Is Business Ownership In Your Future?

The last time we met I told you about the U.S. Department of Labor’s prediction that within the next ten to fifteen years fifty percent of the American workforce will consist of home workers, independent contractors, consultants, telecommuters, freelancers, and of course, entrepreneurs.

Think about that for a moment, especially if you are a diehard nine-to-fiver who can’t imagine yourself leaving the comfort of a regular job to try something different. The workplace of the future is either going to be an exciting or dreadful place, and it’s up to you which side of the coin you fall on.

You see, what the Labor Department doesn’t say, but I believe to be true, is that those who find themselves earning a living in non-traditional careers will do so for one of two reasons: they either freely chose to throw off the shackles of the traditional nine-to-five or they were forced to do so because they were casualties of the future’s changing work models.

Layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, work force reduction, and position elimination: all very nice politically-correct terms that mean one thing: you had better be open to changing the way you think about work because, my brothers and sisters, the times they are a’ changing.

The point of our discussion last time focused on those of you who may one day choose the entrepreneurial path. There is a process for going from worker bee to entrepreneur wannabe and it begins with a healthy dose of self-assessment (look inward to determine if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur) followed by the determination of what kind of business best suits your situation and personality, how you will fund the business, and the writing of a solid business plan.

Now let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of the process: finding a location, lining up vendors, hiring and managing employees, dealing with customers, creating a marketing strategy … hmm, this could turn into a very long column. Let me see if I can abbreviate the process in four paragraphs or less.

If your business will be a brick and mortar, nothing is as important as location. What might be a great location for a shoe store might be a horrible location for a donut shop. What may appear to be a busy location in the morning might be a ghost town in the afternoon. You should rely on experts for this important piece of the process. Work with a commercial realtor or business broker to find a location that meets your specific needs.

Next, if yours will be a product-driven business, your success could hinge on the quality, price, and availability of the products you sell. You must establish strong relationships with reliable vendors who can provide an ample supply of the products your customers demand. Always be cultivating relationships with new vendors. Never rely on a single source for products because sources have a tendency to dry up over time.

Next comes the hiring and managing of employees. Like your location and product, employees can make or break your business. Knowledgeable employees who know the value of – and deliver – exceptional customer service are like nuggets of gold. Unfortunately, they are also as hard to find. Don’t hire your wife’s brother or your best friend’s son. It’s easier to find a new best friend than a new customer. Hire based on experience and expertise and train every employee well. Set expectations high and most important of all, lead by example, not by the book.

Finally, the big question: if you build it will they come? Afraid not, my new entrepreneur friend. You must have a killer marketing plan that will bring the world – or at least your piece of the world – to your door.

You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t tell anyone about it, you won’t sell a thing. Creating a killer marketing plan really isn’t that hard. Just ask yourself questions like: who is my target customer and what is the best way to reach them? What can I do to stand out from the crowd? What can I do differently? How can I get noticed? And how can I do that without spending an arm and leg on advertising? Two great books on this topic are Purple Cow by Seth Godin and There’s A Customer Born Every Minute: P.T. Barnum’s Secrets To Business Success by Joe Vitale.

Of course there’s far more to going from employee to entrepreneur than I can cover here in just a couple of columns, which is why I wrote a book on the topic called Everything I Know About Business I Learned From My Mama.

Shameless self-promotion aside, I hope this will help you decide if future entrepreneurship is for you. No matter what path you choose remember this: the workplace is changing. You must be prepared and willing to change with it or you’ll end up a statistic on another government list, this one stamped: Unemployed.