In 2014, I had the honour of winning Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40, an award bestowed by the Markham Board of Trade. That same year, they also gave my company, nvision, the Business Employer of Excellence Award. I mention these facts not to brag about myself but to set the groundwork for discussing what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in this day and age. I wanted to share some of the principles and strategies that helped me accomplish these things. Like most people, I didn’t start my business to win awards. I wanted to share my knowledge, make a contribution, and make a good living as well. I know there are many people who have similar goals. Money wasn’t the driver for me, helping people succeed in their digital marketing journey is what really fuels my fire.
Are You Suited to be an Entrepreneur?
Long before I won any awards or even started my business, I had to make the decision to become an entrepreneur. Not everyone is suited for this path. There’s nothing wrong with being an employee and many people are content in this role. I’ve long known that I wanted to start a business of my own and perhaps this is your goal as well. My first attempt at it was when I was 8 and I started selling gimp craft material at my elementary school as a means of making new friends in a new community. Lo and behold, it worked. Something about selling a product that put a smile on faces in return for a few quarters must have sparked the entrepreneur in me to continue to pursue these sorts of opportunities.
Before you get started, I suggest asking yourself the following questions.
- Are you self-motivated? Many people like the idea of being their own boss but forget that this also means you need a high degree of discipline, motivation, and follow-through. Since no one is there to tell you what to do, it’s up to you to take the initiative.
- What’s the right business for you? Once you decide to start a business you need to hone in on the right industry and niche. Think about your areas of expertise and who you want to serve. In my case, I wanted to help other businesses create a strong online presence so a digital marketing agency was the obvious choice. Aside from doing something you’re passionate about, make sure it serves a real need and solves problems for a large audience. Digital is still in my opinion a long ways away from it’s capacity. Think about the traditional television advertising market today which is an 80 Billion dollar industry! YES! 80 BILLION! Who these days even watches commercials? Our immediate go to is our smartphones the moment a commercial comes up! Guess what, it’s just a matter of time that all that money is going to get recirculated back to digital!
- Who are your customers? This is related to the above question but is more specific. For example, my business specializes in targeting businesses that want to build distinctive brands. Our creative and customized approach isn’t right for everybody but we are an ideal match for some. You need to think about your audience before you even start building your business. This influences everything, such as the design of your website, physical space (if you have a store or other brick and mortar business), and the style of your marketing, etc. Everything needs to be tied in to speak to the target audience.
- Should you start your business part-time or full-time? One of the biggest questions new entrepreneurs face is whether to quit their day jobs and go all-in with the business or keep their jobs and start a business part-time. There’s no right answer to this. It depends on many factors, such as your financial situation, how much capital your new business requires, and how committed you are to the endeavour. I started my business while working days, and hustling nights. Once I got to a point where I could sustain my lifestyle, it was time to give it a go full time.
When people ask me if they should start a business, these are the first questions I ask them. Of course, these aren’t questions to answer in a casual conversation. I actually tell people to carefully consider these issues and be very honest with themselves to set the groundwork for being a successful entrepreneur.
What it Takes to Succeed (Loaded Question)
Starting a business is only the first stage. As I’ve found, both with my own business and the many I’ve worked with over the years, there are quite a few challenges that you can expect to face over the course of the entrepreneurial journey. The awards I won came as a result of my agency successfully helping businesses find their stride and create brands that stand out and truly serve their customers. Here are some of the main criteria that can help any successful entrepreneur and business thrive even in the most competitive industries.
- Keep learning about your customers. As I noted in the previous section, you have to identify your target audience right from the start. However, this isn’t simply a one-time process but one you must constantly work on. Pay attention to feedback on your blog and social media pages. Ask questions about your customers’ problems and preferences. Create polls and surveys to find out what people want. These habits help you constantly refine your understanding of your customers so you can better serve them.
- Pay close attention to your analytics. It’s crucial to measure your results, whether it’s regarding social media, email, organic content, or paid advertising. For example, it’s essential to know metrics such as click-throughs on email marketing campaigns, customer acquisition costs, and customer lifetime value. I notice that many businesses simply put out content and experiment with ads without conducting any thorough analytics. With this approach, you can waste lots of time and money on ineffective strategies. The purpose of analytics is to show you what needs changing and to do more of what’s working.
- Make customer service a priority. How you treat your customers is just as important as the quality of your products or services. One of the things that really sets successful businesses apart is that they make customers feel valued. This is how you build loyalty and grow your business. Make sure people can easily reach you and that you or your staff respond to issues in a courteous and knowledgeable way.
- Build a distinctive brand. When my agency works with businesses, we emphasize the need to create a unique and noticeable brand. If you are hard to distinguish from your competitors, it’s going to be hard for you to attract loyal customers and grow. Your brand name should stand out in everything you do, from your website design to your ads.
- Create a positive company culture. I’m especially proud of the Business Employer of Excellence Award because it affirmed that I achieved one of my biggest goals: creating an environment that fosters the growth and success of all my employees. This is an important consideration for every business. It helps you as well as your whole business. When the people around you feel supported, they’ll stick around longer and contribute their best efforts. This is a recipe for success.
Being a successful entrepreneur is not a simple matter. It requires more than doing one or two things right. It’s getting all of the elements to work together -brand image, company culture, customer service, marketing, analytics, and more. The challenges of doing all this, especially for newer businesses, is one reason many entrepreneurs turn to agencies such as mine for help!
Looking back at the exciting experience of winning the Entrepreneur Under 40 and Employer of the Year awards gave me a chance to reflect on some of the biggest issues and challenges I’ve faced over the years. Even though it’s not always easy to run a business, I wouldn’t trade it in for any other lifestyle.
At nvision, we are your digital marketing experts. To learn how we can help you engage more effectively with your customers and grow your business more quickly, contact us.