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Are you Ready to Start Your Own Business?

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On February 28, 2016, I posted a blog entitled Passion (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/passion ). The objective of the article was to share my thoughts on one of the most important elements of career and personal success, the inner drive to achieve fulfillment and self-actualization. In the blog, I highlighted the importance of having a “passion’ for what you do. I was very pleased to receive some positive feedback on this piece and to learn that it inspired people to rethink their current positions and move to more fulfilling work environments.

I was reminded of this blog after reading, I left my corporate job, and these 8 things became clear (http://www.businessinsider.com/i-left-my-corporate-job-and-these-8-things-became-clear-2017-6 ). The decision to leave the corporate world to go in a different direction is not for everyone. I had the desire to move in a new direction several years before I made the decision to become an entrepreneur. Initially, as I started down the path, I was attracted to a new corporate opportunity and pulled back. Finally, I summoned the courage and “passion” to resist the temptation of a corporate job and launch a freight transportation consulting practice.

I am now in the fourteenth year of running my own business. This is what I can tell you about the experience. Every person has his or her own unique financial situation, level of risk tolerance and self-confidence, and set of skills and competencies. Unless one comes from an affluent background, has backers with deep pockets, or has a war chest to fall back on, almost everyone requires some level of consistent cash flow. If one transitions from the corporate world to academia, or to a small business that has an existing revenue and profit stream, this issue is of less concern. If an individual takes the leap into his or her business, or a start-up venture, with others, this issue must be carefully evaluated.

As we all know, there are few guarantees in life. Many new businesses fail. Some combination of poor business planning, weak execution, inadequate finances, and/or insufficient human resources sink many companies. On the other hand, the rewards of becoming a successful entrepreneur are extremely gratifying. The last 14 years have been among the most enjoyable of my career.

One of the most important pieces of advice I received, at the outset, was to not panic on a rainy day. In consulting, like many other businesses, there are peaks and valleys. During the peaks, you can be working seven days a week, to meet the demands of your clients. In the valleys, you must continue to perform your sales and marketing efforts and have faith that they will eventually generate new business. The downtimes require perseverance and determination. This can be difficult for some people. If an individual cannot take the bad with the good, being an entrepreneur may not be for that person.

A key first step in setting up a business is to determine how to differentiate it from the competition. The best advertising you can achieve is word of mouth referrals. Gaining customer endorsements comes from supplying a superior service or product. These endorsements or references supply you with repeat business and generate leads for other potential clients. Each entrepreneur must think about how to deliver a superior product or deliver a product or service that will provide momentum for the business.

It is also important to figure out how to stand out in a crowded field. I learned this lesson back in the 90s when I ran a mid-sized logistics company that had mastered the art of big league marketing. In the 21st century, small businesses, that have compelling websites with search engine optimization, gain a competitive advantage as do companies with superior social media skills. Since it is costly for a small business to hire sales personnel, communicating to target audiences on multiple social platforms, on a consistent basis, can be a powerful sales and marketing tool.

A third very worthwhile lesson I learned, through my own efforts, was the value of networking and partnerships. One of the biggest challenges for any new business is building a client base. We each have our own set of contacts. Being able to tap into other sets of clients and prospects, is extremely valuable. Partnering with quality companies in complimentary businesses, can open the doors to new sets of prospects, clients, and business. Moreover, by forming these partnerships, an individual or small business can raise its level of competence and bring a broader range of services to its clients and theirs, a true win-win. These partnerships allow small businesses to collectively, bring more value than either company can provide on its own.

Of course, in addition to partners, each company needs to hire great people who can provide additional value over what the individual establishing the business can provide on his or her own. This can be a bit of a trial and error process. Some people oversell their capabilities. They may have the work ethic and/or need the financial rewards, but they don’t meet the skill level required. These people need to be removed quickly to not damage the brand and reputation of your business. Over time, the key is to build a team of superior performers and discard people who are not able to deliver at the level required.

Another challenge in running a small business is learning when to say Yes or No to clients. If you do good work for your clients, they will often ask you to do things that either stretch your comfort zone or take you out of it. In some cases, clients will ask you to perform work that is not within your expertise. In these situations, it is very important to refer your clients, politely and appreciatively, to people who can do this work in a professional way. In other cases, your clients may lead you in the direction of offering new services that are an extension of your current portfolio. This can be enormously valuable since it can provide your company with a new stream of revenues and profits. It is important to be open and flexible to new service opportunities.

If you are comfortable doing public speaking, approach organizations whose members meet the profile of your target audience. Volunteer to give speeches and join some organizations that may provide you with networking opportunities. These opportunities can be great stepping stones to meeting new partners, suppliers, and partners. Staying involved with these associations over time strengthens the bonds with other members.

Being an entrepreneur has been a wonderful experience. I have had the privilege of working with clients from Mexico, Europe, the United States, and Canada. I have had the opportunity to visit all regions of Canada and the United States. I have met some remarkable people who have had a big impact on my life. I have learned a lot about various industries and about Best Practices in Freight Transportation, from both a shipper and carrier perspective. It has been a great experience managing my company’s business plan, cash flow and clients. Staring my own business has been one of the best decisions of my life.

 

To stay up to date on Best Practices in Freight Management, follow me on Twitter @DanGoodwill, join the Freight Management Best Practices group on LinkedIn and subscribe to Dan’s Transportation Newspaper (http://paper.li/DanGoodwill/1342211466).

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