Being an entrepreneur today doesn’t offer the same mystique and je ne sais quoi it once did. The idea of the successful entrepreneur has us envisioning a Gatsby-esque gentleman lounging on a yacht wearing white board shorts, a deep tan, calling people “Old Sport” while his dollars just rolled in. This is the American dream, isn’t it? To become so successful as an entrepreneur that our business functions as a well-oiled machine and runs itself.
According to a 2016 Kaufmann Report, 0.31% of the adult population in the United States became entrepreneurs each month. As Fast Company explains, “That translates to just over half a million (530,000) new business owners a month.” A MONTH. With this much growth, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the competition is steep. With survival rates at around 48% by the fifth year, the chances of success drop by more than half.
There is clearly a huge gap between the Gatsby fantasy of success and the reality of entrepreneurship, and the gap falls within this one major point:
You need to spend money to make money.
If you constantly cheap out in your investments, your business will become trapped. If I told you that for every $1 you invest, you will make 3% back in six months, would you do it? Yeah, you would, and you should invest as much as possible because your $1 becomes $3, your $100 becomes $300, and your $1000 becomes $3000. If you find the right service providers, the return-on-investment will show itself.
So, you’re ready to spend some money, now the question becomes where because there are money-pits that will do nothing for your business. Most of these money-pits lie in the get-rich-quick schemes, lofty promises for followers, link exchanges, or sample-suckers. Investigate, do your research, get recommendations, and schedule calls to avoid falling for any traps.
Top 5 Investments You Need to Make as an Entrepreneur
- A Great Website. This is so incredibly important in every industry today. With brick-and-mortar stores on the vast decline – about 6,000 stores closed in 2008 during the recession, and 2017 is projected at 8,500 store closings – business survival is all about websites and reliable e-commerce. No more whining about not making sales if your website still follows dial-up speed, or worse, you don’t have one at all. It’s so easy to get a website started, even if you’re in the direct sales industry, your mother-company probably has an option for you to pay for an e-commerce site each month – do it. The next step is hiring a competent web designer who knows how customers interact with websites. This person needs to not only have e-commerce programming knowledge, they need to know the consumer side of website experience. This type of expertise is expensive. But, in these circumstances, you often get what you pay for.
- Elegant Vendor Events. As a small business, one of the ways you start to market your brand is usually through vendor events. Sometimes you start at local schools and churches, and these are fantastic to build the community around your brand, but there comes a time when you need to step up your game. If you’re not investing in vending at quality vendor events, guess what type of clients you will meet? Ones who don’t want to invest in your products. Running a business means turning a profit and unless you’re reselling items intended as yard sale goods, you need to step up your game and spend money on good events. No more whining about “flea markets” if you only want to spend $25 on a table.
- Product Photography and Brand Development. Building your brand is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur and the one aspect that constantly requires upkeep. Without the right marketing, quality labels, packaging, and displays, customers will not take your brand seriously. Sometimes finding the exact way to project your image requires hiring a graphic designer who works in tandem with your product photographer – these are far worth the investment. Both of these people really need to understand your vision and be able to help you clarify any cloudiness. Hire good people and they will keep it real. Having swag creates a feeling of brand authority and representation – buy a tablecloth and shirts for your vendor events, get quality business cards, customized bags/boxes. You need to create an entire lifestyle around your brand, and while everyone loves your face, you cannot be the only person photographed using your products. In direct sales? Stop with the stock images you get from corporate – everyone sees them and they become boring; have your own photography done integrating that brand into a real lifestyle. Spend the money on your branding – from new swag to a new website, a business is nothing without the image.
- Inventory. Seems obvious that you need to invest in inventory, but there are so many entrepreneurs who are too scared to take the leap to order and/or create inventory for fear of it getting stuck on shelves. You know what’s worse than leftover inventory? Customers who cancel orders because they weren’t shipped fast enough. Direct sales folks – Do you really expect people to just peruse a magazine at your parties and/or vendor events and suddenly purchase from you? Do you expect them to wait 3 weeks for a shipment to arrive? We’re living in the age of Amazon Prime where literal drones are being used to get people their orders in fifteen minutes. Customers want tangible items that are cash-and-carry, especially at vendor events. Unless your brand strategy is highly-exclusive one-of-a-kind items, you really need to have inventory on hand.
- Labor Outsourcing. When you first start your business, you want to do everything and be everywhere, and this could work in the very beginning, but if you’re to have long-standing success, you need to start outsourcing. As mentioned in #1 and #3, a good place to begin outsourcing would be a website designer, graphic designer, and product photographer (unless, of course, these are your businesses). In time, you could outsource a reliable accountant (or even a quality inventory/accounting software). Sometimes it’s as simple as hiring someone to help you clean your home, help you with your family, chores, and pets. The point is to allow yourself time to grow. Remember, in your business, time is your most valuable asset and if you’re too busy to actually work on your business, then you’re losing money.
What would you invest in to make your business a success?