For students across the country, the lazy days of summer are coming to a close and a new school year is right around the corner. As an entrepreneur, you can learn a lot more than you think from back-to-school season. Here are school-inspired tips to apply to your business strategy.
Do your homework & Go for extra credit
While no small business is guaranteed to be successful, one thing that will improve your odds is doing your "homework." For an entrepreneur, this means thoroughly researching your competition, financial options and target market, as well as putting a solid business plan in place before you launch your startup. You'll have a much easier time passing the big tests of a startup — the elevator pitch, your marketing strategy, the first sale — if you're thoroughly prepared.
Providing exceptional customer service and going the extra mile for your customers can make all the difference in getting repeat business. Respond to questions and concerns quickly express your appreciation for their business and take the time to talk to your customers to learn about them and what they want. Friendly, personal interactions will earn you a solid "A" in your clients' minds (and probably a nice profit in your bank account, too).
Teacher knows best
Mentorship is extremely important for entrepreneurs, especially when they're first starting out. You can really learn a lot from someone who's been in your shoes. A mentor can put you in touch with industry connections, help you through your startup growing pains and give valuable insights for your present and future business goals. Even if you don't agree with all the advice you're given, respect your mentor's willingness to share the time and energy to help you learn and grow as a business owner.
You can't be too prepared
Remember when you moved into your first college dorm and thought you brought way too much with you, only to discover that the extra screwdriver you packed came in handy mid-year? Similarly, you can never be too prepared when it comes to running a business. Even if it seems like you're overthinking, it's good to be ready for even the most unlikely of situations. What will you do if you don't raise all the funds you need? What if one of your team members unexpectedly bails on you? What if you need to rethink your entire branding strategy? Knowing what to do in the event of a crisis will help you navigate any obstacles you might encounter.
As parents peruse the office supply stores to get everything needed to prepare their students for the year, you too should be hitting the necessary school list. Must have items to add to your shopping cart are typically bookkeeping system, a CPA or equivalent, marketing plan, business plan, cloud storage, website developer or diy platform, time and task tracking software and project management software are all key supplies to have when beginning and running your business.
You won't always stick to the syllabus
Think of your business plan as the syllabus for your startup. Like the syllabus for a class, your plan includes a description of your company, what you'll need to run the business, and your long-term goals. And like a class, your business might end up taking a slightly different path than you had initially anticipated. Maybe you didn't meet your first-year projections, or you ended up having to change directions on a project halfway through. While having a clear-cut strategy is crucial, part of running a startup is being able to adapt when things don't go according to plan. Students learn some of the most important and inspiring lessons when their professor veers from the syllabus; the same could be true of your business.
Failure is not defeat
In school, one failed test doesn't mean you should drop the entire class. Similarly, in business, one misstep doesn't necessarily mean you should give up on your entrepreneurial venture. Take the experience and learn from it. Retrace your steps and figure out exactly where you went wrong. If you have the resources to immediately try again, do so, while employing the knowledge you gained from your mistakes. If you can't keep going right away, hold onto that knowledge and wait for your next opportunity.
You're never done learning
You might have thought you knew everything while you were in high school, but you quickly discovered you were wrong. Having a successful startup doesn't mean you have nothing left to learn about entrepreneurship. Always be open to lessons from others in and out of your industry. The world is like a university, and your business is just one small course in it. You can learn anytime in your entrepreneur journey and finding the right place to find that education is the starting point. Many local organizations like SCORE and WESST provide tremendous consulting, training, mentoring, workshops and networking events that ensure you will succeed in your business. Organizations like SVEDC and AED help support healthy economic development in their various areas. Nationally, businesses like SBA can provide education, financial assistance and tools that aid your business in any stage of the game.