As I browsed one of my LinkedIn groups I came upon a discussion where a fellow group member asked us “What inspires you and your business.”
I find this a very interesting question as it gets the entrepreneurs, business managers, or anyone really, to contemplate on what is their goal, dreams and aspirations. What motivates, inspires, and drives you? At least that’s how I interpreted the question.
My ‘business’ is like an onion; made up of several layers. I have a great career in the acquisitions field; I completed a career in the Marine a corps, which helped molded me into the person I am today. I consult and offer my services as a veteran liaison for Devil Dog USA inc. as well as a few other non-profit agencies. But one of my proudest and most motivating ventures is www.WoodyThings.com. This is a family owned and operated woodworking business started by my wife, and I am honored to be a part of it.
I have always loved wooden shadow boxes and other custom, handmade, personal gifts. My wife, Raquel, shares this same love, and for years we have created gifts for family and friends. Over the past few years I have learned new skills, and have been asked to create quality handmade products and furniture for my family, friends, and others that have seen my work. My passion, or inspiration derives from creating a piece of work that others appreciate. Just as I felt whenever my peers awarded me with a parting gift (through my tours in the Corps) I appreciated the time and effort that went into creating these display cases, and awards. As such, I reciprocated the gesture by recognizing my peers and coworkers whenever they moved to other positions. I couldn’t help but notice that these items, while crafted of great quality, were often costly. I decided to teach myself how to ‘woodwork’ and create products, profitable, of great quality, but affordable for any potential consumer.
Raquel, a fellow business major, already owned and operated her home-based business, which is now called Woody Things. Her passion can be read in the site’s ‘About Me’ page. If/when you read it, you will know exactly why me joining the business and creating under the family banner was a perfect fit 🙂 The business is a woodworking shop that creates custom gifts for all. The product offerings range from decorative birdhouses, to decoupage jewelry boxes, and even special occasion (wedding, anniversary) wine bottle promise boxes.
I love to create things, and I think of myself as a near perfectionist… Though I know its possible I’m far from perfect. (I know, I know. I’m not) I do not create products with the goal to get Alibaba rich, quit my day job, and sail off unto the sunset. Monetary gains and profits merely fund the dream and allow me to continue creating, but my inspiration for Woody Things is not to earn a certain amount of money. The inspiration is to help someone share and feel the way I do whenever I receive a thoughtful, personal gift from family or friends.
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Often times I am asked
“what’s the best way to start a business?”
While this question depends on numerous variables such as the business, the industry, competitive advantage, etc., I have a small summary of tips anyone can use to get started
Ignore nay sayers
Nothing is more demoralizing than hearing all of the ‘reasons’ your idea will not work. But please remember, if there was a magic formula, everyone would be in business and profitable. Take advise with a grain of salt (this article included) and remember, why can’t YOU be he next ____ (fill in the blank)
Define your goals
Often times a major detractor and roadblock is an entrepreneurs/businessperson’s lack of tangible and measurable goals. Define what it is you want to reach. Is it a million dollars in sales? A million units sold? To be known as the best (fill in the blank)? Write it down, define your goals, and the. You can REALLY measure your progress towards that goal.
Draft a plan
You do not end a degree in business to come up with a plan. Out pen to paper, jot down some ideas, and begin annotating a strategy. Who, what, when, where, why? Just jot down some notes and you can dress it up later. The goal now is to start visualizing the business and how it CAN be done. Numerous resources such as the Small Business Administration can help you finish up the details. Analyzing your break even quantity/point, positioning, marketing strategy etc. are all things you can learn relatively quickly by yourself, or with the aid of resources.
Start/Execute your plan
If you put off taking the first step until you have the ‘perfect’ plan, I am willing to bet that you will ‘miss the boat.’ Most successful businesses start as rough ideas and plans. Waiting until you have the ‘perfect’ plan in place can lead you to lose focus, passion, and TIME! While I suggest that you establish a plan, you can improve your plan as you go along and learn the ropes of said business. American poet Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said “The future belongs to those that prepare for t.” To me that means you need to have a plan in place, and do research before you undertake on a future endeavor. That doesn’t mean you have to have the perfect plan in history, but a well-prepared draft can go a long way.
Measure your progression towards your goals
In order to ensure you are progressing towards your goals, you need to measure your status. This means setting realistic goals, tracking data (how many followers you have, how many sales, how many inquiries or quotes, how effective are you at creating your product or service, how many repeat customers do you have, etc. Measuring your metrics/stats, whatever you want to call them, is important as it can help you identify where your most successful activities are.
Invest In yourself
Do not sell yourself short, after all, this is your idea, your baby, your brain child. NO ONE knows better than you what your vision is. What you CAN do is invest in developing yourself to a level that allows you to have confidence in your abilities for the task at hand. Know your weakness(es) and work on them. If you love to create but hate to be a ‘salesperson’, invest in some public speaking, persuasive writing/speaking courses. Many are free online, and many affordable options exist in your local community centers and/or colleges. Attend seminars, participate in industry groups (LinkedIn, Chamber of Commerce), seek out a mentor.
Don’t get hung up on any challenges you may face and fail to overcome. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn, so cherish it, and make an effort to not make the same mistake twice. Stay positive and look at the positivity in each experience you may have. One of the coolest things about being an entrepreneur is that you are your own boss. One of the scariest things about being an entrepreneur is that you are your own boss. There ARE people out there willing to help, and share resources. Do not feel like you are alone, because in more ways than not, you aren’t.
Do the work!
Simple enough… Having the best goals, plan and knowledge does not a successful business make. You will have to put in the work (or get someone to do the work for you… of course you’re reimbursing this person somehow) and hours to ensure your brand is recognized. It’s nice to picture a successful and blissful CEO, however, you need to put in the work and effort to ensure your business is successful.
These tips aren’t all inclusive; there are many other things to be considered, many details that can be perfected, blah blah blah. Just start! The advice that “do something you love and it’ll never feel like work” is mainly right. While I do love my other ventures (consulting, developing leaders, marketing and teaching sales), there is something special about watching your vision turn into a reality. If you are passionate about a topic, subject, idea, product, service, etc. inspiration and motivation can help you overcome deficits in other areas. Don’t be afraid to try. 🙂