OK, now you have taken the plunge into entrepreneurship. Now that you have a business plan and vision it is time to execute. You are excited about the future because you have a product or service that you know will sell. There is only 24 hours in the day and you have to be the CEO, receptionist, salesperson and the bookkeeper just to name a few. The question now is, how do you get everything done that needs to be done?
The early stages of your business are extremely important and establishing key relationships early on is an extremely important asset for your survival. Being an entrepreneur is not easy and being a sole proprietor is almost impossible without developing key strategic business relationships. This is why it is so important to start a business with a program and process specifically for developing and cultivating business relationships.
The challenge is finding a way to get everything done without totally obliterating your operating budget. (Will you be able to operate, manage, and promote your business at a level that will bring you success and growth?)
Business relationships are a good way to get immediate feedback on the value of your product and service. Also, it will reduce your learning curve and expedite your ability to obtain the knowledge you need to run a successful business.
Business relationships can vary and you should use that strategically to enhance your business.
Business confidants are the individuals in your circle that are great business people and great friends. You have had a relationship with them for years and you value their relationships. These people are good mentors and the ones that you can share information about the internal operations of your business. They are the ones that you trust for honest feedback, transparency and constructive criticism. (It is important to give these individual the okay to critique your business and give the hard feedback that you need.)
Business mentors and champions are key relationships that you must have in a business. It would be great if these individuals were personal friends and experts in business, but most of the time that is not the case. In most cases, your mentors may come out of professional relationships and interactions that you have had in your previous professions or endeavors. Mentors are people that know the quality of your work and your character, which is very important. Mentorships are much more strategic and less relational than the ones with your confidants. In many cases, your meetings and time-frames are planned out, and you are gathering to discuss a specific area where you need help and guidance. Mentors can help you to overcome those learning curve challenges that occur early in the business. Business mentors and champions will bring you the most value because they can create opportunities and open doors for you in the market. They can be a connector and provide the gate to key business relationships for clients for your business.
Business Coaches and Consultants can be very beneficial to you especially in the startup stage of your business. In the business world today, many entrepreneurs, owners, corporate executives and professionals are hiring a business coach or a consultant.
A business coach helps clients to create success by focusing on personal development; time management; self-sabotaging behavior (like procrastination and distraction); finding clarity; decision making and getting into action.
A business consultant works with clients on strategy planning and problem solving, and helps clients develop business skills and knowledge. These topics range from designing a business model or marketing plan, to determining which marketing techniques to use and how to use them.
Today there are business coaches and consultants in abundance. Using either can be more of a business service than a business relationship. In most cases, you will pay for a coach or consultant who will be able to give you valuable knowledge and help in specific areas of need. It is important to note that, when using a business coach or consultant, you will have to invest more time in making sure that they understand your business and your vision. In doing so, you may have to share some internal information about your business. If this is the case, make sure that you have them sign a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement.
You may have to interview several candidates to find someone that you are comfortable with. (In this arena, trust and transparency is just as important as knowledge and skill.) There are a lot of business coaches and consultants in the market, but some look at coaching and consulting as just another revenue stream. Make sure the coach or consultant you hire has the passion, desire and skill to provide what you need. It is good practice to interview at least three potential candidates to have a process for comparison of abilities, past experiences and personalities. Also, it is important that you request referrals from each candidate.
Finally, I suggest seeking out a candidate who has actually done what you are planning to do for your business. There could be someone in your circle that have all of the knowledge and information that you need that might not be in business as a coach or consultant. Ask if they would be a coach for you. A retiree could be a great candidate and could possibly have years of business knowledge and experience. These individuals could be very effective because they can willing share information and resources because they are out of the game and are not looking to gain anything.
Alliance Partners are the most strategic relationships you can have in your business. This strategy could be your lifeline until your business is developed and established in the market. Developing business alliance partners should be included in your overall business plan. Not only should you understand your market and your target base, but you should also identify businesses who serve the same target base with products or services that complement yours. So, if you have created hair care products, you should strategically have beauticians, Barbershop & Beauty Shop owners as strategic partners. Having business alliance partners give you more channels to get your product and service to the market. It expands your ability to brand your company and most importantly, create more sales opportunities.
The key to a successful alliance is to make sure that all parties have an equal opportunity to succeed. All parties should be committed to supporting and promoting each other and developing special products and services or having events together are creative ways that both parties can have skin in the game and share in the wealth.
Developing great alliance partnerships take work. A strong alliance may take meetings, conference calls and research to determine whether it is the right match or not. This could take weeks or months, depending on the level of the relationship that you already have with the potential partners, and the maturity level of each business. It will take discipline and work to develop the relationship, but if it is setup correctly and both parties are committed, it could be extremely beneficial and lucrative.
Last but not least, if you are a sole proprietor in business at this time, I encourage you to incorporate virtual assistants into your business model. (I will write an article just on this topic in the near future.) Having a virtual assistant will bring cost to your business, but don’t go without help just to save money. Not having the right support will cost you money in the long run. Like finding a good coach or consultant, finding a strong and committed virtual assistant company will take time. You can get a lot of information from researching on the web and there are also companies that will help you locate good assistants. There are also some great online virtual assistant or freelance service providers that you can use to assist. The important thing is to do your due diligence and seek referrals. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are using these services these days, so seek out referrals from your business partners and associates. They can help steer you in the right direction.
I cannot stress enough, the importance of having strong business relationships as a business owner. You should seek out relationships from day one. By doing so, it will help you to overcome challengers quickly and keep your business on the road to success.
Darrell C. Spears
Business Success Strategist