The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Identifying Your Customers’ Most Pressing Needs
After launching several startups, I’ve found that what really counts is knowing your customers’ most urgent concerns. Currently, I’m talking to many business owners who are trying to build their business credit, as that’s my company’s specialty. I’m asking people questions to find out what solutions my customers aren’t getting anywhere else right now.
Developing a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
When launching your venture, focus on your specific value proposition and how you can ensure you’ll deliver that to your customers long term in a way that your competition can not. Being mindful of the future can set your business up to meet important growth objectives. And in the right situation it can make your company an attractive acquisition target.
– Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC
Growing Fast, Yet Smart
Take a note from the Google playbook and implement ideas quickly and work on making them better on the back end. The speed at which you can operate will affect your growth rate, so get out new products and services that prospects and clients need. When you continuously work to improve your offerings after the launch, you’ll condition your team to always look for ways to be better and do better.
Giving Your First Customers the Royal Treatment
The first people to take a chance on you are the foundation of your business, and they need to be treated like royalty so that they’ll go out and spread the word. Even if you have employees handle it, be on top of the first problems your customers ever report — if only to make sure standards are understood and maintained.
Making Sure You Have Positive Cash Flow
In a time of cheap credit and endless unicorn valuations, many mistake an expensive hobby for a business. Until you are cash flow positive, you’re at the mercy of somebody else’s decisions, whether it’s your credit card company or an investor.
Marketing to the Right Audience
The most important aspect to focus on when trying to get a business off the ground is marketing. If nobody knows you’re in business, it can be discouraging when there’s no cash flow, and it makes it a difficult journey. Finding effective marketing strategies can really help a startup take off. It’s important that you see ROI, even if you aren’t profitable yet.
Hiring Your First Employee Immediately
My first hire was a student who worked a few hours a week. I was forced to be a manager and boss in the early days of the business. Additionally, I learned how to train someone, which is crucial in scaling the business. I also learned how to delegate and relinquish control of certain aspects. Having these skills in the very beginning of my business forced me to change my mindset for growing the company.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.