Startup Success

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A lot of people in my class have dreams of going to work for large corporations or firms after they finish their degrees, but I have a different vision. My family is a family of entrepreneurs, and I have that drive inside me as well. I want to start my own business after I graduate, and I have some capital saved up from summer jobs. I have a clear vision for what I want my business to be, but I have zero experience hiring people as a business owner or with marketing. I come from a small town, so my parents and grandparents relied on word-of-mouth to grow their business. And the only advice they have about hiring the right people is that I should follow my gut. Can you give me some advice that is a bit more up-to-date?

Hey future founder – you may feel like the odd man or woman out among your peers but you are in good company. According to studies, the average age that an entrepreneur starts his or her business has gone down (from age 35 to 27) considerably. It sounds like your interest in starting your own business is tied to family values, which is great. But you’ve correctly identified that times have changed and that you need to do things a little differently than your family members.

No matter what your business is, you want to make sure you have a solid team in place to help you execute your vision. It can be tough as a new entrepreneur to have a “gut feeling” about whether someone is a good hire, and the costs of making a bad hire will cost you time and money, two things you can’t afford to lose. Instead of relying on something like your gut, you may consider looking for more objective skills assessments you can use to determine whether someone has the skills necessary to be an effective employee. Look into providers like NOCTI, who provide job readiness assessments for a wide range of skills, from the culinary arts to web design. These types of assessments will give you solid metrics upon which you can base hiring decisions.

You’re also right that small-town word-of-mouth isn’t going to cut it in today’s digital world. Successful entrepreneurs make use of all the tools in their digital toolbox, from online networking to digital advertising, to blogging. Being digitally versatile will give you an edge over the competition. But you don’t need to limit yourself to online marketing only. But your parents were onto something about word-of-mouth – you just need to think a little bigger. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools and it has the benefit of starting conversations about your business. But how do you get people talking about your business? Swag that doesn’t create clutter and is fairly inexpensive to produce is a great way to get conversations started. A well-designed sticker on someone’s laptop can spark a conversation about what your business is about. Small, useful or decorative items like stickers, pens, and sharpies will stick around longer in future customers’ hands, increase brand recognition, and spark conversations and questions.

Your path to success will depend on a lot of factors, but doses of your parents’ hard-won wisdom and being attuned to the tools available in today’s economy will help you turn your entrepreneurial visions into a reality.

“I think, as an entrepreneur, you have to see the unlimited amount of potential but concentrate on your day and just keep building.” – Jon Oringer

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