January 9, 2017
Know How

Harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit

(From left) Andy McBeth, Liz Mason and Tom Dube are the founders of Green Leaf Construction in Leominster.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit – That (not so) little itch that compels you in your career to do more, do it differently or do it by yourself.

As time goes by, the drive grows more intense, and you decide to launch a startup. People ask, "Are you crazy? That's risky!" Undaunted, you imagine the possibilities. The freedom! The fulfillment! But many startups fail before they really get started. In building a sustainable business, mitigating risk is paramount.

We found ourselves in this position nearly three years ago when we each made the decision to leave the security of a steady job to turn over a new leaf and start something new in Green Leaf Construction. Now with the days of working around a dining room table in the rear-view mirror, we offer some things for aspiring entrepreneurs to consider.

Start with a business plan.

It's empowering to recognize that you can do it your way. But it goes way beyond establishing a budget and identifying customers. Get existential! Ask yourself hard questions to find the root of your entrepreneurial spirit. This will uncover your broader vision and mission. Why do you want to leave a good job? Why will customers hire you over the competition? Understanding the why will aid in answering the what and how questions. What are your service offerings? What is your go-to-market strategy? How will you execute it? How will you attract employees? If you're not scared yet, keep reading, this is where it gets fun.

You get to buy stuff and hire people! Cool!

But wait, you have money, right? Because the things needed to operate a business – equipment, insurance, business partners and employees – cost lots of it. So, before you take that leap of faith, make sure you know where your seed money is coming from.

Next, it's time to get in front of potential customers.

Lots and lots of them have a need for your service offering. Then make your pitch! Explain how you will deliver better/faster/cheaper than the competition or why potential customers will prefer your company. Start with your network and existing relationships. Ask for referrals. Remember that people buy from people that they like and trust.

When you've earned the trust of some customers and landed a few sales, the only thing left to do is perform and then measure that performance.

There is no substitute for good performance. Build your culture on it. Make commitments and live up to them. Every. Single. Time. That's how you earn a rock-solid reputation. Excellent performance is the best business development and sales continuance plan you can put into action. It will truly be the beginning of your next sales cycle.

With some luck, at year's end, you'll have generated enough sales and performed well enough to make a profit. Most likely, you will have worked harder and longer than ever before, tapping all the knowledge and resources you could get your hands on.

Your reward ... taxes!

There's no getting around them, so plan accordingly. Then decide how, and how much of what's left, to reinvest in the company.

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