Challenges abound for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can easily be one of the most complex and time-consuming ventures. However, instituting essential practices, planning, and maintaining your integrity can make your business one of the best decisions of your life. All the greats we celebrate, like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, had to overcome some of the same things, but they started from the same place you do today.
We’ve taken the time to outline some challenges, possible solutions, and key points about maintaining integrity to get you started on the right foot.
Common fears of entrepreneurs
Stepping out into the business world can be intimidating. Of course, there is excitement and maybe even some caution. Still, it helps to identify your fears or concerns to analyze and solve them better. These are a few of the common fears or challenges entrepreneurs face.
What product or service will I offer?
You may already have this one figured out, or you could be like many who want the freedom of entrepreneurship but don’t know what will get them there. Identifying what you will offer customers can be challenging. “Finding the pain” is what most business experts will tell you. What is the need or gap (the pain) people face that your product or service can fulfill? What if you can’t do that? Additionally, who is your target market? That is always a great place to start.
Well, overcoming this challenge can be through simple self-assessment and research. What do you like to do every day? Take money out of the equation and ask yourself what you love. If you’re doing what you love, you will be fulfilled through the difficulties. Next, see if that love can be monetized or marketed to others. Yep, research. Research is where we find the pain and bring our solution to it. Finally, put all this information, how your business will operate, and revenue generation into a detailed plan for investors or lenders.
How do I market my business?
Building your brand and others’ awareness of that brand can be a steep hill. Yes, other businesses out there make their living by helping with this question. However, although you should have a marketing budget and plan for your business, you may not have the resources to hire a firm or the know-how to do it yourself. There are many media for you to pick from, but today’s best options are mobile and social media.
Finding the best bang for your buck is the best way to begin your journey toward brand recognition. The solution for this fear comes back to two methods: research or contracting someone. There’s no way around it, but you got this.
One of the biggest challenges, and an intimidating one at that, is managing time well to where you are efficient and productive. Large companies hire independent analysts to identify these areas in their company and have many resources and expertise to pull. So, how is a sole proprietorship entrepreneur supposed to do it? Well, your business at this point is an extension of you, so practicing techniques to manage your personal time can transfer to your business. Remember, even the likes of Elon Musk still use time management techniques like time blocking or boxing in his day-to-day. It’s a constantly evolving process, so don’t get discouraged.
Protecting and finding resources
Where do I find capital? What are the best ways to manage my income and expenses? How to understand a ledger or balance sheet. Lots of roads to those questions, but they are crucial to you and your business. Money is the number one item that keeps entrepreneurs up at night. This stressor can be mitigated by loving what you do, but it is still a concern no matter how successful you become. So what can be done to help alleviate the stress, manage well, and find the upfront capital you need?
Budget, budget, budget is the only way to stay on top. Your cash flow has many places it goes, and ensuring revenue is consistent for you and your expenses is a must. Budgeting all items, even if they seem insignificant, will give you a realistic picture of the financials you’ll need for other things. If budgeting is not your forte, some firms will handle that aspect and other business office operations for you. However, that’s just another expense.
Getting the capital to start is by far the most significant beginning challenge for an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, we’re not all connected to angel investors with money to spend. So, what do we do? Entrepreneurship is one of the riskiest investments out there. Most fail within the first year. Having a well-thought-out and detailed operational and financial plan for others to view is pivotal, as mentioned above. This information and your ability to sell it are the tools to convince those stingy banks and cautious investors. Sometimes preparation is enough. Sometimes, an entrepreneur must be willing to work many hours of the week starting their business while maintaining a day-to-day job to cover their personal expenses. Not easy, but it can be done. So, if the investors don’t come, use your know-how, determination, and time management skills to get your business off the ground while keeping that 9-5.
No one ever, or should ever, describe entrepreneurship as easy, but many will testify to its rewards. For a few more tips on managing challenges, check out this article from Forbes.
Why integrity matters in entrepreneurship
Now we get to it. The challenges we discussed already can cause some people in desperate times to do desperate things. However, compromising your business’s morals with muddy ethical practices is never a worthwhile affair. It will catch up to you and could very well be the downfall of your entrepreneurial venture. Therefore, we would like to give you some very tangible reasons why maintaining your integrity is both wholesome and profitable.
Customers are warier about the business they deal with and the products they buy. For many, a business that comes across as responsible and possesses good values is a deciding factor. That’s why large companies spend resources and effort to demonstrate their business conduct is morally sound. People can mostly tell when they’re getting sold on a less than above-board ethical company. They will have scruples, if you will, about the business.
Small businesses have less of an ability to hide any malpractice in their endeavors. And, for many, they live or die by public opinion in their area. Living and breathing your business’s ethical core values increases your marketability with the multitude of customers looking for a trustworthy company, giving you the edge over those that aren’t. Even if it is just their perception, people will stay away from the shady and remain loyal to trustworthy businesses, generating continual future profits.
It saves face and profits
Handling your customers, despite any rudeness, and your operations with excellence can keep your reputation and bank account intact. Anytime what you do may come into question, this core value can keep you beyond reproach in an industry where your integrity matters.
Remember when United Airlines booted that customer from their plane, then the CEO publicly attacked the passenger’s reputation with a statement? Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for them. After video evidence came out, which always does because it’s everywhere in our culture, people slammed and boycotted United flights. As a result, the business lost profits and trust, which it spent tons of resources to try and reclaim. Even if you handle something wrong, own up to it and fix it. That demonstrates integrity and connection that can save you from mistakes.
Less future costs and easier hard decisions
Imagine you came across information that could boost your advantage over a competitor. Insider information, if you will. Would you use it? You will face many tough decisions as an entrepreneur, but don’t make ethics one of them. The more you practice doing what is right when you’re up against it, and no one is around, the easier those tough decisions will be when times are tough. It will be who you are, and people will see that.
The future costs are a lot lower as well. Think of doing the right thing as an investment or risk prevention method. Disregarding your morale code for short-term gain is also short-sighted. Maintaining those client and community relationships through honesty, respect, and integrity will keep people coming back. Remember, it’s about trust. You lose trust. You lose business. The bill always comes due.
Perpetual positive publicity
This item is the result of doing the previous three. As humans, we are drawn to the negative and remember it longer. Our mind is always trying to protect us from it; therefore, it actively seeks it out. All it takes is one negative story to destroy years of positive work. Things go viral quickly in our age of social media, so maintaining your business’s integrity is invaluable to your future and a necessity to survive. Keeping those worthwhile ethical practices with all your business interactions snowballs to generate a publicity campaign you probably couldn’t create yourself, even if you tried. It shields you from public blackeyes and lost profits while growing your brand awareness.
As an entrepreneur, you face many challenges. You can overcome these challenges to grow you and your business. However, never let your integrity be one of those challenges. It’s not a battle you want to lose.