So you’ve decided that 2011 is the year, the official “Founded” date of your brand new business and the beginning of your journey to success as an entrepreneur. You may still be holding down a job while working on a business planor evenrunning your enterprise part time, in anticipation of making your business a full-time endeavor this year. Or you may have spent 2010 laying the ground work to literally launch on January 3, the first business day of the New Year. In any case, here are six New Year’s resolutions you need to commit to if you want to excel as an entrepreneur in 2011 and beyond.–Alfred Edmond Jr.
1. Stay in school. Know that what your current level of educational attainment, how many degrees you have, or your education in entrepreneurship is just beginning. In fact, business ownership could be described as the ultimate continuing education. To master entrepreneurship, you must literally become a student of it. Actively seek out entrepreneurship classes—offered at local universities, by local community organizations or even online—that can teach you about everything from finance to marketing to social media. A great place to start: Black Enterprise Small Business University. These online video courses are free; all you have to do is register.
3. Know your value proposition—and stick to it. As a new entrepreneur, you will be tested by people who won’t take you seriously at first. Some will point to your lack of experience as a business owner. Others—particularly family and friends –won’t take you seriously: “You’re not really going to charge me, are you?” It’s your job to know what your goods and services are worth, what your competition is charging and how much money you have to make on each unit sold to earn a profit. Once you’ve locked in on that information, set your prices accordingly and stick to them. Whatever you do, don’t allow guilt or lack of confidence to cause you to offer “hook-ups” without a clear rationale for how they will drive sales. Offering a voucher for one free meal after a customer has purchased 10 meals from your restaurant makes sense because it provides an incentive for people to pay to eat at your establishment more often. Hooking people up with free meals in hopes that it will inspire customer loyalty does not.
5. Choose a social media strategy—and work it daily. Not being on Twitter and Facebook is no longer an option for serious entrepreneurs. A social media presence is no substitute for a real marketing strategy for your business. On the other hand, in 2011, no marketing strategy is complete without an on-purpose, faithfully executed social media strategy. You and your business don’t need a presence on every social media platform out there, but you need to have a 2011 plan for at least two or three of thefive most important social media sites. It’s not enough to just set up profiles and accounts on these sites. You must make time each day—beginning January 3—to actively engage and pay attention to those in your networks. And if you have zero social media engagement, the time to start is now.
6. Identify and follow great role models. Business mentors may not be easy to find. After all, your desire to be their protégé must be matched by their desire to mentor you. But if you look in the right places, role models of business success—people whose examples you can follow whether they are aware of it or not—are all around you. Starting right here at BlackEnterprise.com, you can learn success secrets and lessons from entrepreneurs ranging from Shawn “Jay Z” Carterto Act-1 Group CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd to brokerage firm founder Chris Gardner, whose autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, inspired the film of the same title. You can also be inspired and educated by examples of entrepreneurial excellence each month in Black Enterprisemagazine and weekly on the Black Enterprise Business ReportTV show. But don’t limit your interest to black entrepreneurs. Become a fan of entrepreneurial excellence in general, no matter what the business or background of the owner. And don’t just focus on the successes; also learn from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs. Remember the often quoted saying: The best teacher is not experience. It’s other people’s experience. Keeping these resolutions will lay a foundation of success for your new business in 2011 and increase the likelihood of many happy new years of entrepreneurship to come.