns, get out there and talk to people. Be genuine in your interest to them and your desire to help. It's proven by practice that the biggest orders are given to people who build good business relationships with their potential customers and maintain regular interaction.

Back to basics: From global to local.

Nowadays, personal interaction with potential customers is where you "make it or break it." Be it a big brand or a sole entrepreneur, the clients make their decision to come to you, or come back to you, based on how you treat them. Imagine if a delivery person of a famous clothes company is rude to you - - you will think twice before ordering again. Or if you walk into a chain coffee store and nobody greets you with a smile - - you might even walk out without ordering.

We are connected with the whole world through the internet but most of us still have a stationary place where we spend most of our time. Do you know your local stores and restaurants? In the past, people would. Now, being connected to the global news feed, we miss out on the uniqueness of nearby entrepreneurs who are trying to make it.

If your business is a corner store, a local boutique or a specialty restaurant - keep your neighborhood informed. For example, bring a paper invitation to their mailboxes to come and enjoy your family restaurant. Not the typical loud offer with "99% off" and "2 for 1" but something where you share how much heart you put in what you do and how important their visit would be for you.

Wouldn't you come if somebody invited you like that?

There are no shortcuts to building trust.

We need to meet people in person before we can communicate online. The online doesn't have the capability yet to create a rapport. The chances of falling into a trap of anonymous ripoff are too big. The trust is built offline.

As a sole entrepreneur offering a service, you possibly don't need more than three or five clients a month. That is why your network - - people you know - - is becoming more and more important. If you focus your efforts on spreading the word in person and actively asking people you know to recommend you, you have more chances to find your five paying clients per month.

It is the opposite of trying to capture clients on the "cold" market where nobody knows you. It is also more demanding because you need to explain what you do in a way that your friend can understand and repeat back to their friends. Sometimes describing your service - - why a client would come to you and what they would get - - is the hardest part. It is often intangible and tailor-made. But if you can't explain it to a friend, how do you expect your online ads to reach the hearts of people you've never met?

These are just a few things you can start with. Every moment all of us are building the Business World of Tomorrow. We can decide what we want it to be. Creating new rules of the game starts with you and me. My personal belief is that the future of entrepreneurship is not just business anymore, it's personal.

PS: If your challenge is to find like-minded New Entrepreneurs, I invite you to reach out to me.

Wavy Line
Julia Skupchenko

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Head of SDG Partnerships and Reporting

Julia Skupchenko is an award-winning entrepreneur and sustainability leader with over a decade of experience in the field. She is the co-founder of the Think Tank AlterContacts, leading SDG Acceleration Actions recognized by the United Nations and awarded by the European Parliament.

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