“Find your customers, surround yourself with smart people and make use of your team . . .”
Recently, The Alternative Board (TAB) conducted a survey to determine entrepreneurs’ outlook about their businesses. Overall, there is a sense of optimism, which is encouraging; most of the respondents saw increased sales in 2014, with 82% anticipating boosted revenue in 2015.
MP Star Financial talked to David Scarola, TAB’s vice president, and he echoes the sense of optimism. “We’re seeing that optimism all around us as people are moving out of the recession mindset. For a while after the recession, people remained guarded and cautious, but that’s changing. Sometimes, they’re moving their businesses to new locations and, other times, business owners are willing to invest more now. In any case, we are clearly seeing evidence of optimism.”
86% of entrepreneurs responded that, given a second chance:
- They would still start their own businesses
- They would invest their money and time differently, with a stronger emphasis on:
- Sales, marketing and lead development (more than 1/3 would invest more)
- Strategic planning (27% would invest more)
- Hiring and training employees (20% would invest more)
Respondents also talked about how, given a second chance, they’d:
- Seek better mentorship:
- with 80% believing that customer and client development is more important than product and service development
- with 24% of people surveyed saying that mentorship would be the single biggest differentiator – and only 2% believing that a better product would be the biggest differentiator
- Delegate more
Do you recognize yourself?
Traits seen in business owners surveyed include:
- Launching business from scratch (63%) with:
- 21% buying from a previous owner
- 17% taking over the family business
- Investing personal savings into the business (65%) with:
- 10% having a business partner
- 9% getting a bank loan
- 8% using credit cards
- 7% having friends and/or family investing in the business
The most common motivation for starting the business was to be their own bosses, with friends and family members often being supportive to the decision to start a business.
Participants in the study came from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland, with 69% of them being in business for more than ten years. The most common industry sectors included were professional services, manufacturing and construction.
Also take a look at a survey that MP Financial recently conducted to find out how entrepreneurs describe themselves.
More from David Scarola
We asked David for more of his thoughts, ones that might not have shown up in the data provided – and here is what he said. “There is a perception out there that it’s the lone entrepreneur who has the best ideas or who is willing to fight to succeed, no matter what. But, in reality, companies that ‘make it’ realize it’s all about bringing the right people into the company and delegating appropriately to them. It’s about getting advice from the right coach, and from business owners who have made mistakes. It’s all about the community model of business where people work together and support one another, getting as much information as possible and making as informed of decisions as possible.”
Simplicity can be key. “Take a look at Twitter,” he says. “It’s really a simple tool, one that is flexible enough for people to adopt and use. And, really, although you need a solid product or service to begin with, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You should emphasize finding the right market – probably a pre-existing one rather than inventing a new one – and building relationships with customers. Stop focusing on the next bells and whistles to add to your product. Instead, add only the right ones – ones based on customer feedback.”
David was happy to see that entrepreneurs surveyed would start a business all over again. “Having emotional support was important for these folks,” he says. “Support from family is really significant.”
He ends his thoughts with something he calls “not a dramatic finding, but interesting.” And that’s the “perception that people who launch successful businesses have grandiose ideas. All business owners need ideas to some extent, but they really need to have a concrete plan to reach those goals. Yes, they need to develop high-level strategies, but they also need to get it done, and that takes a balance of skills.”
TAB offers business owner advisory boards, executive coaching and business training to help budding entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals grow their businesses, increase profits and improve their lives. Download the executive summary of their survey here.