This is a post that I orginally wrote for Microsoft Small Business.
To be an entrepreneur…challenging, exciting, life-affirming, adventurous. It's all of these experiences and more. You learn so much about yourself, and gain a clearer understanding of what you're made of. If the old saying is true, that we birth our future with every act of kindness, then the same can be said for acts of economically constructive business. Entrepreneurs step up to this plate everyday: inspiring, conceptualizing and educating the next generation.
Though the role of small businesses remains strong, it is natural to have concerns about the evolution of twenty-first century commerce. What will it look like 10 years, 20, 50 years from now, and how can you prepare for those changes? A valid concern, to be sure. With so much happening on the world stage, I decided to talk with some entrepreneurs about what they felt everyone in their profession should know. They gave me great tips – accented with historical wisdom, but configured and updated for the beginning of what will surely be a dynamic millennium.
Image Courtesy of RevUp UNC
Network Without Borders – Never let artificial barriers prevent you from connecting with people from different backgrounds and regions. As marketer Porter Gale points out, you never know if the person next to you on a plane or in a grocery store or at function can be the one to connect you to your next big project. Wherever you are, always have your "network" cap on. Organize events, and attend functions related to what you're passionate about.
Be Patient – The statement "slow and steady wins the race" is always applicable. We live in a culture that wants it now, right now! An immediate return on investment. But business requires you to be measured and thoughtful about where you are going and what it will take to get there. To the serious, action-oriented small business owner – interested in longevity, success and relevance – a healthy degree of patience is a necessity.
Listen, More Than Talking – We learn so much more about customers and their preferences if we listen. There is no glory is creating a business with great intentions and making assumptions about what customers want. That's a recipe for disaster. Listening more means your business gains insight, eventual respect, and something every successful business is built on: loyal customers.
Collaboration Is Good – There is nothing wrong with looking good individually. Look good, and do good! But whenever possible, partner with another business on an online campaign, a community event, or perhaps on a cooperative advertising venture. Partnering with other businesses has been one of the biggest trends over the last decade, and I expect that to continue well into the future. It gets people talking.
Pay Close Attention to Disruption – Industry watchers and small business supporters will tell you: be on the constant lookout for "disruption". What is disruption? It creates a new market, and often goes on to absorb and replace an existing market. This takes place a great deal in the tech industry. And because technology is an integral part of small business, disruption can tremendously impact your bottom line. Follow the trends as closely as you can (through publications like GigaOm and ReadWriteWeb) because you never know, there could be a great opportunity with your name on it.
Entrepreneurs shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. Fail your way to success! Learn more, elevate your brand, make a difference, connect with the right people, and invest in your dreams. To be dynamic is to be an entrepreneur. Let's go!