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Entrepreneurial Necessities (v1.1)

By Rusty Chatelain

Desire - If I could sum up this list with one trait an Entrepreneur must attain, that trait would be desire. Desire is defined as: "a longing or craving." Starting and operating your own business, no matter how much someone tells you differently, is a big task. Therefore, you must examine your desires honestly. What is it that drives you to step out on that limb and risk your time and money? Will the desire sustain your effort? Is it realistic? Are you knowledgeable in your choice of the avenue you use to reach your desired goal? What will your desire cost you? Monetarily? Mentally? In time invested? Relationships? Starting a business is easy!!! Sustaining it takes a lot of work and a worthwhile desire.

Knowledge - An entrepreneur must be knowledgeable about the products and services that will be the basis of his business. Only, how much knowledge is enough? All the knowledge you can acquire will help you better serve your customers' needs and will make you more valuable to them. must you be an expert in your field before you leap into your own business? While this is advantageous, it is not always practical. bUT, You must have the knowledgeable to adequately market and produce your products and/or your services. You must be able to service your customers!!! If you are unsure of your ability to do so, then back up and learn what it will take to provide the service. Don't make the mistake of soliciting customers before you are ready. On the other hand, don't make the mistake of not soliciting if you are knowledgeable of your products and are prepared to provide services! That's where confidence comes in to play.

Confidence - An entrepreneur's confidence level should be directly related to his competence. But exactly what is confidence? Confidence is termed as assurance. Assurance of your ability to provide your products and services is a must. Confidence is not always a trait easily found, but you must be able to project confidence to your customers. Your customers will be wary of dealing with you if you are seem to be unsure of what you are doing. This brings us back to "knowledge." The more you know and understand your business and your customers needs, the easier it is for you to show confidence. But you should be careful. Over confidence lends itself to complacency and stagnation. Your confidence should never bring you to the point that you stop learning, or make you think you know everything. Remember . . . there are always others who are willing to step in and take over if you falter. So, let your attitude be one of humbleness; ever testing yourself and learning more and more each day. Be the best you can be at what you are doing. This will create an innate confidence, and will help to keep your focus on bettering your business . . . instead of only living up to the competition.

Willingness to Learn - As implied above, as an entrepreneur you must be a continual learner . . . ever searching not only about the products you offer, but also about your customers. You will find, depending on your type of business, that each customer has different expectations of you. While this seems to complicate things, it may well be one of your best tools in learning how to service all types of expectations. Moreover, in most industries, technology drives change. If you are not willing to keep up with those changes, then you may be left behind. Willingness to learn requires a humble confidence that affords you the opportunity to learn from others in your industry. If you want to learn what pitfalls to avoid, there is no better place to find out about those pitfalls than from someone who has already found them. Learning in this manner can save you much time and money. Be willing to listen to advice, but always weigh it against your knowledge and experience. Watch market trends, keep abreast of changes in your industry, watch customer advertising, ask customers for feedback, and on and on and on. Continual learning makes you perpetually more valuable to your customers.

Self Motivation and Discipline - Are you a self starter? Do you wake up on time? Are you eager to complete tasks? It is often typical to be motivated when you first begin your business. The excitement and adrenaline of a new business start up is enough to keep you motivated. But, can you keep it up? Sometimes, the last thing any of us want to do is work. Having the initiative to service your customers is a priority you cannot do without.

Some suggestions to stay motivated:

Set some work hours. I have worked at home for some thirteen years now (Nighthawks Rebar Detailing). I went through a few phases. At first I felt like I was always at work. Then I felt like I was always at home. Both are extremes that are not conducive to a healthy work life. Now I work all day at the Rebar Detailing, and most of the night on my web dabbling www.nighthawker.com. What I suggest is to set some normal and realistic work hours. Usually these hours will revolve about your customers' need to reach you. There will be times you will deviate from these hours since certain projects require more or less time, but you should try to work within set perimeters. This will give your life more normalcy and will help to keep you fresh and motivated for the tasks at hand. Also, this will give your customers some consistent hours during which they can contact you.

Prioritize your work. Failure to prioritize your work can create problems and can make it necessary to cram your work in a short period of time. Look ahead at what needs to be done and make a list. Put the most important things at the top. Using this simple planning method keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. It also gives you a direction in which to work. And while you need to be motivated to complete the whole list, the focus is switched to completing one task at a time. Mark each task off as you complete it.

Take a break. When you need a break, take it! Often times we trudge through work without really focusing on what we are doing. Cloudy headed, lack of concentration etc., are all signs that you need to just push your work aside for a short period of time. Perhaps a short walk, a few minutes with your kids, or something else to divert your attention will help to get your mind back on track. The length of your break may vary. Twenty minutes may be all you need some days, but sometimes an afternoon off will be just what the doctor ordered. But remember, your work load is what will dictate the time available for free time. Don't abuse this tool, use it only when you need it.

Overload Yourself??? Some entrepreneurs work better under pressure. To some this may seem foreign but to others like myself, this at times is a necessity. Just be careful, it's a tightrope and you must watch your balance. Depending on your type of business, overloading yourself could lose you customers. Be careful to take only the contracts which you can successfully service. Missed deadlines and failure to produce could damage your reputation. Caution should be taken when using this tactic as a means of motivation.

Be Available - Being in a service oriented field for the last thirteen years has given me an insight into the need of availability. When your customers need you, they expect to be able to reach you. They are not concerned about having to take your dog to the vet, or having to replace your car's brakes. They expect you to be there for them. . . plain and simple. For this reason, set your office hours and let your customers know that you will be readily available during those hours. If you will be away during your office hours, make sure your customers know that they can leave a message for you and you will get back to them as soon as possible. Voice mail, email, fax, beeper, mobile phone, etc., are all available options to keep yourself available to your customers.

Organize and Plan - On your mark...get set. . . Plan!!! It is not only important to plan and prioritize your daily work, but it is also important to plan and organize the rest of your business. What is your marketing strategy? What are your plans for growth? Have you planned financial strategies? While your focus needs to be on your daily tasks, you must also have some short and long term goals. Organizing these goals and your plan of action to achieve them is as important in your business as is servicing your customers. As with anything in life, your business needs direction. Lack of direction may not keep you from making a living, but it could keep your business from growing. You must decide (as the opening of this document states), what you want from your business. Of course you want it to be successful, but define what success means to you. Set your goals, then step by step, organize your actions in order to achieve those goals. Set realistic deadlines, make things flexible. If you set your goals so rigid that you cannot stop and reevaluate them, then you are setting yourself up for a possible letdown.

Be Flexible - Along with planning and organizing, you must remain flexible. Unless you are a seer of sorts, you never know what will happen each day. Regardless of your plans, and no matter how organized you are in your approach to achieve them, there is always something or someone who can change those plans; therefore you must remain flexible. Although your plans may have to change to accommodate the unexpected, your focus should remain on achieving your ultimate goal.

Be Decisive - When things become complicated, your organization skills and your flexibility will help you adapt to the situation. Sorting and weighing the pros and cons of your options are only part of the process; making a decision about what to do is the rest. Once you have explored your options and fully reviewed the situation, then make your decision and be comfortable with it. It's not like taking a guess, so there is no need to vacillate. If your decision needs to be reevaluated, then do so. There is no shame in doing your best, and having to reevaluate and make changes to your plans. It is part of being in business. . . and being alive.

Be Determined - "When at first you don't succeed, try, try again." To Be Continued!!!

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The author, Rusty Chatelain, is a crazy man... Self employed for some thirteen years now, spending eight or more hours a day detailing rebar (Nighthawks), and since March 1998.. spending most of the rest of his waking hours in pursuit of diversifying into the Internet industry.. by developing http://www.nighthawker.com (Above article edited by Jan Garner - Much thanks goes to Jan for taking my jumbled thoughts and making them presentable and coherent)

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