The Starter’s Guide for Prospective Entrepreneurs

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The Starter’s Guide for Prospective Entrepreneurs

 

Once upon a time you studied for a degree (free of charge) and emerged at the other end with a steady, well paid job that set you up in a career for life.

But times have changed. Drastically.

Take Emily as an example. She recently graduated with a first class degree and if anyone had told her 3 years ago that this would be her result, she would have been overjoyed and excited about her next chapter.

Instead, she is worried and nervous about the future.

Jobs are far and few between, employers are now demanding years of experience for beginner’s role (experience that you can’t get without experience…go figure), and then to top it off, there’s Brexit.

With so much uncertainty over future trade deals and free movement, companies are reluctant to hire new members of staff.

The future seems to be on hold.

Emily now finds herself applying for jobs that involve sitting at a till scanning items for seven hours a day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you enjoy.

But Emily paid very handsomely for an education that she hoped would lead her to a very different future! She spent all her time studying her subject because she thought a good degree would secure her a great job and a prosperous future.

The truth of the matter is, she’s struggling to get as much as an interview.

And then there’s her mate, Dan. Dan who always seems to just land on his feet in the right place at the right time.

A few months ago, he was disappointed that he only got a 2:2…but what did he really expect when he spent his three years of study throwing himself into all sorts of clubs and socialising with anyone who spoke?!

Yet, Emily is the one struggling to progress and Dan is revelling in his latest money-spinning success…an Uber-delivery and pop-up bar for flavoured water!

He is making money from water.

When Emily opened her latest rejection letter, she knew something had to change. She knew she needed to be more like Dan. But how? Surely Dan was just born lucky? How could she possibly become an entrepreneur…

Developing Entrepreneurial Characteristics

Contrary to popular belief, being an entrepreneur is not some kind of weird innate ability with which you are born.

In fact, to be an entrepreneur it is important to develop a growth mindset. This means believing that your mind has no limits and that skills and qualities can be learnt…In other words, you can learn to be an entrepreneur!

But what skills and qualities do you need to learn to develop an entrepreneurial mind?

Most people realise that entrepreneurs don’t just have one brilliant inspired moment. They cultivate 100 crazy, insane ideas and listen to their hunches.

They also think big, ten times bigger. In fact, Grant Cadone advocates using a 10X rule in everything you do:

“No one is going to “make things” work out for you. The only way to do so is to utilize every moment of every day at 10X levels”. (Grant Cadone, The 10X Rule)

Furthermore, it is a journey that takes strength of character as you need to commit, persist, and find the energy for long hours.

Consequently, the first thing Emily needed to do was overcome her fixed mindset. This meant changing her language from “I don’t have any ideas” to “how can I begin developing them?”.

Cultivating Entrepreneurial Ideas

Businesses start with ideas. Entrepreneurs identify opportunities and then start going through a selection process to identify those that could be successful. This is where many graduates like Lucy get stuck.

They believe that some people just have ideas popping into their heads. With this kind of fixed mindset, you’re stuck before you’ve even started your entrepreneurial journey.

The truth is, anyone can become an entrepreneur and anyone can create ideas. If you spend your time building a wide knowledge base and being curious about everything, the ideas will begin flowing. It was Dan’s curiosity about so much of the world around him that distracted him from his studies!

There is a myriad of different things you can do to diversify your knowledge. Try starting with the following to cultivate some entrepreneurial ideas:

· Read books on a wide range of topics. You can find out what others are reading with online lists and reviews. Plus, you can explore these diverse reading lists.

· Explore niche magazines which cover all sorts of areas or look at retail and industry magazines.

· Watch videos such as those that can be found at skillshare.com or inspirational talks and speeches such as TED Talks.

· Listen to podcasts or audio books. These are great for when you’re driving as you don’t feel your time is wasted when you’re stuck in traffic.

· Listen to other success stories from entrepreneurs. This could be people you know or someone more famous.

· Visit trade fairs and exhibitions, particularly if new products and services are on display.

· Keep an eye on emerging trends. What is suddenly in demand?

· Study new products and services.

· Speak with market intermediaries such as retailers and distributors who deal directly with consumers and will have a strong understanding of their needs and desires.

Just developing your knowledge is not enough though. You also need to be inquisitive.

Dan was one of those children who drove his parents and teachers up the wall with his constant questions. Again, this is a skill you can easily develop.

Begin by speaking to those around you. Ask them questions about what problems they have and listen carefully to their response. Then ask yourself if you can think of a solution that will help them.

Another area to get curious about is with existing products and ideas. Ask yourself as many questions as you can about them, for example, “How can this be improved? What is it missing?”. Then look at new developments and query what impact they might have on the way we work or live.

Or perhaps you could combine thinking big with completing the question, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?”. Many successful businesses answer this question. Virgin Galactic is the response to, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go into space on holiday?” and Tom’s Shoes is a reply to, “Wouldn’t it be nice if when I bought a pair of shoes someone in the third world could have some too?”.

There are plenty of other ways to get curious too. Here are a few suggestions:

· Identify something that annoys you or is a problem for you and start considering possible solutions.

· Think about markets that have not changed much recently and consider innovations that might move them forward.

· Flex your empathy muscle! Observe the world through someone else’s eyes and see if you can find ways to improve their life or work.

· Ponder how you can make yourself different from everyone else. Is there a niche that is not being served?

· Consider how you can make the lives of other’s better or more productive. Customers love things that will save them time!

Validate your Business Idea

Once you have the ideas flowing, you need to assess which ones could form the basis of a valid business.

A successful business is one that is profitable, viable, addresses a need and solves a problem. There a number of different ways in which this can be achieved. By:

· Creating a solution to a specific problem.

· Adding value with further developments or improvements.

· Removing existing faults from products or services.

· Supplying something that is currently missing in a product or service.

· Finding and filling a gap in a market.

· Creating a far more cost effective way of doing something that currently has a high cost.

· Meeting a need that is not currently being addressed.

· Making dreams and/or wishes come true.

Any ideas that do not fit within one of the above are unlikely to be valid and can be put aside. Those that do, can be taken to the next step where you start considering whether there is a feasible market for your product or service.

Know your Customer

Understanding your customer base is a crucial step in determining whether your business is viable. Many people make the mistake of building their business around their needs rather than around their potential customers.

Remember your customers are your business and you need to know their needs, wants and desires so you can solve them. You also need to know who your customer is, what they want to buy, when they want to buy it and what price they are willing to pay.

A marketing technique known as segmentation can help you define your target market more accurately. Whilst its main aim is to help you speak directly to your customer in your content and marketing, aspects of it can help you validate your business ideas.

There are four main ways in which you can segment your target market:

· Geographically (where they live)

· Demographically (e.g. age, ethnicity, income, gender)

· With psychographics (e.g. personal values, lifestyle, aspirations)

· Behaviourally (behavioural patterns, common traits).

When defining your market segment, it is important that you consider who would appreciate the value you have on offer. For example, you might feel that you want to target tech-savvy Millennials who want the latest gadgets that will save them time and offer a certain amount of status. But if you’re offering a budget app that your gran can use…well it just isn’t going to work!

Once you have defined your market segment, you will be able to determine its size and composition. This will mean you can begin making informed predictions about likely revenue and whether it is a profitable business idea.

Weigh up your Competition

The research doesn’t end there though!

Next, you then need to turn your attention to competitors.

Competition can be direct or indirect and it is a mistake to think there isn’t any! Some competitors are ruthless and it can be easy to find yourself in a pricing war. However, an established business is far more likely to be able to sustain lower prices thereby driving you out of the market.

Therefore, it is best to know your competitors and set yourself apart.

You will need to examine what it is they offer their customers. That way you can discover what is missing. You can then develop your idea, ensuring that you are addressing an unmet need and differentiating yourself from the others in the market.

Above all, be passionate…

Once you have a business idea that meets a valid market and allows you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, you may think you have everything you need for a sustainable business.

But not quite.

Many prospective entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of passion.

Your business needs to motivate you so you can sustain the long hours and difficult times such as when there isn’t a salary coming in or friends and family express their doubts about what you’re doing.

The need for passion cannot be overestimated. Your business needs nurturing and raising and it needs to push you every day to produce your best.

In other words, your business will be your baby so you better love it!

How Entrepreneurship Moves Society Forward

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How Entrepreneurship Moves Society Forward

 

Entrepreneurs smash the norm with their innovation.

They take the latest technology and run, driving society forward.

They are the proponents of creative destruction.

 
 

Creative Destruction & Technology

First described by Karl Marx, the theory of creative destruction was later taken up and adapted by the Austrian Economist, Joseph Schumpeter. He described how the creation of something new in business, leads to the destruction or demise of something else. As entrepreneurs make advances and improvements for consumers, existing companies must adapt and develop to keep up, or find themselves obsolete.

For example, we no longer use a whistling kettle on the stove to make a cup of tea because we can now just flick an electric switch. The kettle companies needed to go electric or target the camping market, or go out of business.

We no longer have a set of encyclopaedias sat on our book shelves because Google is in our pocket ready to answer our questions. So, companies such as Britannica needed to switch focus to educational institutions and internet based services to survive.

A Rapidly Changing Music Industry

Innovation and technology have propelled change within our society at a speed not seen before. The last 20 years are full of examples of destructive creation. Let’s take the music industry as an example.

When CDs first came on the scene, many people laughed. However, it did not take long for the humble cassette tape to be consigned to history and for the compact disc to claim its place as the number one format. The creation of the CD had caused the destruction of the cassette.

But it was not long before the CD was under threat with the arrival of digital music. In the last decade, for example, there has been an 84% drop in CD sales in the USA.  The creation of digital formats is causing the demise of the CD.

But the music industry has not stopped there.

Streaming is the latest way in which the public accesses music and this now makes up 34.3% of total sales. The music industry is constantly having to adapt as entrepreneurs invent new ways to conveniently bring music to its fans.

The Advances of the Mobile Phone Industry

Another area in which we have seen creative destruction in action is in the telephone industry. The invention of the mobile phone saw the decline of dialling up from the home line which is now rarely used for anything more than to access the internet.

At first, innovation focused on making phones as small as possible so they were convenient to carry around and could fit in your pocket. But as technology has advanced, entrepreneurs have continued pushing forward to add additional features, developing the smart phone.

The creation and popularity of the smart phone has impacted on numerous other industries including watches, calculators, cameras and diaries. All of these functions and more are now available in a single device that fits in the palm of your hand. Whilst these industries may not yet have been destroyed, they have felt the impact. Reuters reported on the faster than expected, decline in Swiss watch sales in 2015 and little has happened to change that. Companies must adapt or find themselves obsolete.

Yet, recent developments in the watch industry, namely the smart watch, has been driven by entrepreneurs working within the phone industry such as Apple, rather than from the watch companies who seem to be constantly playing catch up, trying to adapt and make use of the new technology.

Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain

One of the significant ways in which Schumpeter differed in view from Marx, was that he believed that whilst the destruction could cause temporary pain, it would improve the economy in the long term.

We have witnessed this with the energy market. The coal industry has almost completely disappeared in the UK over the last few decades. This bought pain to many areas particularly in South Wales and the North of England where it caused high unemployment.

However, over recent decades new jobs have emerged within the energy industry with new, greener developments, wind farms being just one example.

Big shifts in manufacturing have been seen with technological developments. For example, robots can complete many of the repetitive tasks more efficiently and quickly than humans. Again, this led to job losses and a reduction in traditional manual roles within factories. Yet, technology has also created whole new industries and careers such as developing software and building websites.

Whilst time has shown that advancements do bring long term benefits, many businesses and governments fear the short term pain. This can make it difficult for entrepreneurs to bring their innovate ideas to fruition. Instead of receiving support and guidance, they meet resistance to anything that could create too much change and pain. Their ideas are perceived as a threat.

The Role of Entrepreneurship

However, according to Schumpeter, the role of the entrepreneur was to innovate and shatter the status quo.

The role of the entrepreneur was to innovate and shatter the status quo.
— Joseph Schumpeter, Entrepreneurship: By Dr. S. K. Singh, Sanjay Gupta
 

Elon Musk is a prime example. In his recent TED interview, he discusses his multitude of projects from building electrical vehicles that improve our environment to high speed underground traffic systems that save us time and commercial space travel to Mars. His development of driverless, electric vehicles could spark the end of some traditional jobs such as taxi and delivery drivers. Yet, he is also building lithium battery factories to ensure the supply needed to end our reliance on oil as he moves the world towards using electric vehicles. As we see one industry facing possible destruction, we see new ones created that are helping to move society forward.

Then there’s Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post which launched in 2005 and immediately shook existing news organisations with its innovations. The Guardian for example, set up its “comments is free” section in response to the success of the Huffington Post’s live commentary. News organisations were forced into adapting to the changes it brought about.

Arianna has now moved on to try and bring about a cultural shift in our work culture with the aim of bringing about an end to working until burn-out. Undoubtedly, as this approach takes hold, it will make other companies adapt and shift their work practices to ensure they can recruit the right people.

Another entrepreneur recently spoke out the importance of developing entrepreneurship. In an interview with The European magazine, Richard Branson described the “need to encourage the use of terms like innovation” and entrepreneurial qualities amongst young people where unemployment figures are high because traditional jobs are disappearing. He also stated that, “Here at Virgin, we intend to keep changing the game for good too.”

Branson is continually looking for improvements to move society forward and “shatter the status quo” and believes others should join him. However, there is little point in encouraging the young to develop entrepreneurship if they have no means in which to drive that forward and change society for the better.

Entrepreneurship & Firma

We must therefore, look for ways in which we can allow entrepreneurs to succeed. That is why we started Firma & Partners, so that entrepreneurs can receive the support that is currently missing. Because, becoming an entrepreneur who changes the world is no easy task but we want to help you do just that.

Entrepreneurs can have many ideas but not really know what to do next. There can be a thousand obstacles in your way. Innovation can be costly and investors are not interested until you have completed at least some of your journey.

After all, why would anyone invest in an idea that has not worked to reduce their risk level? They want to know about market trends and demand, whether your business idea is solid, if your product is valid and whether you are providing value to your customers. They want to see some design and development, something tangible. A real business idea.

This can leave many entrepreneurs feeling lost. They have an idea that could disrupt and improve our normal way of doing things but they take a traditional job whilst they think about the way forward.

Roll forward a few years and suddenly there is someone with a similar idea and it’s flying. They’re filled with “what if’s” and resentment that someone got their first with “their idea”. If only they had someone to guide them and give them a viable way to access the technology market.

At Firma & partners, we strongly believe in individuals and entrepreneurs like you and we are passionate about your ideas and strategic vision. We want you to shatter the status quo and improve our society. Your ideas should not be held back from our world simply because the technology market is financially inaccessible or you don’t have the design, research & development knowledge.

Supporting Entrepreneurs to Succeed

That is where we can help you. Firma & Partners is a design and engineering studio who want early entrepreneurs to succeed. Our world is constantly being improved by innovation that changes our society, improving our experience of the world and saving us time. We believe the world needs more Elon Musks and Richard Bransons. Yet, we also recognise the barriers that can stop entrepreneurs driving this progress which is why we started our company.

We want to remove your barriers to entry and help you move society forward.

Our viable fee model ensures that you can gain access to the technology market. Whilst our design and development services help you release those ideas and develop them into something tangible. We know that investment is often needed to drive your innovation forward. Therefore, we take you through our proven business creation process. It takes you from your initial idea to being investment ready and we can even introduce you to potential investors.   

We believe that individuals and creative destruction through entrepreneurship improves our society and we want to help you get there.