The third edition of SFAN Live Chat was held on January 14, 2017. This brilliant meeting hosted two highly esteemed global business leaders and serial entrepreneurs: Romeo Effs — The Business Gladiator, Strategist & Fixer — founder and CEO of Empire Builders, and Anie Akpe, founder of IBOM LLC, Innov8tiv, Women In Tech Africa and NetworqApp.
Here are five key things we took away from the discourse:
• Before you launch, create a vision for your business
Ask any sailor or captain, he’d tell you that you can have the best airplane or the best ship in the world but if you don’t have a compass to navigate your way, the entire crew will keep drifting endlessly. The same is true for your business. When you think of launching a business, Anie says, you have to ask yourself the following questions: “what is the purpose? Who is interested in what am creating and will they buy what am offering?” This thought process will help you to align your business with a great vision.
But, in defining the vision for your business, you must ensure that you include vivid images and signposting.
“I’ll use myself in this instance”, she continues, “My goal is to lose weight. In order to lose weight, I have to have a vision of what I want to look like. From that image, I now know what is my projected time frame? So with a business, you have to envision what you want to see in the next 1, 3, 5 or 20 years. The time frame helps in bringing your vision to clarity. No vision or dream is too big”.
• On financing — think outside the box
Robin Sharma once said that ideation without execution is a mere delusion. However, turning your idea into a viable product or service that is backed by a great team often requires a lot of funding.
Startup funding depends on which part of the world you are in, Romeo says, “Some markets are more mature than others. In the UK and USA, there are mature Angel Networks and government schemes to help entrepreneurs. In other parts of the world funding often come from family and friends or traditional places such as the bank or credit cards. Credit unions and Crowdfunding are equally other viable options. But, a brilliant way to finance your idea is to get an order and then walk into the bank or to someone with this order and ask them to fund it. You could also try invoice factoring if you get an order; ask customers to pay part up front, but in the absence of these, you have to look at personal things of value that you can sell to get money to put into the business”.
Speaking from over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship and corporate America, Anie underscores that a lot of successful entrepreneurs didn’t initially start their businesses with a lot of money. They started with mentors, worked from home, used part-time or contract staff, bartered and traded services — they used free software to market their businesses. “With a lack of startup funds, they used their creativity”, she says.
• On creating a culture of accountability — unleash the power of goal setting
According to a McKinsey report, among the biggest challenges faced by businesses trying to build their organizational capacity is the lack of accountability and buy-in. In order to get accountability, you’re going to need to set goals, Anie stresses. “Your Goals quantify and define what happens next. Now, questions you need to ask yourself as it relates to your team include:
1. What is the background and reason for establishing this team?
2. Who and how many people will be depending on the output of you and the team?
The more team members feel involved defining the answers to the mentioned questions, the more they will embrace accountability. Overall, make sure you focus on creating a consistent shared-purpose team environment”.
Contributing from Jacksonville, Florida, William Jackson emphasizes the need to ensure that your team is as passionate as you are on the business goals and mission.
• On key performance indicators — start with the rate of conversion
A lot of businesses fail because they do not use the right metrics in measuring performance. Depending on what your business is, Romeo says, the key metrics you should use to measure your growth are the number of leads, the number of completed transactions, the rate of conversion, the average sales value, the sales margin over products sold, and the cost of goods sold or cost of customer acquisition.
“Let’s state that business metrics should be compared to established goals or business objectives”, Anie says. “As a wise business owner, you must ensure that you have the right technology that helps you measure these key indices: Sales revenue (include marketing cost, price changes and discounts that you have given) and repeat business (customer loyalty)”.
On a traditional level, it’s imperative that you create benchmarks by looking at what is going on in the industry. Whether you’re a new or established business, you need to pay attention to your daily completed goals compared to the monthly and yearly goals.
• On maintaining consistency — internalize them
Romeo’s advice for maintaining consistency in your business process is that you make them a habit -get them entrenched into your business and team. Creating a consistent message could require that you “outsource the work to a professional to produce in batches in advance, and then reuse on all platforms. Find the right technology to enable efficiency and automate”.
Ultimately, you need to “know your ideal customer and build that tribe — the market where you will be selling. Build a consistent process to manage cash flow. Trust your gut and trust the process. Never stop; just keep stepping up and getting things done. Implementation is constant, it never stops — it is the entire journey not a phase of the journey. It is execute, evaluate, adjust, execute, evaluate, adjust and the cycle goes on and on”.
Anie buttresses the fact that there are free software to get started with at the initial stages of your business as it relates to your budget. “When a business is smaller it’s easier”, she says, “The best advantage for consistency is when you use it to measure your results — you can create accountability and consistent message about your company”.
In conclusion, if you want to jumpstart your business in 2017, it’s important that you create a vision for your business, remain consistent with your process, and research the tools and platforms that connect you with your target audience. “Stay focused! As the phrase goes; “Just do it”. Do your research and put fear aside”, Anie says.
“Ensure you have a strategy or roadmap to follow and get a coach or mentor to help keep you accountable”, Romeo concludes.