There are many statistics that have shown that many businesses do not go beyond the “starting phase”, which literally means the first three to four years of their existence. According to a recently released report by Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs sponsored by Citi Foundation, there are different support system that have donned the Entrepreneur ecosystem in Lagos vis a vis Financial (venture capital and commercial banks), Infrastructure (co-working spaces), Professional(consulting, legal, branding etc), Business Development (incubation, capacity development), Policy (government & agencies) and Networks (associations) in a bid to reduce the rate of failure.
Eighty percent (80%) of these organizations currently provide the much needed support system to the start-ups in their incubation stage.
Most business owners struggled in the formative stage as running a business is quite tasking in this harsh business environment where you practically provide all the resources to run your business optimally. I was recently discussing with someone based in the UK and he told me that his bank reached out to him in the fourth month of running his business as they saw the cash flow being generated in his account thus offered him an Overdraft facility to boost the business capacity, this more than quadrupled his turnover. This would be a mirage in present day Nigeria with their low appetite for anything called “start-ups”.
You may have taken the plunge into entrepreneurship because you were not satisfied with your status nor being fulfilled or you just felt it was the right time to start a business and build a legacy. Be rest assured that at this stage, you will have self doubt about your decision, you will feel like calling it quit several times, you will doubt your capability to see it through and more than 40% will finally call it quit.
Let us be practical here, forget the hogwash on “it is good to be the owner of your business”, “if you do not pursue your dreams, you will be pursuing another man’s dream”. It is easier said than done as you have a lot of challenges to contend with especially when the funds you have saved starts getting depleted without any funds coming in, when you are already eight months in the business and you have less than five clients to show for it or when you get to pay salaries and you do not see the corresponding income being generated.
This can be frustrating and hallowing for many. In order to survive this stage, you will need grit, persistence and focus as well as a lot of courage to forge ahead in path where even lions fear to tread. However, here are some quick tips to succeeding in the first few years (incubation stage) of your business.
- IMPROVE OR SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS.
Develop a culture of continuous improvement. Read a lot and digest as well as put into practice new skills or knowledge you have learnt. You will need to be versatile as you are going to wear many caps for various roles such as being the Accountant, Business Development Manager, Managing Director and HR Manager. You cannot easily fit into these roles if you do not give yourself time to improve. Go for trainings that would impact on you and your company. You are the Chief Marketer of your company, the image and the alter ego. Knowledge boosts yourself image and confidence.
- BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT
Eliminate fear and work assiduously to silent the limiting beliefs that speak self doubt to your life. Napoleon Hill, in one of the many maxims ascribed to him said “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve”. You need to first believe in yourself and affirm this when negative narratives become the order of the day. Remain focused.
Preparation meets opportunity. One of the elements of management is planning. Learn to prepare and plan towards the actualization of your vision. What are the things that you need to put in place to meet your daily, weekly and monthly targets?. There is no better time than now. Work on objectives and milestones as this gives you room to assess and evaluate your performance. You need to learn how to spread your thin resources and you can only operate optimally by planning on how to efficiently allocate these resources.
- PUTTING YOUR BEST AT ALL TIMES
My secondary school motto was “my best in all things”. Irrespective of the return or reward, learn to put in your best. Give every task your best shot even if the return is low; deliver excellent services even if the fee was bargained lower than your usual charges. I have done trainings that i have made losses on due to the number of participants but that did not stop me from handling them as if the participants were more than ten (10) in attendance.
Several times during the first year, i had done recruitment for start-ups that i had, had to reduce my fees in order to meet my monthly target but despite this, i still gave in my best. Putting in your best at all times, will guarantee credibility and you would be surprised when unsolicited referrals start coming your way.
- FOCUS ON BUILDING EXCELLENT CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP
A satisfied customer is the cheapest form of advertisement for your business. It also guarantees a repeat business and sustainable income stream as it keeps flowing. Develop a customer-centric culture, know your customers, predict their needs and work hard to meet expectations. There is a saying i have come to love; that is, “under promise and over-deliver”. When i started my business, i tried to know much about my customers’ family, I will remember their children’s name, their favourite past time etc. This endeared me to them greatly.
These are some of the tips that can assist you in maintaining your sanity in the Incubation stage. You need a support system that can provide you the platform for exchanging ideas and brainstorming opportunity in order to create a clear path and better clarity in your business.
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Business & Life Coach.