Top 10 Tips for the Recently Unemployed

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If you're considering launching your own business, this article is for you.

Success in entrepreneurship requires a diversity of talents, a broad range of knowledge, a passion to succeed and an attitude that says, "I can do it." Nothing less will suffice. To help you on your way to that success, here are the top 10 strategies that will guide you and your company to entrepreneurial success.

Strategy No. 1: Make Money Doing What You Know and What's in Your Heart

If you're considering starting your own business, know that nine times out of 10, you will be more successful if your business focuses on something that you already do well. For example, if you've done meeting and conference planning for years for a major hotel chain, launching your own meeting planning business is a great idea.

You've got the knowledge and the contacts, so you are already one step ahead. Conversely, if you started a candle manufacturing company, the learning curve would be tremendous. You wouldn't know the "tricks of the trade" of that industry or use a great deal of the knowledge obtained in meetings and event planning.

Doing what you know -- or at least have some experience and knowledge in -- makes a world of difference in how quickly you will succeed.

What's more, if it's something that you know and something that you've already succeeded in, it tends to be "close to your heart." As an entrepreneur, you're going to work very long hours. It's best to do something that you already value and cherish.

Strategy No. 2: Understand Your Money

Many startup entrepreneurs fail in their first year, because they don't understand how their money "works." Here's a prime example: Let's say you're a career coach that charges $100 an hour for your services. You think you're making $100 an hour, right? Wrong.

If you subtract business overhead costs (e.g., phones, computers, office space, utilities, paper, office supplies), then subtract state, federal and FICA taxes, that $100 is much closer to $35-$40 if you're lucky. To succeed in business, you must have a true understanding of how your money works, where it comes from, where you spend it and what your bottom-line profits truly are. Unless you are an accountant, get one now before it's too late.

Strategy No. 3: Embrace Your Clients

Whether you call them clients or customers, they are the most important component of any successful business. Without them, you have nothing, no matter how great your products, services or technologies are. You must be available to your clients and must learn to embrace them in every one of your interactions (e.g., phone, fax, email, mail).

You want them to feel as though you truly value their business (you do!) and that you will respond consistently to their needs and concerns (you will!). If your clients feel valued and cared about, they will be yours forever.

What's more, they'll refer their colleagues and associates to you, allowing you to build a strong customer base without additional marketing and advertising costs. Referrals are, by far, your best source of business and something that you should dedicate yourself to building.

Strategy No. 4: Build a Niche

Businesses that stand out are often businesses that focus their products and services in a particular market niche. A prime example is a law firm that specializes in real estate. Rather than being lost in the enormous number of general law practices, this firm stands out and has immediate market recognition as an "expert" in real-estate law.

In turn, they have a unique market position that attracts the specific clientele they want. What's more, they have substantially less competition. A niche marketing concept will give you significant market visibility and, over time, build a substantial customer base.

Do not feel as though you have to limit yourself to just one niche. Consider two or three related niches and watch your business grow.

Strategy No. 5: Get Published

If you're published, people think you're an expert. It's that simple. Whether a book or an article, it gives you and your business instant credibility. And it's so very easy to get published today. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of websites that are hungry for content. Sometimes, they will pay, and other times, they will not.

However, the exposure and visibility you get is well worth the time to write a quick article. If you're in the consumer products manufacturing industry, contact one of your industry's professional associations to ask whether they need an article -- for their website or newsletter.

Before you know it, you and your business will come to be recognized as experts. Can you think of any better way to build your customer base and credibility?

Strategy No. 6: Network ... Network ... Network

Building your market visibility and network of contacts and referrals is vital to your long-term success. You cannot rely on business just knocking at your door, no matter how much you spend on advertising. Instead, you have to go get it, sometimes through direct sales calls.

Other times, you have to get it through more passive networking channels such as participation in and/or leadership of your local chamber of commerce, local lead exchange group and other business/professional association. Consider sending a quarterly e-newsletter to your existing customers to share company news, introduce new services and products, and ask for referrals. Commit yourself to making two or three new business contacts each and every month, separate and apart from any direct selling and/or marketing activities that you do.

These may be people you want to do business with, and/or they may know others who would be interested in what you have to offer. Remember: The larger your network, the more visible you and your company will be, the greater the name recognition you will achieve and the more customers you will attract.

Strategy No. 7: Market Through Multiple Channels

No single advertising, promotional or marketing strategy works in isolation. True marketing and business development is a culmination of a diversity of strategies, tactics and actions that will generate clients from various sources.

The marketing, advertising and promotional channels you use will depend on your product or service and the customers you are trying to reach. Your objective is to create a plan that integrates all of the primary marketing channels appropriate for your business (e.g., print advertising, brochures, website, online advertising, targeted direct mail, public speaking, networking, incentives). When creating your marketing plan -- for today and tomorrow -- be sure to identify and develop all channels that will lead you to your targeted customer base.

Strategy No. 8: Charge What You Are Worth

Whether you offer a product or a service, it is essential that you charge what it is worth. Do not think for one minute that just by making your product or service the least expensive, it will generate clients.

In fact, it's often better to be at the higher end of the pricing scale so that customers will understand the inherent value of your product. Consider two pairs of identical-looking shoes. One pair is $49.95, and the other is $149.95. Which is better? We're all inclined to believe that the $149.95 pair is better made, will last longer, etc.

Use this same principle when developing your pricing schedules. Don't be cheap; be the best.

Strategy No. 9: Find Balance

Learning to balance your entrepreneurial life with your personal life will most likely be a lifelong challenge. It can be extremely difficult to "walk away from work" when a thousand things are happening, but it's time to go home, make dinner, care for your children, love your spouse and more. It's a constant juggling act that you must work hard to balance.

Try scheduling time for your family, friends and yourself into your calendar and realize that these activities are just as important to your overall success as your business. A happy and healthy individual is more productive, able to meet constant challenges and demands, and move forward. The energy you get from interactions with family and friends, and the quiet time you devote to yourself, are rejuvenating and critical for any successful entrepreneur.

Strategy No. 10: Be the Driver

The best thing about entrepreneurship is that you have control. Of course, you're accountable to your customers, employees, board of directors and investors. But you're ultimately the driver. What a great place to be.

The successes that you achieve will be those that you created, worked for and earned. You'll tap into your abilities to be self-reliant and self-confident, make tough decisions, think independently and move your company toward action and success.

Twenty years ago, entrepreneurship was a risky business. Today, it can offer you substantially more stability than any job you'll find anywhere. No longer will you be subject to the downsizings and reorganizations of corporate America. As an entrepreneur, you'll be your own driver and forge your own destiny.

Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW

Author, "Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Transitions"

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