Why do people start their own businesses? The trite answer of course is that they are seeking fame and fortune – most of the businesses I speak to would deny that fairly emphatically but before we dismiss the statement let’s look at it in more detail.
The dictionary defines fame as:
The state of being famous; renown or recognition
Well, let’s leave aside the state of being famous – not least because I personally despise the current trend for programs like the X-Factor which seem to me to foster the concept that anyone can become famous (and by so doing become rich) by making an idiot of themselves on primetime television for three or four minutes. I despise it because it implies that there’s something wrong with getting where you want to be by the application of planning, determination and sheer hard work.
Let’s consider the definitions renown or recognition. Most of the businesses I speak to would wish to be renowned for the quality of their product or service and do look for ways they can achieve this. Most of them also would wish to be recognised for what they do and this is one of the areas where I can often help them.
One of the exercises I often do with my clients is to look at their advertising and marketing efforts; things like classified adverts and business cards.
I’d suggest that if someone who requires their product or services just happens to pick up one of their business cards or looks at one of their classified adverts, would they immediately know what the business did; would they be able to find out more about the business (perhaps by visiting the web site); would they immediately perceive the business as being professional; would they be able to find the business easily (if they wanted to visit it) or contact it?
I’d suggest that they try to think of their business cards or adverts as unpaid salespeople – they need to be smart, eloquent, knowledgeable and, most important, out there selling. There is absolutely no point in printing hundreds of business cards and then keeping them in their box. Hand them out at every opportunity; send them with every letter, invoice or any other business communication; leave them in appropriate places; pin them to notice boards – make them work.
I think that the acid test is this. Imagine for a moment that you are in need of a specific product or service. You are walking down the street when you notice, on the ground in front of you, a business card. You pick it up and look at it and immediately realise that it belongs to a supplier of the product or service that you are in need of. Your most likely reaction is that you would bless the luck that made you pick up the card and you would immediately call or visit the owner of the card to see if you could get what you wanted.
Of course, if you had picked up the card and not realised that the owner of the card was a provider of the product or service that you needed because the card didn’t make it clear then you would probably just throw it away!
Looking at the fortune part of fame and fortune
The dictionary definition of fortune is:
A large quantity of money or possessions
Luck, destiny or fate
The experiences, good or bad, that a person undergoes
Do most business owners start off with the concept of earning a large quantity of money or possessions? My experience is that whilst many would jokingly say that they did, the reality is that it is seldom the main motivator for starting a small business – which is just as well because not that many small business owners do end up earning a large quantity of money or possessions!
How about luck, destiny or fate? I have to say that I’m not a great believer in destiny or fate but I do think that luck can have a great bearing on a small business – on the other hand I also think that there’s a whole lot we can do to influence our luck.
For example it would be easy to say “gosh that’s really bad luck” when a lightning strike hits the company computer and wipes the hard disk destroying all the company records, all the marketing materials and all the customer information. On the other hand if the business owner had planned for just such an eventuality and had regularly backed-up the computer and, furthermore, had a planned recovery process in place then it would go from being really bad luck to a minor inconvenience. Once again, this is an area that I look at with my clients – disaster planning and where the potential vulnerabilities of the business lie.
Actually, I would say that one of the main areas where I work with my clients is planning – looking at where there business is at present; discussing where the business owner wants to take the business and planning a route to get from one place to another. Hence the name of course – Charting Success – setting out a route for success.
And that just leaves the final part of the definition of fortune; the experiences, good or bad, that a person undergoes.
Speaking as someone who has run his own businesses for over 20 years I can attest to the fact that, at times, it can be a lonely, stressful and unpopular position to be in. On the other hand it can be rewarding (both emotionally and financially), satisfying and tremendous fun. On balance I would highly recommend the experience but I would also say that it can be made a lot less stressful if you relax, get a business coach (well I would say that wouldn’t I?) get some helpful tips (and by pure coincidence I have a really useful book of hints and tips to help your business that is available from this website – yet another coincidence) and generally exercise a huge amount of common sense.
And if you know of any other business owners who would like some guidance on their road to fame and fortune please do give them my details – thank you.