Passion, charisma and putting customers first...the key to success for entrepreneurs
Q: What do you believe are the key skills required of a successful business entrepreneur?
A Now that's a difficult question! You may get many different answers to that depending on who you ask. From my perspective, I am pretty clear on the answer based on my observations over the past 50 years or so.
I would put passion pretty high up on my list. I have often met business owners whose energy and enthusiasm about their product is contagious and very often it can be one of the reasons that their business succeeds.
Having the charisma to motivate staff, to relate to consumers and to engage with the media are certainly all important abilities that originate from passion for one's business.
Keeping the customer at the centre of the decision-making process is a skill that not every business leader has. I have found that businesses which genuinely focus on the customer, tend to be more successful. This is especially true where the management team and the staff constantly put the customer first in the decision-making process.
Not every business owner is necessarily a 'whizz kid' on the numbers, but I have found that those business owners who recognise the importance of those numbers and surround themselves with key team members or advisers who ensure that someone is watching their back when it comes to finance and funding, are also more likely to become successful business entrepreneurs.
No doubt, there is a big long list of other buzz words I could use, but I am reasonably confident that if you apply the above to most business leaders you will find them strong on the attributes above.
Q I always read your Q&A in the Independent and find it very insightful. I am planning on bringing a sport nutrition brand to the market soon and I am looking for some advice. What pitfalls should I look out for?
A Thank you for your email. I am delighted you enjoy my weekly column.
The pitfalls you ask about are certainly evident and fall under a number headings.
The major error for many producers is that they don't invest in proper branding and try to design labels etc on the cheap.
The end result of this is that they produce a premium product, at a premium price with weak branding. Sadly, the customer fails to get a clear message about the product, and ends up leaving the product on the shelf. Make sure you invest in a good brand designer.
Getting your price model correct is critical. Some early stage producers don't understand the steps involved in working out an accurate price model and find out further into their journey, that they haven't allowed enough to cover both their own costs and margins for retailers etc.
This can ultimately end up with the producer losing money.
Getting product costings accurate on the day is imperative. The final, and most critical error, is not consulting with the consumer as part of your product development.
Customer input on the product itself and proposed branding and packaging is a vital part of your assessment.
I would also recommend that you talk with your Local Enterprise Office about completing a food specific programme like Food Academy etc which are designed to provide guidance on the above.
Good luck with the new brand, I wish you the best with it.
Q I'm a freelance web developer and I am well respected. I work for a few digital agencies. The agencies I work for charge their clients huge fees but I only get paid a small percentage of that. I love freelancing but I need to be able to get these high-paying clients myself if I am to move my business on. Do you have any advice on how I can make the move?
A It's always a challenge to attract high-paying clients, especially when you have not been known to these clients previously.
I have no doubt the large agencies make a good profit on your work but do think through the additional costs that they are absorbing right now, which you don't have to the same degree.
These include paying for insurance, administration, office space, marketing etc.
You will have to take all of these on-board in your own business so this will need to be part of your business plan. That's my first message, create a robust business plan which will identify the opportunity gap and quantify how big it is.
Selling yourself and your service will involve being a master at marketing and salesmanship.
Create a portfolio with lots of examples of your great work and get it out to potential clients in the market.
You probably need to think about any trade shows which you could exhibit at too. As a web designer, you should be an expert at digital marketing so no lessons needed there.
It might be a good idea to have a look at potential client websites and pinpoint the ones which are weak, and where you could bring about great change.
Target these with calls, emails etc and suggest where you could improve their business.
Your big job is getting yourself known. Clearly you are an expert at what you do and now you must become a marketing and networking expert too.
I have found in the past that many brand design companies choose not to get involved in web design but have a partner they can refer clients to. Obviously, some stick a margin on this which is what you are referring to, but others simply prefer to have a reliable third party partner that they can pass clients onto.
Talk to as many brand design agencies as you can and seek out the ones with no web design service. See can you find one who are interested in a partnership.
Good luck with the project.