Dozens of top career experts are gathering at the Career Thought Leaders conference in Baltimore next week. Wendy Enelow, a lifelong entrepreneur known for her work in executive coaching and resume writing, is both co-host and a speaker. SmartBrief Senior Editor Mary Ellen Slayter recently spoke with Wendy about what it takes to go into business for yourself. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.
MARY ELLEN: You’ve been in business for yourself for the vast majority of your career. To what do you credit your success as an entrepreneur?
WENDY: I was born to be an entrepreneur! My greatest mentor was my Aunt Jinx who was an entrepreneur back in the 1960s and 1970s when there weren’t a lot of female entrepreneurs. I realized early on that I did not want to work in a large corporate bureaucracy where I would be stiffled. And I can live with risk.
A seasoned HR professional comes to you, looking to start her own company. It could be a coaching service, a consultancy, or an idea for a new software product. What advice would you give her?
- Understand that half of your success will be attributable to your HR expertise. The other half is all about being a smart entrepreneur who can market, capture clients, build sustainable client relationships, etc. If you can’t capture and close clients, it doesn’t matter how great your services are.
- Know your target clientele. Know who they are (the demographics), where they shop (online or offline), how to communicate with them (what words work to move them to action).
- Know your money. Know where each dime comes from (what revenue channel) and know where each dime goes (where you spend it).
- Pay yourself first, even if it’s just a small salary or bonus. You must pay yourself before anything else. If you can’t eat and turn on the lights …
- Know where each and every client comes from. A referral, your Web site, a LinkedIn contact, a print advertisement? The only way to market, promote and advertise in the future is to know where your clients are coming from today and continue to nurture the channels that deliver the “best” clients.
Let’s say you have a great idea and you’re good at what you do. But “sales” terrifies you. How does a would-be entrepreneur get over that fear?
Take a course in sales, marketing, customer relationship management or public speaking. Consider attending a Toastmasters program so you’re more confident in your overall communications skills, as well as your sales communications. Practice selling to friends and colleagues who can give you feedback. Videotape yourself speaking, and identify what you can do to improve how you come across. Most important, if you’re confident in what you’re selling, the fear should just melt away.
For a totally different strategy, consider partnering with someone who loves sales and capturing clients, but either doesn’t have a service to deliver or doesn’t enjoy the delivery part.
The number of channels for marketing and advertising a business have grown exponentially. How do you decide what’s right for your business, especially if your budget is limited?
This ties back into clearly identifying your target audience. Once you know that, you can then determine where they hang out. If you’re looking to build a career coaching firm in your local region, then consider the Yellow Pages, attending local business meetings, or speaking at the local Chamber of Commerce gathering. Conversely, if your goal is to deliver coaching via phone and e-mail, then you’ll want to create a strong Web site.
The No. 1 expense in marketing is time. There are so many free avenues for promotion through social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Digg. The Internet gives every entrepreneur plenty of opportunity to build and nurture their online identity and, in turn, capture new clients.
Image credit, knape, via iStock