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Five Tips To Build Your Business Smarts

by Shonali Burke on July 29, 2010

Once upon a boot camp

the young entrepreneur with the growing company and the old advisor with many entrepreneurs as clients came together to talk about building a business successfully.

Image: (CC) Shashi Bellamkonda

Here’s what you can learn from their mistakes.

Blunder #1: Being too cheap in the early stages

Whether you are an individual or run a company, you need expert advice early to set your business up successfully. A small amount of guidance can save you time and help avoid major problems later.

Talk to a CPA, an attorney, your local economic development agency, check out the SBA, and even experts specific to your business, and learn the basics.

Don’t wait until the government is after you or you are facing your first lawsuit.

Being a business owner can be downright scary.  Spend a little upfront to reduce your risks – and raise your comfort level.

Blunder #2: Not learning all you can about marketing, branding, and selling

Selling scares a lot of us. Marketing sounds so expensive and confusing. And branding seems a little too hyped to be real.

Yet every solopreneur and entrepreneur needs to know how to use each of these effectively for their own work and success.

Fortunately, the resources to learn about these aspects of promoting your business effectively are easily available. Start with some self-education. There are a lot of great tools online and even at your local library.

Once you have a basic understanding, decide what is most likely to work well for you.

Define your needs and goals. Create a plan. Develop your materials. Hire those services you need for support.

Blunder #3: Not networking

Each of them told their friends about their new businesses. But that is not enough! You need to be actively engaging your network.

Take all that you learned in marketing and branding above and start actually talking to people about your brand and your new ideas. Ask for their ideas and suggestions. As you build, you can also ask for specific contacts and then referrals.

Get out there to relevant professional meetings and events.

Ask questions.

Make connections.

Go to local business events where your target clients are likely to be and do the same.

Learn about social media and how to use it effectively. This is a great way to build and maintain your networks while also enhancing your marketing. Develop a plan so it doesn’t become a time sink, though.

Blunder #4: Not knowing your full value

One realized

her clients were frequently surprised at her business acumen – somehow they expect her to only know one type of thing.  And so she realized she was not effectively conveying her full value to potential clients.

The other’s staff recognized before she did

what a great evangelist she was and how responsive potential clients were to her ideas.

It is vital that you figure out what makes you different and what added value you offer.

Talk with friends, past mentors, and others who know you well. Ask them for the 5-6 words that describe you and see which you can weave into your branding. Research what your potential clients are seeking.

Better yet, tap into your strengths and present them as solutions to issues clients face.

Blunder #5: Not learning from your mistakes

All business owners make mistakes. We’re only human, even if we have to pretend to be superhuman.

We mess things up and sometimes it takes us awhile to admit that we did. Many businesses continue to make the same mistakes instead of being open to realizing them and changing their ways.

Be a business owner who can see through pride, worry, excitement and exhaustion and see what needs to be fixed, where things could be better and how you could improve.

Be proactive. The more you learn about yourself and your business, the better chance you have to succeed.

These five tips are only the top of our list of unforced errors

… but they are among the most dangerous to your future success – and the most common!

If you are starting out, you can avoid them. If you are just going along or rebuilding your business, take 30 minutes a day for the next six weeks and start tackling them.

Lots of links to help you with whatever you’ve been needing. We’d love your comments and ideas!

Common Free Resources

  • Google Apps – email through your domain, calendars, documents
  • Google Voice – can forward to multiple phones & text/email you the written message
  • Mint.com – keep track of all your finances in once place
  • QuickBooks Online – allow access from anywhere to anyone in your company
  • TeamViewer.com – free screen-sharing software (downloadable or thru browser)
  • Aviary.com – stripped down design programs with ability to access from multiple locations
  • DropBox.com – online files storage syncs with multiple computers

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker, and executive with expertise in human capital. Launching a new Women Grow Business series on human resources for small business, Patricia is founder of Strategies for Human Resources. She helps small to mid-size organizations achieve their goals through more effective human capital strategy and management. She can be reached through her website SHRinsight.com, where archives for her ongoing management series can be found.

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc.. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.

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