Entrepreneur

Becoming a successful entrepreneur – is it only about the big idea?

I’m taking a stand with all the young entrepreneurs out there who have come up against some pushback when introducing a new business idea.

It’s a daunting prospect taking those first steps into launching a new business; however, if you’ve had the lightbulb moment, you’re already halfway there. Hopefully, some of the advice below – which has stood me in good stead over the years – will provide guidance and food for thought for any budding entrepreneur starting his or her business journey.

Identify and plug the gap in the market

Although obvious, it’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give. I identified a gap in the market when regularly visiting hangouts with friends. It became clear that some of these establishments required a Facilities Management (FM) company to look after the premises. I put a plan in place and was able to launch a company to bridge the gap.

There have been FM companies in this region for decades; however, it was about doing something different to fill that void. I analysed the competition and got an idea of what worked well for them and what didn’t. The result was to implement the best practices, combined with my own experiences, to create something different and unique.

A great example I recently read about was an Abu Dhabi-based start-up called The Concept. They have partnered with Etihad Airways to develop an IoT-based food tray that will help reduce food waste in the aviation industry. This is a fantastic idea that is unique and will have a long-lasting positive impact for the future.

The customer is king

The adage ‘the customer is always right’ is as relevant today as it’s ever been. However, for any budding entrepreneur, it’s essential first to identify who your customer or audience is. Many people will fall into the trap of thinking their product is for everyone and market it accordingly. This is a sure-fire way to failure.

Understanding your target audience, what it is they require and how your product or service will benefit them is key. So, do your market research. Social media can be a goldmine of information as people are far more likely to air their grievances when doing so behind a keyboard. Do your research, find out what people like and adhere to it.

Business plans

As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking of the next big idea and how to achieve it so the thought of putting a business plan together is pretty low down on my priorities. But, it’s a necessity. Putting a plan in place can help you project results and stay on target. Having a solid business plan not only underscores your intent to make it work but will also make all the difference in getting your business off the ground.

Mistakes will be made

I’m fortunate to have grown up around incredibly successful entrepreneurs. Listening to their advice has undoubtedly shaped my business acumen and whetted my appetite to become an entrepreneur in my own right. I can look to my family for guidance and mentorship; however, numerous sites can provide you with the help and direction you need.

Growthmentor, ThinkBold, Score, and Micromentor are just a few of the online platforms across a range of industries that provide access to handpicked mentors and experts in their field.

Don’t forget, mistakes will be made. It happens to the best in the world, so don’t be put off.

Utilise your network

I’ve previously spoken about the importance of your network. With a start-up, it is crucial. Their combined experience and insight alone are invaluable.

Maximise your networking opportunities, put yourself out there at events, business seminars, and social gatherings – a professional working relationship could potentially develop at any time.

My final piece of advice, or rather statement, is that starting a business and making it work isn’t easy. Seasoned entrepreneurs and billionaires such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have it all their way. Yes, they built global superstar companies, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Gates’ first product didn’t make enough money to cover the Microsoft overheads. The first Apple product was built in Jobs’ family garage with money from selling his Volkswagen minibus and Steve Wozniak’s programmable calculator.  Branson, I’m sure, would be the first to admit he faced several challenges and endured many failures in the early years. But one thing they had in common was they never gave up, and neither should you.

I’m certainly not suggesting that sticking to the above points is a foolproof plan to success. There’s so much involved in getting an idea off the ground. Hopefully, they give you a solid grounding and the confidence to take your business idea to the next level.

As ever, get in touch and let me know if these words of advice helped. It’s always good to hear about your success stories.

Gen Z

150,000 reasons why more than 50% of Gen Z in the US want to be entrepreneurs and why the workplace will need them

According to research carried out by Nielsen last year, over half of Gen Z who were interviewed – 54% to be precise – indicated that they wanted to start their own company.

So, what made one-in-two of this demographic want to start their own business?

Well, if they are living and studying in the US, here are 150,000 reasons to begin with. The cost of studying for a four-year undergraduate degree works out at $150,000 ($37,500 per annum).

The costs in the UK and the EU are similar depending on where you study. Even though it only takes three years to gain a degree from a UK university, the average cost is still around $100,000 and if you have enrolled at a university in London or another big city, living expenses can increase significantly.

So, little wonder that Gen Z students are thinking twice before going to university, given the amount of debt that they will be saddled with once they have graduated. During the Nielsen survey, budding Gen Z entrepreneurs identified taking control of their futures, having a purposeful life, being a good environmentalist and wait for it… a debt-free start to adult life, as the key drivers to pursuing life as an entrepreneur.

Most universities and colleges are also looking ahead to graduates of the future and their role in the job market. In 2018, the Institute for the Future predicted that 85% of the jobs that students would take on in 2030 did not exist. That looks highly probable. We only need to think of technological advances such as AI and IoT and the talent that is now required to operate in those fields. Think about the jobs for digital nomads.

So, it is little wonder that a significant portion of the Gen Z demographic is having second thoughts about whether college or university is absolutely necessary for them to achieve their career goals. Therefore, an idea that is gathering increased momentum is periods of study, work and then further study that will prepare Gen Z for their future careers.

According to Forbes, a study by TD Ameritrade in 2018 surveyed 3,000 US teens and adults, with around one in five Gen Z admitting that they may not go to college. And in some ways, they would welcome an unorthodox direction through their education.

In addition, more than 30% of Gen Z said they had considered taking a gap year between high school and college. Moreover, 89% of Gen Z had considered alternatives to a four-year degree course, after high school. To fill the void, companies are now moving into the role of educator to train people for the specific jobs they will need to be doing and keeping their skills relevant.

Firms like Google, Adobe, Hubspot, Microsoft and others offer students inexpensive or free certifications that provide job skill training. Gen Z students are asking corporate recruiters whether companies will help them acquire new skills to do their job. With Generation Z in mind, AT&T, Apple, Adobe and others are making job and skill training a priority.

Whether a gap year or work experience, tertiary education is a viable option. And it cannot be a coincidence that in 2018, about 7.6 million students were 25 years old and over. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that accounts for more than 30% of all college students in the US.

The time is right for Gen Z to lead the corporate world and become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and if any inspiration was required, they can take a leaf out of Mikaila Ulmer’s book.

After being stung twice by bees, she decided to do a bit of research and found out that the bees needed her help. She’d started selling her grandma’s flaxseed lemonade outside her house at the age of four, but added honey to the recipe. She was soon supplying to a local pizza parlour.

In 2015, the business took a leap when Ulmer started supplying Whole Foods with Me & The Bees Lemonade in an $11 million deal. Now in high school, Ulmer’s business has branched out into lip balms and she’s even served lemonade to former US president Barack Obama. Ulmer continues to invest 10% of her profits in bee conservation projects.

So, this is a classic lesson for all would-be Gen Z entrepreneurs from a 15-year-old – with no debt, complete control, purpose, and she is a good environmentalist!

I rest my case…

Generation Z

Generation Z, the art of conversation and networking

A message for Team Gen Z.

If like me, you were born anywhere between 1995 and 2015 chances are you have already been labeled – we are Generation Z, which is ironic because we all know how much we hate labels, it stifles our individual expression.

But anyway, who cares really, we know who we are, right?

Well that maybe so, but the older generations particularly Generation X, people over 40 years of age are likely to be our future bosses or seed investors. So, we not only need them to understand who we really are and what we stand for, we are going to have to reach out to them.

Now, being digital natives, open conversation doesn’t exactly come naturally to us. We were the first generation to grow up with technology and social media. To put that into perspective, the first iPhone was only released in 2007, imagine that iPhone 1!!!!

Facebook was founded in 2004 and LinkedIn was only formed in 2002! Instagram and Snapchat are both over a decade old, so they’re not exactly new kids on the block either.

The point I’m making here is that many of us are more comfortable socialising in a virtual space than a physical one. When we do socialize in-person, we more often than not, prefer to do that with other members of our generation. Now there’s nothing unusual about that, but what we need to do is to learn how to network effectively with older generations.

That’s of particular importance if you’re about to graduate or you are preparing to enter the workforce. So, I thought that I would offer you three tips that I hope will help you in the future – especially when we are actually allowed to network again without any restrictions!

  1. Take it one step at a time

Many people have a love hate relationship with networking. If you choose to dive in at the deep end, it can be very intimidating – walking into a room at a job fair or exhibition and engaging with complete strangers.

So, to prepare for this what you can do is to connect with a small group of people online before you go, that way at least you’ll have ‘broken the ice’ with a number of them and you can practice how you want to present yourself. You can also do this with one-on-one meetings of course, which is an ideal way to get quality time with career influencers.

If the thought of all that is still too much, try practicing with some of your friends, family or peers, it will help to build your confidence and iron out any awkward issues you might be facing.

  1. If at first you don’t succeed…

Don’t bombard people with messages and emails and keep your language plain, clear and concise. Give them time to respond to your first outreach and if you haven’t received a reply after a reasonable amount of time, a simple and polite follow up message or email is perfectly acceptable.

However, if that still draws a blank, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Older generations are quite often more receptive over the phone, particularly if they have heavy email traffic and don’t forget your mail might have gone into their junk folder.

Another unobtrusive way to draw attention to yourself is posting commentary or sharing other posts for your network to read. Again, don’t be overbearing, two posts per week is ample, but make sure they are engaging, if you really have nothing newsworthy to say, be quiet!

And of course, it goes without saying that we do not share our private life on our work platforms – keep them separate at all times.

  1. Focus on the types of people and organisations you want to connect with

Try and build an ideal profile of the people and organisations (products and services) you’d like to connect with. Make sure they share your values, whether they are ethical, sustainable, inclusive, respectful, community minded and socially responsible.

Ask yourself, are they passionate about what they do? Would you want to work for this person and or this company or organisation? Speak to somebody who used to work there and get an impartial reference from them.

Also don’t forget to speak their language, you’re approaching them, you need to engage so write or speak (and dress) in a professional manner, talk about real issues and factual anecdotes, don’t chatter and put your phone away!!!

Well, that’s about it, I’d like to wish you all every success and please do let me know how you get on. Sharing examples of your endeavours can really act as inspiration to others.

Good luck!