Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Andrena Sawyer. Andrena is an entrepreneur, author and consultant committed to helping women entrepreneurs succeed. She is the president of P.E.R.K. Consulting, a small business consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. For more information, visit: www.perkconsulting.net.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR BUSINESS IDEA IS A BAD IDEA?
Andrena Sawyer: Businesses exist to meet a need. No matter how good someone thinks their idea is, if it does not solve a need, it’s worth considering whether it’s a hobby and not a business venture. Without a clear need in the market, you don’t have a customer base, which ultimately means that you are not able to make any money. In my experience, an idea can sound far-fetched, but if it meets a need, it becomes viable. The challenge for a lot of new entrepreneurs is not the idea itself, but the execution of the idea.
SmallBizLady: WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT LESSON YOU LEARNED IN YOUR FIRST YEAR OF BUSINESS?
Andrena Sawyer: In my first year of business, I quickly learned that you should not be all things to all men. I was eager to create a customer base and to make my idea profitable. I lowered my prices way below our competitors, and while that lured some customers, it hurt our company over time. As we tried to increase our prices to meet up with the cost of production, we faced some backlash from customers that were used to our low price point. This also affected our confidence when it was time to pitch our price point to new prospects.
SmallBizLady: WHAT CAN AN ENTREPRENEUR DO TO SET BETTER GOALS?
Andrena Sawyer: Create an accountability system. Practical accountability systems might include visual reminders of your goals, scheduling check-ups on your progress, or designating a team member to monitor your progress. Being intentional about your goals by creating these systems takes you from a reactive stance to a proactive stance, which increases your chances of success.
SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU THINK KEEPS MOST PEOPLE WITH A BUSINESS IDEA FROM ACTUALLY TAKING THE LEAP?
Andrena Sawyer: I think fear keeps many people from taking the entrepreneurial leap. Many people can appreciate the comfort of a steady paycheck, the camaraderie of an office, or benefits like health insurance. Entrepreneurship is a risky pursuit that may not include any of those comforts initially. The concern in understandable, but I believe that the rewards are great for those that do take the risk.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR ENTREPRENEURS THAT ARE JUST STARTING?
Andrena Sawyer: Many entrepreneurs initially struggle with finding their niche. Part of the charm of entrepreneurship is that you have full creative license to create whatever your mind envisions. Because of this, some entrepreneurs struggle with creating parameters for the work they do. This can result in challenges with branding and product development.
SmallBizLady: FOR OWNERS THAT LEAD A TEAM, WHAT IS ONE WAY TO MOBILIZE OTHERS ON YOUR TEAM TO MOVE FROM IDEA TO IMPLEMENTATION?
Andrena Sawyer: Create rewards. Rewards are good for morale, and a happy team is a productive team. As your small business team sets goals, create rewards that highlight performance, promotes collaboration and other values that are important to your company. The rewards do not have to be financial, but consider ways to encourage action, rather than just discussions.
SmallBizLady: DO YOU REGRET STARTING A BUSINESS?
Andrena Sawyer: Absolutely not. Since I started my businesses, there have been incredible highs and lows—just like with any other pursuit in life. The highs of owning a small business motivate me to continue to keep pushing and scaling my business. The “lows” have taught me tremendous lessons that have made me a better person, friend and business owner.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR THOSE THAT ARE FEARFUL OF TAKING THE LEAP?
Andrena Sawyer: While entrepreneurship is inherently risky, you can mitigate some of the risk by planning well. There is no rule that says you have to dive right into business. You have the option to begin as a side hustle while you build your business until it can function in a greater capacity. Consider all of your options. It is also important to understand that you do not have to do it all alone. There are great local and national resources available to educate and equip small business owners. Do not be afraid to take advantage of those resources and opportunities.
SmallBizLady: WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF TRANSITIONING FROM YOUR PREVIOUS JOB TO OWNING A SMALL BUSINESS?
Andrena Sawyer: Initially, it was very difficult to change my worldview and habits from employee to employer. As a small business owner that built a team early on, I had the responsibility of juggling several roles simultaneously. It happened rather quickly, and adjustment was part of my daily routine. As an employee, my sole responsibility was doing my job well. Changing my thinking and habits to stretch beyond what I was used to required daily adjustment.
SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Andrena Sawyer: Freedom. I enjoy freedom on all fronts—freedom to create work that I am proud of, freedom to build my vision, and freedom to own my successes as well as challenges. Entrepreneurship has taught me that many of my perceived limitations can be defied.
SmallBizLady: SHOULD BUSINESS OWNERS SET NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
Andrena Sawyer: Goal planning should happen more than once a year for business owners. When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, only about eight percent of people actually accomplish their goals. If you insist on setting a goal in the new year, be flexible. Recognize that things may not always go as planned, but many times that can be a good thing. Flexibility opens the door for creativity to flow, and for open discussion on alternative approaches to solving your business needs.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER WHEN MOVING FROM IDEA TO IMPLEMENTATION.
Andrena Sawyer: Once you have decided that your business idea is viable, begin to map out a strategy for implementation. As you strategize and create goals, be sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Using this formula will break down the big task of implementation into bite-size, manageable action points.
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